- The Washington Times - Monday, December 1, 2003

Barbie’s protector

Percentage change between 2001 and 2002 in G.I. Joe sales: +46

Harper’s Index, December 2003

Prophet Byrd

“It was the prophet Hosea who lamented of the ancient Israelites, ‘For they have sown the wind, and they shall reap the whirlwind.’

“I wonder if it will come to pass,” asks Sen. Robert C. Byrd, West Virginia Democrat, “that the president’s flawed and dangerous doctrine of preemption on which the United States predicated its invasion of Iraq will some day come to be seen as a modern-day parable of Hosea’s lament.

“Could it be that the Bush administration, in its disdain for the rest of the world, elected to sow the wind, and is now reaping the whirlwind?”

Mr. Byrd, like Mr. Bush, is a deeply religious man. After Mr. Bush was elected president, his first private dinner guest was Mr. Byrd, a Democrat. What impressed the senator the most was that the president said grace before the meal.

No time to peel

The first session of the 108th Congress is now officially wrapped up, a year that witnessed an impressive 459 votes.

“We had more votes in the Senate this year than any time since 1995, the first year of the Contract With America,” notes Sen. Mitch McConnell, Kentucky Republican.

Several votes were so close that in three instances Vice President Dick Cheney, the president of the Senate, had to break the tie in the chair.

“So for those who were interested in drama and who typically think of the Senate as a place where you go to watch paint peel, there was a good deal of excitement this year at various intervals in our legislative consideration,” Mr. McConnell adds.

The final session of the 108th Congress convenes at noon on Jan. 20.

A penny saved

In thanking the congressional pages who served during the first session of the 108th Congress — many of whom volunteered to stay beyond their scheduled time — Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle urged them to return one day as representatives and senators.

In fact, several members have been pages in their youth, one of the more intriguing examples being former Arkansas Sen. David Pryor, the father of current Sen. Mark Pryor, a Democrat.

When other kids were placing pennies on railroad tracks, the elder Mr. Pryor as a congressional page hid a penny in the U.S. Capitol, making a promise to himself that he would come back one day and pick up that penny as an elected official. And he did.

Honest profession

Before he accepted his final reward, the late Jeremiah O’Leary, former White House correspondent for The Washington Times and the old Evening Star, gave me a worn copy of the 1934 book “City Editor,” written by New York Herald Tribune City Editor Stanley Walker.

Before Mr. O’Leary took possession of the book, it had sat — as is clearly stamped in purple ink — on a shelf of “The Evening Star Library, Washington, D.C. 25 a week, 5 a day over time.”

I finally got around to reading the book this Thanksgiving holiday and learned some things about newspapers haven’t changed.

For example, Mr. Walker writes that “the system of having news stories which start on page one and then jump to page thirty-seven of the second section, causing the reader to maul and tear his paper and lose all interest by the time he finds the continuation, [is] an affront to the reader.”

The editor also seeks to dispel his day’s popular school of thought that “all good newspaper men, like all good prizefighters, come out of the gutter,” an idea he calls as foolish as the corollary that no rich man’s son has any business becoming a newspaperman.

Finally, for reasons he couldn’t figure out, Mr. Walker points out that racial inheritance probably has little to do with journalistic expertness, “and yet most men who have got ahead in American journalism have been of Irish, English or Scottish blood. There have been a few Germans, and fewer from Scandinavian countries.

“French blood? Sometimes, but not often. And a good Italian newspaper man is so rare that he belongs in the Smithsonian Institution. Jewish reporters are impossible to classify; some are cloddish, some brilliant, some level-headed, some itching with messianic afflictions, some profligate, and some close-fisted and scheming. One thing surely may be said about them: most Jews know enough not to drink too much.

“Of all reporters,” he concludes, “the Irish, if they have a poetic streak in them and can stay reasonably sober, probably make the best.”

John McCaslin, a nationally syndicated columnist, can be reached at 202/636-3284 or jmccaslin@washingtontimes.com.

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