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Washington Insight

July 22, 1998|From The Times Washington Bureau

STAY-AT-HOME LEADER: At a time when congressional watchdogs are barking about how much lawmakers still travel on expense-paid junkets, a top GOP leader is bragging about how little globe-trotting he's done. House Majority Leader Dick Armey (R-Texas) told reporters Tuesday that he has not been outside the country since 1986. "I've been to Europe once. I don't have to go again," he said. This from the man who is leading the charge against new funding for the International Monetary Fund--money the administration says is needed to help address the Asian economic crisis. Asked if his stay-at-home tendency impaired his ability to assess U.S. interests abroad, Armey said he can learn plenty from the comfort of his office. "I send my staff," he said. Any time spent on the road, Armey said, is time away from his two great loves: his wife and fishing. They have not kept him from traveling around the U.S., however, including many trips on the tab of special interests. According to a study by the Center for Responsive Politics, Armey accepted about $11,000 in expense-paid travel from trade groups and other outside interests in 1997.

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SILBERMAN DECLARES: The judge who derided the Clinton White House last week for "declar[ing] war" on independent counsel Kenneth W. Starr once conducted an undeclared war of his own on independent counsels who were pursuing aides to President Reagan. He is U.S. Circuit Judge Laurence H. Silberman. In 1987, Silberman, a Reagan appointee, declared the independent counsel act unconstitutional. That 2-1 ruling stopped an investigation of a top Reagan aide. The Supreme Court disagreed, however, and revived the law. In another 2-1 ruling, Silberman then overturned the convictions against Reagan aide Oliver L. North, the lead figure in the Iran-Contra scandal. He was joined by Judge David Sentelle, who, in turn, appointed Starr to investigate the Clintons. Asked about Silberman's tirade, President Clinton commented that "you have to consider the source."

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BUSCAPADE: On a field trip to Baltimore to highlight the problems of AIDS and drugs, 10 members of the Congressional Black Caucus were escorted by three police cars and an equal number of officers on motorcycles, sirens blaring. Their New Deal-vintage bus--complete with a foul smell creeping up from the bathroom in the rear--bumped through innumerable red lights, and, heading back to the Capitol for a scheduled 5 p.m. vote, broke through traffic jams by skirting up the shoulder. "This is what I want when I go to the airport from now on," quipped Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Los Angeles), the caucus chair.

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SCREEN TEST: He may be the leader of the Free World, capable of vetoes, executive orders and major troop movements, but President Clinton suggested Monday that the in-flight movies shown aboard Air Force One are chosen by somebody else. Strolling to the back of the plane to talk with reporters at New Orleans International Airport, the nation's First Film Buff took no credit for the showing of "Spice World," which chronicles the exploits of the Spice Girls. The flick, aimed at preteen girls, is an odd pick for a planeload of White House brass and journalists.

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BIRTHDAY WISHES? Former White House intern Monica S. Lewinsky turns 25 Thursday, but it's her tormentor who is being serenaded on the House floor. Rep. Michael Pappas (R-N.J.) sang the independent counsel's praises Tuesday, on the occasion of his 52nd birthday, to the tune of "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star." An excerpt from the lyrics: "Twinkle, twinkle Kenneth Starr, now we see how brave you are."

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