The Signing...

October 1, 1999

SAGINAW - OK, who has been watching the news this week??? Alright, and who has seen our friend Mike Murphy in person this week???? Mm-hmm, that is correct. No one has seen him because he was not around. If you are a diligent enough news hound (like me) however, you didn't miss this one!

This week Bill Clinton busied himself with preparing to leave office and attempting to do as little as possible to arouse any attention. And with a few noteable exceptions he did so with some success. One of these exceptions was the banning from the Whitehouse of a Washington reporter who happened to be unfortunate enough to ask Mr. Clinton about illegal Chinese campaign contributions. An obviously irked president had the man removed from the grounds and barred from ever returning.

A large portion of the week has been spent signing bills into law, and providing the accompanying photo opportunities for those who the bill sufficiently impacts. I was looking for pictures of Mr. Clinton signing the presidential pay increase bill, thinking that I might get a sneak peek at someone who might be involved in some future presidential debacle. I was surprised that it was the one bill that did not have any accompanying photos, but as I said he is trying to keep the unpopular stuff as quiet as possible. Given his track record, he probably brushes his teeth quietly.

Anyway, it seems that one of the bills signed into law this week was an environmental bill aimed at protecting wildlife. Specifically, it places a bird on the endangered species list. Normally, I would not have even given this a second glance, but the type of bird caught my eye and made me laugh. It is the tiro nascosto formagio, or common cheese snipe, which as it turns out is not so very common anymore. In fact, there have been no recorded sightings in several years! I was so curious as to what that photo session must have been like, I just had to look. I was imagining Bill sitting there with the required 20 or so pens trying to look friendly and cheerful (and interested) for the umpteenth group of stodgy old "I love birds (or whatever)" Florida residents whose bill finally got passed, while they gloried in their 30 seconds of being in the presence of the world's most powerful philanderer. Good for a further laugh, I thought, so I clicked away.

First off, I was immediately surprised by the age of the people in this photo. I didn't even notice Mike for a minute. Second, it appeared as though everyone in the picture, including the president, was truly enjoying the moment. That seemed kind of weird to me, and it was at that precise moment I noticed the familiar looking face smiling at whatever it was that everyone else was. It was as if they were all in on some common joke that the photographer caught at just the right instant. (As it turns out, I was right about this.) No sooner did I recognize Mike than I noticed the wig he was wearing. Not that he has never done that before (see previous installments), but it does seem kind of silly to do in this situation. Then I read the caption which accompanied the photo.

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"...Joining the president are, left to right: Rep. Connie Morella, R-Md., Judy Lichtman, National Association for Preservation of Birds, Rep. Butler Knowes, R- Md., and Rep. Nita Lowey, D-N.Y."

Now it was becoming clear(er), that this was one of Mike's little jokes! He found out that the real representative from Maryland would be unable to attend (probably through his "zoo mafia" connections), and made arrangements to sort of "stand in" for him, ostensibly as another representative. It is quite conceivable actually, as there are an extraordinary number of representatives about. In any case, he got himself a wig and a suit and became an instant representative for the day, adopting the often used (by us) name of "Buttnose" as an alias. Too funny!

The smiles, as it turns out were the result of an artificial rendition of the rarely heard male (bull) snipe call, which sounded from an unidentifiable location near the president's chair. Startled, Mr. Clinton rose slightly and exclaimed, "There's one!", much to the amusement of everyone present. Judging by the smiles, I would bet that it was the honorable representative Knowes/Murphy who was the "bird caller", but I don't think the ladies will ever be convinced of that...

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