Remember the fun South Africa game parks trip that a group of House members took last month? Seems ABC News caught up with them at Kruger National Park in South Africa and aired a spot on the evening news Friday.
There was Rep. James V. Hansen (R-Utah) playfully hiding behind his wife as the camera filmed the 11 lawmakers, eight spouses and seven aides on a tour bus.
It wasn't nonstop vacation. Lead member Rep. Richard W. Pombo (R-Calif.) was shown at a meeting earnestly questioning African officials about conservation matters.
And while a Congress watcher quibbled that relatively little work was being done, Rep. Neil Abercrombie (D-Hawaii) defended the trip, said to cost about $100,000 just for the plane, crew, meals and lodging. "I didn't take holy orders," Abercrombie said. "I ran for office, public office. I don't wear sackcloth and ashes." No, looked more like a safari outfit.
And there were shots of the delegation taking pictures and watching game. "They saw crocodiles," ABC's John Martin reported, "they saw rhinos."
Then there was a shot of a leopard wandering down the shoulder of a road. "And what did that mean?" Martin asked.
The answer was obvious and had important implications for the fight in this country over building roads in wilderness areas.
"In America," Rep. Helen Chenoweth-Hage (R-Idaho) explained, "they take the position that roads are an anathema to wild game. Well, here we learned that from time to time, the game used the roads."
So maybe four lanes for wide loads like elephants, rhinos and hippos?
Meanwhile, anchor Peter Jennings reported that two members on the trip (Pombo and Abercrombie) "wrote to us before the piece was actually on the air to accuse us of tabloid journalism."
My, my, my.
What Democrats Can't Pass: a Trip
Speaking of codels, Senate Democratic leader Thomas A. Daschle (S.D.) is heading a small delegation of senators, aides and spouses on a 12-day jaunt to India, Pakistan and Nepal for trade and security matters. Joining Daschle on the Democrats-only trip were Sens. Christopher J. Dodd (Conn.), Daniel K. Akaka (Hawaii) and Harry M. Reid (Nev.).
Magnificent Udaipur in the lake region of India is not on the schedule, but maybe Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) can scare up a few pictures for them when they get back on Monday.
Also abroad are Sens. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) and Ernest F. "Fritz" Hollings (D-S.C.), who left last week for Africa and will be back on Friday.
Chair Missing at Troubled Agency
Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board chairman Paul Hill Jr. announced last month that he was resigning, but folks at the troubled agency saw no signs of departure. Hill opponents said he would try to hang on until March so his ally and chief operating officer, Phyllis G. Thompson, could complete her one-year probation for a senior executive service position. Not so.
Seems the White House, not happy about trying to confirm someone this year for chairman, had asked Hill to hold off until they could figure out how to install a new chairman from among the other board members.
Sources say that, even before the end of this year, Hill had committed to the White House that he would leave the chairmanship--though stay on the board--this month. He's expected to step down today. Word is member Gerald Poje is the expected pick for the chairman's spot.
Lawmakers Need Not Apply
JOB ALERT! "Do you have what it takes?" asks the ad, featuring an attractive, smiling woman, in this week's edition of the Economist. Can you "successfully complete a thorough medical and psychological evaluation, a polygraph examination, and an extensive background investigation?"
It's government work but only for someone "who wants more than just a job," the ad says. You need "an adventurous spirit . . . superior intellectual ability . . . courage and love of country . . . to deal with fast-moving, ambiguous, and unstructured situations that will test your resourcefulness to the utmost."
Yes, it's the CIA's Directorate of Operations, clandestine service. We're talking spooks.
Caught in Web: Lead Feet and Light Fingers
The source of the wonderful list of alleged congressional criminality--84 stopped for drunken driving in 1998, eight arrested for shoplifting and so forth--that's been making the Web rounds turns out to be Capitol Hill Blue, a five-year-old Web site founded and run by former newsman and Hill aide Doug Johnson.
In an e-mail, Johnson clarified that many tallies include not only this Congress but lawmakers elected since 1992. Even so, the numbers--40 percent of Congress "escaped ticketing and arrest last year  for . . . traffic offenses ranging from speeding to driving while intoxicated"--are impressive. But, without specifics, they seem too high to be real, even for Congress.
Johnson stands by the numbers. Specifics are lacking because the disposition of the cases could not be determined, he said. "We felt it would be unfair to simply list someone by name if we could not also list the outcome of the charge," he said.
He plans to "do some follow-up this year." So wait for the names.