Inside the Beltway

Article excerpt


Now it's the Democrats' turn to be judged by the Fourth Estate.

It will be interesting to observe whether organizers of the Democratic National Convention in Chicago will run the risk of being as organized as the Republican National Convention in San Diego.

After all, anchors and reporters surely will feel as compelled to throw another temper tantrum if Democrats similarly commit no gaffes and stage another "infomercial," as Ted Koppel might say again.

In the meantime, consider the words spoken more than a century ago by British Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli, which still ring true today: "Party is organized opinion," he said in a speech at Oxford.

As for the obviously troubled scribes who covered his several terms as prime minister (1868, 1874-80), Disraeli, the first earl of Beaconsfield, wasn't concerned. He noted: "The government of the world is carried on by sovereigns and statesmen, and not by anonymous paragraph writers . . . or by the hare-brained chatter of irresponsible frivolity."


It has been this column's duty and pleasure to bring readers outrageous U.S. government policy statements, in particular those seeking to satisfy the swelling plank of political correctness.

Consider these two newly issued policy statements, obtained by this column and issued unilaterally by a manager at the Department of Agriculture's Beltsville Agricultural Research Center.

The first statement, in the form of a memorandum, is dated July 11, 1996. The subject: "Discriminatory Language."

The memo was written and signed by John Van de Vaarst, deputy area director of the center's facilities management and operations division. It begins:

"All of us have become accustomed to using certain phrases or sayings. This is based on our backgrounds, past acceptable practices, and diversity. However, as federal employees, we must ensure that our communications, both written and verbal, are free from the appearance of any form of discrimination.

"Effective immediately, sexist language is not to be used. Terms such as `the men,' `man-hours,' `man years,' etc., are not acceptable. Instead, terminology such as `staff,' `staff hours,' `staff years,' and `employees' are to be used. Also, pronouns are to be generic.

"For example, a phrase such as, `An employee is to use his POV,' should not be used in official correspondence if you are writing in a general sense. …