by Ed Marston
early June, Congressman Scott McInnis, a Republican from Colorado,
materialized at the Interior Department building in Washington,
D.C., and demanded immediate entrance. Unfortunately for the course
of history, he had forgotten his photo I.D. and it took him and the
reporter he had in tow 10 minutes to get past the guards. (His
forgetfulness may someday be likened to the famous nail that lost
the shoe that lost the horse that lost the cannon that
McInnis was at Interior in search of waste.
Congress wants to cut 10 percent from the National Park Service
budget, and the bureaucrats threaten to close 200 parks and
monuments. A bunch of those parks and momuments are in McInnis'
district and his constituents are typical Western conservatives: we
like our pork with the fat thick on it. Parks and monuments are
part of our federal entitlement.
As a result,
McInnis has been feeling heat. He's not under pressure from people
who love parks and want to visit them. He's been hearing from his
real constituents: motel owners, chamber of commerce members, park
Ordinarily, McInnis seeks only
to cut federal spending in other congressional districts. He's
especially courageous on eliminating subways and deep-sea ports.
But he's now a Beltway captive of the Newtoids. They expect him to
help eliminate not only school lunches and union jobs, but also
national parks. That troubles McInnis because he is a man of
inviolable principle, the principle being that he never irritates
the rich and powerful.
So here he is, trapped
between conservatives in western Colorado and conservatives in the
Capitol. His response has been to claim Interior can save zillions
in administrative costs without touching a park ranger. To prove
it, on Thursday, June 8, he barged into Interior, after that famous
10-minute delay, and roamed the halls. In no time at all, right
there in the fourth-floor budget office, blatantly in sight, he
found a Xerox copy machine.
He told his reporter,
"Now this copying machine right here is a very expensive copying
machine. I would imagine the federal government buys hundreds of
thousands of copying machines." Having solved the park-closing
problem, and perhaps even the entire budget-deficit problem,
McInnis headed back to the Hill.
makes me wonder about Bruce Babbitt's Interior. His functionaries
had 10 minutes to hide incriminating objects. Couldn't they find a
place to stick the copier? Or was the copier a decoy? Did Babbitt
say to his aides, as they huddled before McInnis'
"Let Scott find something, for god's sake,
or he'll come back."
Did they then debate what
he should find: an electric envelope slitter? a deluxe model Mr.
Coffee? a computer program churning out resumes for assistant
secretaries and undersecretaries and press
Babbitt's reasoning would be
fascinating, if we knew it. But what about McInnis? Did he reason
too? Did he know Babbitt would let him find something damaging, but
not too damaging? Did he shrewdly smell a setup? Is that why he
brought a reporter from Scripps Howard News Service instead of from
The New York Times?
And wasn't McInnis worried
that someone would remind him that he is against charging royalties
to mining companies? Wasn't he afraid someone would bring up his
votes against higher grazing fees and for below-cost logging?
Wasn't he afraid of the H word - afraid someone
would call him a hypocrite for closing parks while protecting
foreign mining companies? He isn't a hypocrite, of course. At any
given moment, he is tremendously, totally, almost tearfully
sincere. But he also knows that sincerity counts for nothing in the
Beltway snakepit. He must have known he was running a risk.
I've been reading the New Mexico newspapers a
lot, and listening to G. Gordon Liddy and Rush Limbaugh. I don't
agree with everything, but I'm catching on to their reasoning.
Thanks to them, I'm sure that McInnis was actually at Interior in
pursuit of the Christian Coalition vote. I think McInnis wants to
see those 200 parks and monuments close. That's why he left after
only finding a copying machine; that's why he didn't keep searching
until he'd found that deluxe Mr. Coffee, or that automated envelope
Moreover, I think 199 of the park and
monument closings are screens. The real object is Dinosaur National
Monument in northwest Colorado. He's after Dinosaur, I'm convinced,
because McInnis has struck a deal with the Christian Coalition.
It is a little known fact that, after abortion,
Dinosaur National Monument is the coalition's major federal enemy.
Each year tens of thousands of young children (those who have
somehow escaped the abortionists) and their impressionable parents
are exposed to the idea that dinosaurs once roamed the earth, even
before Adam and Eve and Pat Robertson. Given that, it makes sense
to me - it's the only thing that makes sense to me - that Ralph
Reed, head of the Coalition, secretly visited Scott McInnis in a
black helicopter that landed at 3 a.m. ear the Washington Monument.
In their pre-dawn meeting, Ralph convinced Scott to shut down
Why else would Scott McInnis search
Interior for copy machines? Why else would a Republican try to
balance the federal budget on the back of a worthy corporation like
McInnis, after all, is no fool. He's read
Edgar Allan Poe's "The Purloined Letter." He knows Interior's real
waste is sitting right there at 19th and C - the monumental
building that Harold Ickes built in the 1930s, back when Americans
had the crazy idea that government could pull them out of the Great
Depression they had been tossed into by unbridled free
Ickes' building is a disgrace: high
ceilings, wide corridors and so many corner offices that even an
assistant deputy undersecretary's secretary can feel like a big
shot. McInnis must have noticed those corridors and corner offices.
Even a Bruce Babbitt couldn't hide them.
is open and shut. If McInnis wanted to keep Dinosaur open, he'd
propose razing the Interior building. Then he would stuff all its
employees into trailers on the vacant site. (The bill should
specify no double-wides. Fourteen-footers are good enough.) That
would save money and create an authentic Western atmosphere. It's a
moderate, sensible course. The fact that McInnis hasn't submitted
it as a bill proves he's after Dinosaur.
Scott needs to know this: He will have to pry Dinosaur out of my
cold, dead fingers. n
Washington, D.C., reporter, Nancy Shute, is doing research in
Alaska and Russia through July. HCN publisher Ed Marston is filling
in, more or less, until she returns.