- The Washington Times - Friday, February 22, 2002

Banana, anyone?

Call them, if you will, "Kings of the Hill."

And wait until you read why they're still hanging around Washington.

•Sen. Ted Stevens, Alaska Republican, was first elected to his Capitol Hill throne in 1968 the same year Robert F. Kennedy was assassinated and Richard M. Nixon won the presidency.

•Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr., Delaware Democrat, has been catching the Capitol Limited to Washington since 1972, the year President Nixon was re-elected by a landslide and the full-scale bombing of North Vietnam resumed. (Sens. Pete V. Domenici of New Mexico and Jesse Helms of North Carolina joined him that same year on Capitol Hill.)

•Democratic Sens. Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts and Daniel K. Inouye of Hawaii, were both elected in 1962, when up above astronaut John Glenn became the first American in orbit, and down below the Soviet Union missile buildup in Cuba was revealed.

•Sen. Strom Thurmond, South Carolina Republican, officially arrived on Capitol Hill in 1954, the same year five members of Congress were wounded by four Puerto Rican independence supporters firing at random from the spectators' gallery. (Mr. Thurmond's South Carolina colleague, Democratic Sen. Ernest F. Hollings, would be elected a dozen years later, in 1966, the year Medicare was introduced to Americans.)

•Last, but not least, Sen. Robert C. Byrd, West Virginia Democrat, was first elected in 1958, the year this columnist celebrated his first of 44 birthdays and the first domestic jet airline passenger service began in the United States a National Airlines flight between New York and Miami.

One would have thought, given the impressive span of American history witnessed by these distinguished lawmakers (and a dozen or so similarly seasoned lawmakers in the House, but unfortunately we don't have the space to identify them), they would have had their fill of Washington politics by now.

But, for whatever reasons, personal or professional, that's not the case.

Perhaps they remain "Kings of the Hill" because they are simply men. Or perhaps it's because politicians, we now learn, are no different an animal than monkeys and apes.

"The reason men seek to rule and cling to power as long as they can is because they are biologically programmed to do so," psychiatrist Arnold M. Ludwig reveals in his forthcoming page-turner, "King of the Mountain: The Nature of Political Leadership" (University Press of Kentucky, $32).

"Just like their monkey, chimpanzee and gorilla kin, they are disposed to compete among themselves to become the reigning members of their society," the good doctor says. "And, once they realize their rank, to beat back all challengers who threaten to displace them."

Lawmakers at work

It has been so stressful in the U.S. Senate of late what with fear of campaign-finance reform drying up the almighty dollar that the Senate Office of Education and Training has been holding seminars on "what you can do at your desk during the day to ease tension in your back and neck."

Official activists

Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, or PEER, is a private, nonprofit organization that pledges "to protect government employees who protect the environment."

Currently, for instance, PEER is blasting everyone from President Bush ("The election of George W. Bush heralds the advent of a new environmental dark age," says PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch) to Interior Secretary Gale A. Norton (the Bush Cabinet member attempted "to mislead Congress by altering Fish and Wildlife Service data regarding the effects of oil drilling on caribou in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge").

"Rather than work on environmental issues from the outside," PEER explains in its mission statement, "PEER works with and on behalf of these resource professionals to effect fundamental change in the way their agencies conduct the public's business."

They're not kidding.

Bureaucrats toiling at the Environmental Protection Agency in Washington this week did double-takes when copies of the publication PEEReview landed on their desks with stickers adhering to the cover bearing EPA's official logo.

Below the EPA logo it read: "Special Message for EPA Employees Inside."

Reacted one EPA official: "I always thought the use of an official government logo for non-government business was illegal."

So did we.

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