- The Washington Times - Monday, September 22, 2003

The gathering storm

Celia Sandys, granddaughter of Sir Winston Churchill, arrived on schedule in Washington last week to address a conference of the Churchill Center.

One of her hosts, Radio America President Jim Roberts, suggested she reschedule her visit in view of the impending arrival of Hurricane Isabel. Miss Sandys, however, was positively Churchillian in her disdain for the gathering storm.

She recounted that shortly after becoming prime minister in 1940, her grandfather decided to fly to France in the height of a storm to give encouragement to the French government.

“He said, ‘Whatever the weather, I am going,’ and go he did,” she said. “It was a case of ‘never give in.’ Many people have told me that I should not go to Washington at this time. I am going.”

So, while Uncle Sam stayed home for two days, Miss Sandys made her rounds, albeit often in the dark. Hundreds of thousands of Washington-area residents remained without electricity yesterday.

Urgent matters

OK, we take that back. Not all federal government officials took a four-day weekend because of Hurricane Isabel.

“Asa Hutchison kept his scheduled appointments [as Hurricane Isabel blew up the Potomac River], meeting with folks at Jefferson Consulting Group in D.C.,” says a highly impressed Michelle C. McWhinney of Lincoln Park Public Relations. “The meeting was educational in nature on issues relating to airline security.”

Mr. Hutchison, a former U.S. attorney and Republican congressman from Arkansas (he was one of the House managers during the Senate impeachment trial of fellow Arkansas native Bill Clinton), is undersecretary for Border and Transportation Security with the new U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

Car talk

There shall be a unique parade along Constitution Avenue next Tuesday, Sept. 30, as an original 1903 Winton Touring Car will lead several classic vehicles — including a 1928 Studebaker, a 1955 Ford Crown Victoria, a 1957 Chevy convertible and a 1961 Cadillac — to the entrance of the National Museum of American History.

Upon arrival around 2 p.m., the museum will provide a sneak peek at “America on the Move,” an exhibition opening this fall in the new General Motors Hall of Transportation.

On behalf of the new exhibit, documentary filmmaker Ken Burns asked many U.S. senators to comment on their first automobiles. Here’s a sampling GM kindly shared with Inside the Beltway:

• Sen. Maria Cantwell, Washington Democrat: Pinto (red and white).

“I was working on Jerry Brown’s campaign for president and one day when he was visiting a city in Ohio I was there with my car. Jerry wanted to ride around in the Pinto, so he climbed in and four other guys crammed into the car to ride around town in the Pinto.”

• Sen. Michael B. Enzi, Wyoming Republican: 1967 Cougar XR-7.

“My first car was metallic lime green with leather seats, toggle switches and multi directional tail lights. I put a lot of miles on it going to Laramie, Wyo., to court the lady that became my wife. After my wife, Diana, and I had our first child in November of 1971, we traded the car in for a station wagon.”

• Sen. Trent Lott, Mississippi Republican: 1948 four-door Chevy.

“The interior was huge. The back end was higher that than the front, so I took it down to the beach and put a large sack of sand in the trunk to give it that lowered-in-the-back look. Paid $125 for it. Loved it!”

• Sen. Thomas R. Carper, Delaware Democrat:

“My first car was a 1962 Corvair Monza, made famous in Ralph Nader’s book ‘Unsafe at Any Speed.’ Nader’s strong criticism of the car allowed me to buy it for a song while I was an undergraduate at Ohio State. I believe that I paid less than $500 for the vehicle and went on to drive it for my last couple of years in college and then on to Pensacola, Fla., where I began my preflight training in late 1968.”

• Sen. Carl Levin, Michigan Democrat: “Back in the 1970s, I was serving on the Detroit City Council and driving my mother’s car. One day, as I sat at a restaurant window eating lunch with a friend, I watched a man jump into my mother’s car and drive off. We ran outside, jumped into my buddy’s car and followed the car as he drove to a house in one of Detroit’s neighborhoods. When he parked the car and went inside, we called the police and told them what had happened. They came to the house; I identified the guy; they arrested him and I got my mother’s car back.”

• Sen. Jim Talent, Missouri Republican:

“My first car was a 1974, lime green, Ford Pinto station wagon that cost $1,900. It had a rudimentary rear-window defroster that was powered by this big alternator. When the alternator was fully engaged you could have provided enough electricity for a small suburban town. I was always fighting rust on that car. I would treat the rust and spray over it with lime-green spray paint.”

• Sen. Ben Nelson, Nebraska Democrat: 1952 Plymouth.

The senator’s most vivid memory of his Plymouth occurred when he decided he would give his car a new coat of paint. Immediately afterward, he parked it in front of his parents’ house in McCook, Neb., where a driver sped along, hit the Plymouth and demolished it.

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

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