Cover Story

Flack attack

Issue: "Mid-term, mid-field pileup," Dec. 11, 1999

Critics have a favorite nickname for the national legislators of 1999: The do-nothing Congress.

Evidently, those critics haven't been reading the press releases. As Congress wrapped up its business and headed home for the holidays, members cranked up the presses to trumpet their accomplishments. Judging from all the chest-thumping, a more accurate label for the 106th Congress might be: The do-nothing-without-flacking-it Congress.

Take Elton Gallegly (D-Cal.), who proudly touted his bill making it illegal to sell animal cruelty tapes across state lines. Evidently there's an underground market for videos of women in spiked heels crushing hamsters and other small creatures to death. That's now a federal offense-an animal hate crime, so to speak. Lest anyone think that animal cruelty tapes are too small a matter for federal government involvement, Mr. Gallegly pointed out that Ted Bundy killed animals before graduating to humans and that the Doris Day Foundation supported his bill. No word on whether he is equally opposed to human cruelty tapes-otherwise known as Hollywood's summer blockbusters.

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Sen. John McCain stopped campaigning for president long enough to issue a press release praising the unanimous passage of a bill naming a new federal courthouse in Phoenix in honor of Justice Sandra Day O'Connor. Then he issued a 5,600-word critique of the just-completed federal budget. Among other targets, he savaged a new, $5 million law-enforcement center in New Mexico-but failed to mention the price tag for that O'Connor Federal Courthouse that he seemed to be so pleased about.

Even pseudo-lawmakers couldn't resist touting their pseudo-accomplishments. Eleanor Holmes Norton, the "delegate" from D.C. who has no vote in the House, issued a press release praising the D.C. United, which had recently won its third Major League Soccer championship. She asked her colleagues to officially designate the United as "America's Soccer Team" and announced plans to ensure that "every child in the District is at least exposed to the exciting game of soccer."

Unfortunately for America's Soccer Team, even Congress may have a hard time making that dream come true. On the day of Ms. Norton's press release, a couple of thousand fans lined up one deep along a 10-block parade route to honor the heroes. Soccer fans grumbled that Americans simply don't appreciate the game.

Note to Congress: There ought to be a law ...

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