Not a Green-Letter Day on Capitol Hill

Afghan President Hamid Karzai does so leave the bunker, as illustrated by this non-bunker file photo from Paris.
Afghan President Hamid Karzai does so leave the bunker, as illustrated by this non-bunker file photo from Paris. (By Jacques Brinon -- Associated Press)
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By Al Kamen
Wednesday, July 16, 2008

B arbara Boxer (D-Calif.), chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, asked Vice President Cheney on Nov. 1 for documents on the White House's reported watering down of testimony by the head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention about global warming's harmful effects on public health.

She never received a response, so she tried again on July 8. Three days later, she got a cordial reply from the ever-affable David Addington, Cheney's chief of staff, noting that "we have no record that [Boxer] sent any letter on or about that date." (Boxer's office called that day and received confirmation from Cheney's office, but White House recordkeeping has been spotty of late, and the e-mail system is most unreliable.)

In any event, Addington said Cheney's office would review Boxer's request and "respond to you promptly." Cheney's staff even called Boxer's staff Friday with the news that his letter was on its way. By fax? E-mail? Bicycle messenger? Carrier pigeon?

Not exactly. The letter was delivered by hand to Boxer's office by a Cheney aide who'd been driven, apparently in a White House car, up to the Dirksen Senate Office Building -- a distance of about 1 1/2 miles (and then back). We're told this is customary procedure for these things.

Clearly no worries about carbon footprints.

Idle Time

Perhaps the White House hadn't gotten around to reading a letter the day before from Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) urging President Bush to stop wasting gas on Capitol Hill.

"Each and every day, there are likely dozens, if not hundreds of federal government SUVs and sedans idling for hours in Washington alone," Grassley wrote, "while waiting for their passengers. Some of the biggest culprits of this practice are vehicles attending to cabinet secretaries, deputy secretaries and assistant secretaries."

Sometimes maybe the idling is necessary, Grassley said, "but I would imagine that in the overwhelming majority of the situations there is no reason for a car or SUV to remain idling for hours on end."

Well, the VIPs need to step into fully cooled-off cars. Besides, it's Grassley's fault. If lawmakers would stop having all these hearings, then officials wouldn't have to go up there.

Russert's Road

The House yesterday passed a Senate-approved bill naming a portion of U.S. Route 20A in Orchard Park, N.Y., near Buffalo, the " Timothy J. Russert Highway." The road leads to the stadium used by the late newscaster's beloved Buffalo Bills.

Russert, longtime host of NBC's "Meet the Press" and one of the most decent people in this town, died June 13. President Bush is expected to sign the measure.

Just a Reminder

State Department folks say they don't think there was any particular incident that sparked a worldwide cable from Washington to remind diplomats that they "should not in any way abet sex trafficking or solicit people in prostitution." But several Loop Fans wrote to tell us they're convinced it must have been the bizarre case of one Gons Gutierrez Nachman-- a Foreign Service officer who's facing sentencing in federal court in Alexandria on child pornography charges.

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