The National Park Service, responding to intense conservative criticism, is hoping to unveil next month what a spokesman said was a "more balanced" version of a video that has been shown since 1995 as part of an exhibit at the Lincoln Memorial.
Conservatives have been complaining for months that the eight-minute video -- portions of which have President Abraham Lincoln's speeches read by an actor while footage is shown of historic moments and demonstrations at the memorial -- implies that Lincoln would have supported abortion and gay rights.
The video begins with Martin Luther King's "I Have a Dream" speech and Lincoln's condemnation of slavery. But it then shows demonstrations in favor of gun control, against the Vietnam War, favoring abortion, gay and women's rights, and against Soviet anti-Semitism. Marian Anderson is shown singing at the memorial after being barred by the Daughters of the American Revolution from singing at Constitutional Hall.
Then there are shots of Presidents Franklin Roosevelt, Harry Truman, Dwight Eisenhower and Lyndon Johnson and a quick shot -- that doubtless dismayed conservatives -- of the Clintons and Gores at the top of the memorial's steps.
The revision effort began after the conservative CNSNews.com reported on the video in February and some less than positive mail started flowing to the Park Service. Fran Mainella, director of the Park Service, and others looked at the tape and promised to work on it.
But it's far from certain that anyone's going to be happy with the new, more politically balanced version. The work is not expected to be done until mid-December or so, but spokesman Dave Barna said it was unclear how much, or whether, the original would be edited.
One change, he said, may be to show all presidents who have visited since the memorial was completed in 1922 -- that would be very quick shots of all but Gerald Ford and President Bush.
A second change would be to add some conservative events, Barna said. One problem seems to be that there haven't been many conservative demonstrations at the memorial, which has been a focal point for liberals for many years.
So the plan now, Barna said, is to add footage of the Christian "Promise Keepers" rally in 1997 and a Desert Storm march after the 1991 Persian Gulf War. One problem, however, is that neither event took place at the memorial, but on the Mall.
Once it has been deemed appropriate to include the Mall as a whole in the exhibit, will the Rev. Louis Farrakhan's rally insist on being included? What about the Beach Boys? How about Britney Spears's excellent recent exercise of her First Amendment rights?
Out of Nicaragua
Speaking of free speech and such, word last week was that Jan Hartman, press attache at the U.S. Embassy in Nicaragua and author of a frank but brutally unflattering assessment of public opinion there, might be leaving the country.
Hartman, a career Foreign Service officer who apparently had been in Managua only a few weeks, wrote a brief analysis that was included in the standard briefing packet given to reporters traveling with Secretary of State Colin L. Powell. There was much unhappiness when the report's focus on the country's illiteracy and poverty and the habits of its wealthy minority hit the papers.
Well, there are worse things. Leaving beautiful downtown Managua would hardly be a setback. Leaving Rome, now that would be a setback.
Powell's Chemical Equation
Powell described his killer schedule in an interview Thursday with Abdul Rahman Al-Rashed, a reporter for a London-based Saudi newspaper.
"So do you use sleeping tablets to organize yourself?" Al-Rashed asked.
"Yes. Well, I wouldn't call them that," Powell said. "They're a wonderful medication -- not medication. How would you call it? They're called Ambien, which is very good. You don't use Ambien? Everybody here uses Ambien."
Really? Some folks across the river may conclude that explains a lot.
For Lawyers, a Big Leap
Got a law degree? Bored to tears? Attorney General John D. Ashcroft is looking for a few good lawyers, as many as 12, for a great adventure in jurisprudence.
"Opportunity For A Detail To Iraq," the e-mail last week said. "The Attorney General has been requested to detail a number of attorneys to the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) in Iraq to support relief and reconstruction efforts. Details would be for a minimum of 180 days . . . and would involve various issues, including foreign litigation, fiscal law, personnel law, and other key legal areas."
A unique opportunity to write the laws and then litigate them! Will Kevlar vests be provided gratis?
On the Move
Lots of movement at the Commerce Department these days. Deputy Secretary Sam Bodman heads over to Treasury to become deputy there after the White House abandoned its nearly year-long effort to find a woman for the job.
Two other top Commerce folks also said they were leaving. Bruce Mehlman, who has been assistant secretary for technology policy, is leaving government to go back to the private sector. He's going to be executive director of the Computer Systems Policy Project, whose members include the chief executives of big computer companies. General Counsel Ted Kassinger, who had been on the Commerce transition team, is also moving on.