- The Washington Times - Monday, October 7, 2002

Couch potatoes
Leaders of the National Education Association had better switch off their television sets and start studying Reality 101.
Last week, after viewing NBC's prime-time show "The West Wing," the national educators took the incredible step of issuing a news release headlined: "NEA backs President Bartlet's call for school quality. Wednesday's 'The West Wing' featured President Bartlet's plea for more teachers and better-funded public schools. NEA strongly agrees."
Reaction on Capitol Hill?
Republicans, if nobody else, are "shaking their heads," says David Schnittger, communications director for the House Education and the Workforce Committee.
"What's interesting is the NEA doesn't give credit to the actual president President Bush for actually delivering a whopping 38 percent increase in federal funding for teachers this year as part of the No Child Left Behind Act," Mr. Schnittger reminds this column.
Under those reforms, he notes, federal funding for teacher-quality programs this year jumps 38 percent by $787 million to $2.85 billion to help train, recruit and retain quality teachers. Mr. Bush's support "is far more than was ever provided under President Clinton," Mr. Schnittger adds.
In its news release, the NEA also applauds the fictitious President Bartlet for pointing out in his weekly address to the nation that there's "too much mayhem in our culture and we can do something about that."
It so happens that the nonfictitious president, Mr. Bush, is speaking to that precise point in his nationally televised address this evening. We'll be sure to bring you NEA reaction to that speech, or any comments from President Bartlet and his Hollywood speechwriters.

That's the ticket
When Democratic National Committee Chairman Terry McAuliffe pulled up to the Brookings Institution in his Cadillac Escalade SUV to hear Al Gore's speech on the economy last week, observers noticed that his vehicle's "DNC" vanity plate had been traded for a regular tag.
When a member of the D.C. "Freepers" or American University College Republicans (both groups were protesting Mr. Gore's policies outside Brookings) asked Mr. McAuliffe what had happened to the "DNC" tag, the chairman reportedly replied that he "had it changed because his drivers were getting too many speeding tickets," one ear-witness tells Inside the Beltway.
Come to think of it, this column reported on May 23, 2001, how easy it was given the "DNC" vanity plate to spot Mr. McAuliffe cruising around the crowded streets of Washington in his expensive four-wheel-drive gas guzzler.

Losing their Torch
The polls that are now coming in
Show we haven't a chance to win,
So we'll pull our man out,
Then rummage about
And start all over again.

F.R. Duplantier

Headed for divorce
"In 1987, my wife and I celebrated our 50th wedding anniversary. Here it is 15 years later, so we're now 65 years along on our journey, but how much farther along are we in the appropriations process? Well, let me say again, this is the worst record for progress in the appropriations process since 1987."
Sen. Robert C. Byrd, West Virginia Democrat, referring to White House and Senate foot-dragging on appropriations bills

Balls of fire
Chuck Leavell proved he is one of the most talented piano players in the world when he performed with the Rolling Stones on Friday night at FedEx Field, but he also displayed an uncanny talent as a lobbyist when meeting with Western Caucus Chairman Rep. Richard W. Pombo, California Republican, and other lawmakers on Capitol Hill.
Mr. Leavell and his wife, Rose Lane, own a large tree plantation in Georgia. He's a vocal supporter of active forest management being pushed by the Bush administration and Western lawmakers, the lack of which is partly blamed for the destruction of 6 million acres of woods by wildfires this year.
His message to Congress: "The no-management plan spells disaster. It's a travesty." Mr. Leavell also asked lawmakers to repeal the estate tax, which he said nearly ruined his family.
Mr. Leavell was prepared to deliver a 15-minute speech and play two songs on the only piano that could be located on Capitol Hill, but rolling votes in the House shifted the forum to a more personal and casual sit-down conversation.
However, as soon as lawmakers left the meeting which, by the way, was closed to the press the rock star turned to staff and said, "Now that the heavies have left the room, let's rock 'n' roll."
One lawmaker did drift back in time to hear Mr. Leavell pounding out "Great Balls of Fire" to the delight of his exclusive audience.
"Sounds like our current forest policy," the lawmaker said.

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