- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 19, 2002

Spring chickens

This month's midterm election proves you're never too old to run for Congress.

The average age of newly elected congressmen is 47 (the oldest member-elect being 63-year-old William J. Janklow, South Dakota Republican).

On the Senate side, the average age of newcomers is 54 (no doubt 78-year-old Sen.-elect Frank R. Lautenberg, New Jersey Democrat, helped skew the median upward).

Still, members of the entire "Class of 2002" are mere babies considering the unprecedented staying power of Sen. Strom Thurmond, South Carolina Republican, who can hardly wait to celebrate his 100th birthday on Dec. 5.

After that, Mr. Thurmond has decided to retire, his last official day on Capitol Hill arriving on Jan. 2.

Former Sen. Quentin N. Burdick, North Dakota Democrat, wasn't as fortunate to serve as long as Mr. Thurmond. On running for the Senate at age 80, Mr. Burdick said: "If they can beat me, fine. But I'm not leaving until they beat me."

President Burns

He's barely been tapped by his Georgia constituents to come to Washington and already Republican Rep.-elect Max Burns has been elected president.

Freshman class president, that is.

Mr. Burns, just elected by his novice peers, sought the seat with a pledge to be an effective voice for the freshman class. And already he's sounding like a real president.

"I look forward to working with Republicans and Democrats alike to promote a positive vision for America's future," he says, "fixing Social Security and Medicare [and] improving education."

Mr. Burns is the inaugural congressman from Georgia's new 12th Congressional District, which reaches from Athens to Augusta to Savannah.

'National disgrace'

Don't look now, but new census data reveal there are more than 21 million people now living in the United States who speak English "less than very well."

That doesn't count the immigrants who did not or could not answer the census forms.

"These startling statistics are a national disgrace and should more than alarm our government officials and motivate them to action," says Mauro E. Mujica, chairman and CEO of U.S. English, which for its unifying role wants English made the official language of the United States.

Rather, complains the immigrant from Chile, the federal government "is turning itself inside out to accommodate immigrants who can't speak our common language." From his office overlooking the White House, he cites these glimpses of such federal initiatives:

•Bilingual ballots available for "citizens" who don't understand English (even though the Immigration and Naturalization Service requires that an individual read, write and speak English in order to become an American).

•The Social Security Administration recently won an award for providing services in up to 15 languages.

•The Justice Department is mandating banks install "talking" ATMs in languages other than English.

Once was the time, notes Mr. Mujica, that integration into the American culture was "first and foremost" for immigrants to quickly blend into America's melting pot. Now, he says, "without a good command of English, immigrants are consigned to a linguistic ghetto of low-paying, menial jobs."

As for impact on the entire country, Mr. Mujica says "from culture to politics, the way we function as a society is under stress. The massive influx of immigrants to our country who are limited in English has made us re-evaluate everything we do from teaching our kids at school to testing one's driving ability to providing medical care to conducting political campaigns."

Case closed?

In light of the recent serial sniper shootings in and around Washington and elsewhere, we've since learned a congressional "Quick Poll" conducted through yesterday asks whether Congress should establish stricter gun-control laws.

Of 11,132 respondents, a little more than 12 percent answered "yes" all guns should be registered, gun ownership should be limited, and gun owners and manufacturers should be held responsible for crimes committed by their guns.

On the other hand, nearly 88 percent replied "no" the right to keep and bear arms is guaranteed by the Second Amendment, and responsible firearm ownership actually deters more crime.

What a relief

"Congressman Pitts doesn't believe in stoning anybody."

Gabe Neville, confirming that his boss, Rep. Joseph R. Pitts, Pennsylvania Republican, abruptly canceled an appearance at a religious conference after learning its members support the execution of homosexuals and abortion providers and stoning disobedient children.

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