- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 23, 2006

Where it began

Barring any undiscovered skeletons in his closet (on second thought, what possibly could be left to discover?), the birthplace home of William Jefferson Clinton at 117 South Hervey St. in Hope, Ark., will soon become a permanent national historic landmark.

The Senate will consider a measure overwhelmingly approved in the House (by a 409-12 vote) earlier this month that would designate Mr. Clinton’s birthplace as a national historic site and unit of the National Park System.

The honor, spearheaded by Rep. Mike Ross, Arkansas Democrat, hasn’t been without controversy.

Rep. Ginny Brown-Waite, a Florida Republican who sits on the Homeland Security Committee, said she could not support the measure because Mr. Clinton had not adequately explained his role in the controversial — and now dead — Dubai ports deal.

“How do we show that we are serious about protecting the United States from terrorist nations when we are proceeding to honor the birthplace of someone who may have brokered this deal?” she inquired.

Mr. Ross countered, “This is not about partisan politics. This is about preserving our history, a presidential legacy, for not only the city of Hope and southwest Arkansas, but also for the state of Arkansas and the United States.”

Indeed, the congressman is a 1979 graduate of Hope High School, and today he represents the people of Hope in Congress.

He says the four-square house, built by a doctor in 1917 and patterned from a French design, has been returned to the identical state of when Mr. Clinton lived there as a boy. It was the residence of his maternal grandparents, Eldridge and Edith Cassidy, and he lived there from his birth in 1946 until his mother married Roger Clinton Sr. in 1950.

The kitchen, where Mrs. Cassidy used playing cards to teach Mr. Clinton numbers while he sat in his high chair, has been restored to the era of his childhood. On the wooden floor is a toy train, similar to the Lionel train that Roger Clinton gave the future president when he was 4 or 5 years old.

As far as Mr. Ross is concerned, every presidential birthplace, “Democrat and Republican alike, if still standing, should be preserved as a part of history,” because “this is where our presidents formed their core beliefs and value systems that shaped their decisions in the nation’s highest office.”

GOP appendage

If anybody has had a good excuse to be absent from Congress, it is Rep. Charlie Gonzalez, Texas Democrat, who recently underwent an emergency appendectomy.

“There has to be some humor in this,” the 60-year-old congressman tells Inside the Beltway by telephone from his San Antonio home. “I was telling people that I had my only Republican body part removed, and that was my appendix, which serves no useful purpose and only causes pain.”

Mr. Gonzalez recalled casting votes in Congress on a Thursday “and I was not feeling well that Friday [March 3] morning. I said to myself, ‘Man, what did I eat last night?’ ”

Later that day, with a severe upset stomach, he boarded a flight for Texas, “and it really started hurting on the plane, and that concerned me. After I got to San Antonio I said, ‘I’m going to get some Mylanta,’ and man, I was swigging that stuff.”

Shortly before midnight, after the pain grew worse, “I did something I do not recommend to anybody. I drove myself to the emergency room. … Fortunately, [the appendix] had not ruptured. I was very lucky.”

Ironically, the same hospital staff that cared for the congressman had met with him only days earlier on ways to improve the health care industry.

“I joked with them that I had to go undercover to find out what was really going on in health care,” he said. “It was an interesting experience. Needless to say, you understand the crisis in health care and what’s going on because you are there.”

Mr. Gonzalez is one of eight children of the late Rep. Henry B. Gonzalez of Texas, who served in Congress for 37 years, from 1961 to 1998.

John McCaslin, whose column is nationally syndicated, can be reached at 202/636-3284 or [email protected]washingtontimes.com.

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