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National Perspective

Washington Insight

January 07, 1998|From The Times Washington Bureau

AND THE CAT SHALL LIE DOWN WITH THE DOG. SOMEDAY: President Clinton likes to see himself as a peacemaker in the world's intractable conflicts--the Middle East, Northern Ireland, Bosnia. But now he has turned his attention to a fervent dispute much closer to home: the unfriendly relations between the presidential pets--Buddy, the new puppy, and Socks, the veteran First Cat. Clinton's latest attempt at reconciling the two took place Tuesday, in full view of the White House press corps. Clinton and Buddy were returning from an outing and ran into Socks in the First Backyard. As Buddy, a chocolate Labrador with blue eyes, barked and jumped around playfully, Socks--who is black with white mittens--assumed the ferocious feline pose, arching his back and standing his ground. The president, seeing a chance for a lesson in camaraderie, brought the two closer together, muzzling the pooch with his hand while his official photographer tried to calm Socks by petting him. But after a few seconds, Buddy sprang loose and ran around the cat, who then bolted. Clearly, the reconciliation session had reached its end. As the president and his dog headed toward the White House, a reporter yelled, "Will this work out?" Clinton replied in a hopeful tone: "Making progress." The president and the First Dog had just returned from the Department of Education, where they surprised Secretary of Education Richard W. Riley at a birthday party thrown by his staff. Buddy made himself at home, stretching out at the secretary's feet as Clinton spoke to a gathering of the staff. "My little dog is already quite comfortable with fame," Clinton said. To which Buddy replied, "Woof."

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BETTER GET DURACELL: Rep. Christopher Shays (R-Conn.) went for a decade without missing a single vote. But he will have to start his streak, the longest in the House, again in the new year. In October, Shays' beeper lost power while he was in the Capitol chapel and he missed a vote on an environmental amendment. That sole slip-up caused him to fall from Congressional Quarterly's annual tally of perfect voting records, which included 11 members of Congress last year. "It was like I got punched in the stomach," said Shays of his snafu. House members had an average voting rate of 96.3% for 1997's 633 recorded ballots, according to CQ. Senators finished the year with a record-setting 98.7% average voting rate. But Sen. Robert C. Byrd (D-W.Va.) saw his 13-year voting streak come to an end. In his case, it was a biological, rather than technical, problem--a stomach virus.

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TAX DOLLARS AT WORK: Imagine that about 30,000 of the roughly 70,000 nuclear weapons the United States has produced since World War II were unaccounted for? Would you want to find out what happened to them and where they were if they hadn't been dismantled? The Natural Resources Defense Council set about last year trying to determine the status of the nation's nuclear stockpile, using the Freedom of Information Act to force an answer from the Department of Energy. The initial response from DOE--essentially, "We're not sure"--was less than inspiring. The agency told the environmental group that it was having trouble locating the pertinent records. But a recent letter from DOE Assistant Secretary Victor H. Reis offers some good news. Sort of. The agency's Albuquerque Operations Office has identified an electronic database and 15 million pages of paper documents that should contain the answers. Flushing out the information, however, is likely to take two years and cost $3 million.

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