Had it with the in-laws for Thanksgiving? Missed the Hastert CODEL to Japan and Australia? Not to worry. There are two more congressional delegations preparing to take off for Africa in the next week or so.
House Democratic leader Richard A. Gephardt (Mo.) is setting off Saturday morning with Reps. Amo Houghton (R-N.Y.), John Lewis (D-Ga.), Donald M. Payne (D-N.J.), William J. Jefferson (D-La.), Michael N. Castle (R-Del.), Jay Dickey (R-Ark.), Jennifer Dunn (R-Wash.), Sue W. Kelly (R-N.Y.), Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick (D-Mich.) and Gregory Meeks (D-N.Y.).
Spouses--some kids--and staff will be along on what looks to be a wonderful journey to Nigeria, Zimbabwe and South Africa. Gephardt's "media advisory" says there will be lots of meetings with leaders and visits to AIDS clinics and such. Do NOT be deterred. Sign up now. There will be visits to one game park (a day at Hwange National Park) and other fine touring (Victoria Falls) and shopping opportunities on this 11-day trip.
For those who can wait a week, there's a spectacular trip--a true Loop Five-Star--put together by Rep. Richard W. Pombo (R-Calif.) specifically to tour some of the most beautiful game parks in Africa. The travel list fluctuates, but it appears that Pombo and 10 others, including Reps. Calvin M. Dooley (D-Calif.), John T. Doolittle (R-Calif.) James V. Hansen (R-Utah), Neil Abercrombie (D-Hawaii), Helen Chenoweth-Hage (R-Idaho), Collin C. Peterson (D-Minn.), and Frank Lucas (R-Okla.) have been looking to go, sources say. Some may drop off; others may hop on.
The first stop after takeoff from Andrews AFB on Dec. 11 is magnificent Kruger National Park in South Africa, according to a tentative schedule. Pombo and pals, along with spouses, a half-dozen aides and military escorts, to help with logistics, handle bags and such, will then board buses for a tour through the park, arriving at the lodge at 6 p.m.
Not to tarry because it's off for a night "game drive" through the park before returning to the lodge for dinner and a well-deserved night's sleep.
No doubt there'll be lots of big game to see on the early morning game drive on Monday. Then it's back to the lodge for breakfast and then a tour of the park. At 11 a.m., there's time for "shopping," which we'll assume must be a code word for high-level talks with South African officials. Noon to 4 p.m. is "Lunch and Rest" time to get ready for the 4 p.m. game drive, in time to get back for the 6:30 reception and dinner.
Tuesday and Wednesday are Zambia and Zimbabwe days for discussions with officials about "de-mining," and there's a viewing of a conservation program that gets U.S. aid. Arrival Tuesday at Victoria Falls is at 3:45 p.m., just in time for a "walking tour/boat ride" through the falls and then dinner. There's another game drive Wednesday at a national park and a "working dinner" to talk about endangered species.
You'll know it's Thursday when it's off to Botswana and the Chobe Enclave Community Trust for a game drive, chats with some government folks and dinner at the lovely Mowana Lodge in Kasane.
Friday, it's back to South Africa for a return flight home.
There have been rumors of big-game hunting possibilities in private parks and of efforts to arrange for smaller military planes to ferry people about--the military jet can't land at the smaller airports at those parks--but nothing confirmed.
The bus rides are a bit long, the schedule a bit compressed, but no one said being a member of Congress was easy.
Another Dornan in the House?
Great news! Mark Dornan, youngest son of former representative Robert K. Dornan (R-Calif.) and manager of his dad's losing 1996 and 1998 campaigns, says he's moving to retiring California GOP Rep. Ron Packard's district to run for Congress. He says he's like his father. "We're cut from the same cloth," Dornan told the Associated Press, although "I may be a little more tactful." Not too tactful, we hope.
Putting Distance Between Clintons
State Department spokesman James P. Rubin gave a boffo performance yesterday at the briefing on how to distance one member of the Clinton family from another, potentially more troublesome member. "But let me say we do understand that . . . Roger Clinton plans to participate in a charity concert in North Korea," Rubin said. "As a rule, we do not oppose cultural exchanges with North Korea. As far as what he's going to do and not do, I urge you to contact him directly. We have no official connection with this event in any way, shape or form." Music to our ears.
Saying Goodbye to the White House
Lawrence Stein, director of the White House legislative affairs office, is finally making good on his long-standing threat to leave. Stein, who worked for Senate Democratic leader Thomas A. Daschle (S.D.) and then-Sen. James Sasser (D-Tenn.), is leaving to be senior vice president for strategic development at the National Association of Securities Dealers. Also at the White House, Mark Neschis, former director of television news, is a senior vice president at Robinson Lerer & Montgomery in New York.
Commissioner Tristani Will Stay at FCC
Federal Communications Commissioner Gloria Tristani, who has spent the last several weeks contemplating a run for a House seat from her home state, New Mexico, says she has decided not to leave the commission. Her term expires in July 2003.