- The Washington Times - Friday, January 25, 2002

Jealous type

"I understand that Senator Lott winked at you yesterday."

Democratic Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, asking reporters yesterday about a facial sign by former Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott signaling that he and fellow Republicans planned to hold off any agreement on an economic-stimulus plan proposed by Democrats.


Ordinary Joe

Although NBC anchorman Tom Brokaw enjoyed extraordinary White House access while taping his Wednesday night special "Inside the Real West Wing," he had a bit of difficulty getting past a Secret Service guard posted at the West Gate.

Since September 11, the White House has required an escort for all visitors recognizable VIPs and leading members of the media included who don't boast a coveted White House "hard pass," which allows speedy access through the gate.

Mr. Brokaw, of course, does not cover the White House on a regular basis, and thus had to explain his mission to the West Gate guard.

Asked by the guard to identify his "contact point," the NBC anchor stammered: "I don't know, somebody in [White House Press Secretary] Ari Fleischer's office," according to our source, who witnessed the scene.

A few minutes later, a Bush press aide ambled up to the gate to escort the anchorman into the West Wing, and later into the normally "private quarters" of the White House, where he interviewed President and Mrs. Bush.


Susceptible clan

One of the more intriguing peeks "Inside the Real West Wing" showed President Bush practically bench-pressing his own weight in the White House gym.

That's intriguing because here we find a president who seriously injured himself chewing a pretzel not having the highly recommended "spotter" close by should God forbid he accidentally drop the weight bar on his head, neck or chest (this columnist, in the blink of an eye, witnessed his high school classmate become toothless in such a mishap).

Charles Rigney, a leading Democratic Party member in Norfolk, reacts: "Benching 185 [pounds] is pretty darn good, but I thought he should have had a spotter in case he dropped the bar and decapitated himself on national TV."

So much for throwing up on the lap of the Japanese prime minister.


Olympic trials

Stamina permeates from the office of Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell, Colorado Republican, three-time U.S. judo champion and captain of the 1964 U.S. Olympic judo team.

Now we learn that the senator's chief of staff, Ginnie Kontnik; her 13-year-old son, Spencer, who is deaf; and the rest of Mrs. Kontnik's family attempted to swim the English Channel.

"They wanted to be the first family to swim the English Channel," reveals Kiersten Tomchik, chairman for the National Campaign for Hearing Health at the Deafness Research Foundation. "And they made it halfway, until inclement weather forced them to stop."

It was Spencer's idea to try the treacherous swim, to raise money for the Listen Foundation in Colorado, which serves hearing-impaired children like himself. Spencer became deaf at age of 10 after being struck in the head with a baseball bat.

Despite not swimming all the way across the stormy channel, the family for its efforts was able to raise $150,000 for the foundation.

At a dinner gala last night in New York City, Spencer and four other worthy recipients were honored as "champions for hearing health" by the Deafness Research Foundation, and a congressional gala committee that included Mr. Campbell, New York Gov. George E. Pataki and New York Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton and Charles E. Schumer.


Cotton mailbag

There was reaction from every quarter to our item this week about the Drug Enforcement Administration and a former federal prosecutor-turned-congressman Rep. Bob Barr, Georgia Republican taking a zero-tolerance stance against the spread and marketing of all hemp products, inhaled or not.

Mr. Barr says he strongly supports an order by the DEA to remove all hemp products worn, eaten or woven into rope from the nation's store shelves by Feb. 6.

Inside the Beltway reader Bart McKinney, however, is one of dozens who smells more than burning hemp in this story.

"Of course Rep. Bob Barr is backing the DEA's decision to have hemp products removed from store shelves by Feb. 6th," he writes. "A fair number of his constituents are cotton farmers in the 7th District of Georgia. Never mind the facts that support the claims of 'industrialized hemp' as being a superior material in finished products compared to cotton.

"Unfortunately, this country can't see the benefits of using hemp in all of its forms due to 25-plus years of battling a failed 'drug war.' I don't smoke the stuff, nor do I buy hemp products. I just can't stand to see ignorance displayed by the decision makers of our country."

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