St. Petersburg Times Online: Election 2000
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Washington Journal


© St. Petersburg Times, published December 3, 2000

When Old Glory is the backdrop, it has to be perfect

No matter how hard he tried, Leonard Piotrowski couldn't get the American flag to hang just right.

GOP vice presidential nominee Dick Cheney would soon be giving a nationally televised news conference and the image beamed around the world would feature the flag as a backdrop.

Actually, the camera would capture two American flags behind Cheney, but only one was giving Piotrowski fits.

As the battle for the presidency consumes the Bush and Gore campaigns, both sides have used the flag. Gore used a dozen last Monday; Cheney got up to 14. Bush has stuck with two.

Which is why Piotrowski, a special events coordinator, tinkered with the flag as reporters waited for Cheney on Wednesday.

Piotrowski was especially perturbed by a golden tassel at the top of the flag that was not hanging his way. He took a cigarette lighter and commenced to burn off part of the tassel.

"Can you imagine," a reporter asked, "if the flag catches fire, you'll be on the front page of every major newspaper in the country?"

"You think I'd let that happen?" he said. "This isn't my first rodeo."

Rep. Young, front and center

The hottest ticket in town last week was a seat at the Supreme Court's oral arguments about the Florida elections case. So how did Rep. C.W. Bill Young get a prime seat?

The Largo Republican is everybody's best friend these days because he is chairman of the powerful House Appropriations Committee. Young controls the purse strings for the government -- including the Supreme Court.

In a letter unrelated to the Florida case, Chief Justice William Rehnquist last week asked congressional leaders to quickly pass a separate spending bill for federal courts, to keep them apart from controversial measures still being debated with the White House.

Young, as appropriations chairman, can play a key role in making that happen.

Young said Friday that court officials "were very gracious" in accommodating his request for a seat.

Then he added with a smile, "I'm sure it had nothing to do with that letter."

- Washington bureau staff writers Bill Adair and Paul de la Garza contributed to this report.

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