Xerox copiers and black helicopters

  • Collage of Scott McInnis watching a dinosaur emerge from a copier

    Diane Sylvain
 

In 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 concessionnaires.

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.

The incident 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' entry:

"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 secretaries?

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 slitter.

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 Dinosaur.

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 Xerox?

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 enterprise.

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.

So it 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.

But Scott needs to know this: He will have to pry Dinosaur out of my cold, dead fingers.

HCN's 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.

High Country News Classifieds
  • RARE CHIRICAHUA RIPARIAN LAND FOR SALE: NEAR CHRICAHUA NATIONAL PARK
    2 (20 acre sites): 110 miles from Tucson:AZ Native trees: Birder's heaven: dark skies: Creek: borders State lease & National forest: /13-16 inches of rain...
  • DIRECTOR - SONORAN DESERT INN & CONFERENCE CENTER
    The Sonoran Desert Inn & Conference Center is a non-profit lodging and event venue in Ajo, Arizona, located on the historic Curley School Campus. We...
  • CANYONLANDS FIELD INSTITUTE
    Field Seminars for adults: cultural and natural history of the Colorado Plateau. With guest experts, local insights, small groups, and lodge or base camp formats....
  • PLANNED GIVING OFFICER
    National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA), the nation's oldest and largest national parks nonprofit advocacy organization seeks a Planned Giving Officer. Do you find energy in...
  • DEPUTY DIRECTOR
    The Methow Valley Citizens Council has a distinguished history of advocating for progressive land use and environmental values in the Methow Valley and Okanogan County...
  • ACTING INDIGENOUS AFFAIRS DESK EDITOR
    High Country News is seeking an Acting Indigenous Affairs Editor to oversee the work of our award-winning Indigenous Affairs Desk while our editor is on...
  • GRANTS PROGRAM DIRECTOR
    The Cinnabar Foundation seeks an enthusiastic, team-oriented and knowledgeable Grants Program Director to work from their home in Montana. Established in 1983, the Cinnabar Foundation...
  • ARTEMIS PROGRAM MANAGER
    The Artemis Program Manager will work with National Wildlife Federation sporting and public lands staff to change this dynamic, continue to build upon our successful...
  • ALASKA SEA KAYAK BUSINESS FOR SALE
    Well-known and successful sea kayak, raft, hike, camp guiding & water taxi service. Sale includes everything needed to run the business, including office & gear...
  • MEMBERSHIP AND EVENTS PROGRAM COORDINATOR
    Great Old Broads for Wilderness seeks a detail-oriented and enthusiastic Membership and Events Coordinator to join our small, but mighty-fun team to oversee our membership...
  • PROGRAM DEVELOPMENT FACILITATOR
    ABOUT THE HIGH DESERT MUSEUM Since opening in 1982, HIGH DESERT MUSEUM has brought together wildlife, culture, art and natural resources to promote an understanding...
  • LAND STEWARD, ARAVAIPA
    Steward will live on-site in housing provided by TNC and maintains preserve areas frequented by the visiting public and performs land management activities. The Land...
  • DEVELOPMENT WRITER
    Who We Are: The Nature Conservancy's mission is to protect the lands and waters upon which all life depends. As a science-based organization, we create...
  • CONNECTIVITY SCIENCE COORDINATOR
    Position type: Full time, exempt Location: Bozeman preferred; remote negotiable Compensation: $48,000 - $52,000 Benefits: Major medical insurance, up to 5% match on a 401k,...
  • EXECUTIVE ASSISTANT
    ArenaLife is looking for an Executive Assistant who wants to work in a fast-paced, exciting, and growing organization. We are looking for someone to support...
  • DEVELOPMENT DIRECTOR
    Driggs, ID based non-profit. Full time. Full job description available at tvtap.org. Submit cover letter and resume to [email protected]
  • ENVIRONMENTAL AND CONSTRUCTION GEOPHYSICS
    - We find groundwater, buried debris and assist with new construction projects for a fraction of drilling costs.
  • SPRING MOUNTAINS SOLAR OFF GRID MOUNTAIN HOME
    Located 50 miles northwest of Las Vegas, Nevada in the pine forest of Lee Canyon at 8000 feet elevation. One of a kind property surrounded...
  • MAJOR GIFTS MANAGER - MOUNTAIN WEST, THE CONSERVATION FUND
    Cultivate, solicit and steward a portfolio of 75-125 donors.
  • NATURE'S BEST IN ARAVAIPA CANYON
    10 acre private oasis in one of Arizona's beautiful canyons. Fully furnished, 2123 sq ft architectural custom-built contemporary home with spectacular views and many extras....