Last Thursday's story tip on skinhead graffitti didn't pan out. Upon reporting my failure to find anything legibly racist on the men's-room wall in a fast-food palace, I was ordered to get myself out to the Astrodome Sheraton where Congressman Bill Archer (Republican of Texas) would be addressing the Houston Rotary Club, at 800 members the Largest Rotary Club in the World. "Dress like a grownup for once," I was ordered.
Rotarians, when they lunch, don huge buttons with a gearwheel motif on which their names are writ large:
As hundreds of name-bearing Rotarians entered the hotel ballroom for lunch, a pair of young, well-dressed and enthusiastic Rotarian Greeters sang out their names and shook their hands. First-name palship thus established, the members drifted toward the Sterno-fueled coffeepot at the back of the room and began socializing.
Coffee cup in one hand, reporter's pad in the other and pen behind my ear, I greeted a distinguished-looking, well-dressed white man and asked him if he had any idea about what Archer might say. Polite pause. "Well," said the distinguished-looking, well-dressed white man, "I imagine he's going to ask us to vote for him. I mean, that's what politicians do." Lifting his cup from the saucer he added, "Archer's done pretty good, for a congressman." Then the Rotarian gong sounded, the singing and the praying started and my helping of tender chicken breast with avocado was set before me.
About halfway through dessert (apple pie), Archer rose, accepted his standing ovation and began to speak.
e began by recalling his deceased father, a longtime Rotary enthusiast who would have been moved by the ovation just accorded his son. Archer told the crowd, "Each of you is what's right about the United States." He lauded Rotary's commitment to entrepreneurship and service. Taking history as his guide, Congressman Archer denounced the Brady Bill, adding:
*"The main effect of the Brady Bill will be to deprive us of the right to self-defense in an emergency;
*"The state is not a friend of individual liberties;
*"Free trade improves the standard of living, thank God we passed NAFTA;
*"The feds want to take parents out of the education process; whoever pays the piper gets to call the tune;
*"The president has the authority to use the military at the border to control immigration, which he has not chosen to do;
*"The history of liberty is the restraint of government;
*"We relive history, we don't learn from it;
*"It's easy to say the federal government should provide the answers to problems. This is a very seductive emotion;
*"Use common sense to override seductive emotions and look at the fine print;
*"We have got to back the federal government out of the roadblock over Texas prisons;
*"We don't have enough judges and district attorneys to enforce the laws we have, so Congress makes more crimes federal offenses just so they can pound their breasts proudly;
*"This country's major problem is that we have to balance the budget; what we have done so far is a woefully weak effort;
*"I hope the federal role in providing health care is limited. We will make huge mistakes if it is not;
*"Access to medical care in this country is not the problem, access to insurance is;
*"We need to solve problems the most efficent way, our options should be unlimited."
Archer then re-reiterated his views on the inherent waste of government-administered programs by pointing out his position on the board of the Open Door Mission on Houston's East Side. He explained that while using business principles to operate a social agency allows the mission to feed, clothe and shelter the homeless for $2.50 per head per day, the cheapest comparable federal program provides the same services for over $40 per day.
Archer quoted Socrates (on the majority's discovering that they can vote themselves prosperity) in support of the balanced-budget constitutional amendment. Then he re-endorsed line-item veto powers for the president, an idea for which he claimed seminal sponsorship.
hen Archer took questions from the floor.
A well-dressed, balding middle-aged white man asked, "What about statehood for the District of Columbia? Is there as anything more to the effort than a Democratic ploy to add two more liberal senators?"
The congressman doubted that there was, and suggested that the best solution to the D.C. debate might be to give the whole place back to Maryland. Loud applause.
A well-dressed middle-aged white man with thinning hair streaked with gray said, "I have a conflict between admiring what you've done in Congress over the years and being a supporter of term limitations. What about it?"
An eleven-term incumbent, Archer expressed little support for term limitations, which he said have not shown a "measurable change" in the quality of government. Nods, but no applause.
A middle-aged white man wearing a tweed jacket asked, "Will the allegations against Rostenkowski and Brown be allowed to die on the vine?"
If you like this story, consider signing up for our email newsletters.
SHOW ME HOW
You have successfully signed up for your selected newsletter(s) - please keep an eye on your mailbox, we're movin' in!
Archer said, "I predict that Rostenkowski will be indicted. I don't know about the charges against Congressman Brown, but there needs to be more investigation."
Loud applause, led the by the middle-aged white man wearing the tweed jacket.
The Rotarian gong sounded again at1:30 p.m., announcing the close of the session. Archer shook hands and answered individual questions as the galley staff began returning the ballroom to normal.
For the record: Amidst the crowd waiting to shake the congressman's hand were (a) a well-dressed middle-aged black male and (b) an extremely well-dressed male portrait photographer who not only had all of his own hair, but had enough of it to pull some of it back into a ponytail. Both expressed strong support for Archer, and wished him well.