Congress has been away for the past week or so for its Easter recess. Of course, Congress doesn't like to call that a "recess." It sounds too much like they are running around a playground.
So they call it the Easter "district work period" - to show that members of Congress should be working in their districts.Sen. Orrin Hatch and Reps. Howard Nielson and Jim Hansen, all R-Utah, each spent some time in Utah. But Sen. Jake Garn, R-Utah, and Rep. Wayne Owens, D-Utah, spent virtually the whole time on trips to the Middle East as part of their committee assignments.
Anyway, with the members of Congress out of Washington, not much news surfaces here. Congressional staffers use the time to catch up on paper work and clean out files. So do journalists.
Here are a few tidbits that I ran across in the process that never made it into print and had to wait for the slow-news Easter recess - I mean district work period - for their chance:
-THE FASHION CRITIC WORE COWBOY BOOTS: Roll Call, a Washington weekly, each year comes out with a list of the best-dressed congressmen. None of Utah's delegation made it.
Owens objected to the selections, writing to the paper, "I was not so offended that I was not on your ten best dressed list as I was by the fact that Rep. George Crockett of Michigan was not. I don't know why any list of fashionable members would have overlooked him."
Everyone's a critic. And now Owens is a fashion critic, too. He may not get much attention from the high falutin', snobbish Eastern fashion critics, though, because he's one of the handful of Western congressmen who always wear cowboy boots.
-TAKES ONE TO KNOW ONE: Hatch told the following story about a town with only one lawyer to a group of surgeons this week (he came back a bit early from his recess, I mean district work period): "The lawyer was flat broke and near ruin. He had no money for his family. He was desperate. His solution? He got another lawyer to move into town; they started getting their clients to sue one another, and today, they are the two richest men in the county."
Hatch, of course, is a lawyer.
-THAT MAY EXPLAIN SOME THINGS: Steve Studdert - the former Utahn who is now an aide to President Bush, as he was for presidents Ford and Reagan - gave an example recently of how busy presidents can be.
"A few months after President Reagan was elected, we had an unexpected layover in an airport. I was standing next to him and asked him how he enjoyed being president so far. He said, `I'm so busy I can't think' - and he was serious.
"He meant he didn't have the opportunity to take a few hours from time to time to really think out his priorities and goals. He was too busy with meetings and receptions. That was an important lesson, so we tried to schedule him more time just to think."
-THEY CAN'T READ EITHER: Studdert also said top government officials - even including himself - don't really read much either, because they don't have time for it.
He said many depend on aides to tell them important matters they need to know. Also, written briefs much longer than a page are not really read. The one time Studdert says he does any amount of reading is while traveling on airplanes.
Because he expects to rack up hundreds of thousands of miles flying this year, he may be able to do some serious reading - and pick up a few frequent-flier bonuses too.
-WHY IS THE COAST GUARD SO INTERESTED IN UTAH? Coast Guard Commandant Paul Yost - one of the joint chiefs of staff, who has been in the news often lately because of the Alaska oil tanker spill - is almost always at Washington receptions hosted by Utah congressmen.
He isn't from Utah, he's from Pennsylvania. He admits new Utah congressmen often also wonder why he calls their offices so often seeking their help.
"They say we don't have many Coast Guard ships in Utah. I say I know. Then I explain that my children went to a little country school in Provo called BYU. Then they listen to me," Yost says, adding that he is also a member of the LDS Church - to which all of Utah's congressmen belong.