Bug-Borne Scandal?

History Shows Latest Cicada Infestation Could Bring More Bad News to Capitol Hill

Posted May 12, 2004 at 4:00pm

While entomology and politics don’t seem to be an obvious pairing, it seems that the Brood X cicada’s 17-year cycle is tied to a major scandal in Washington.

As billions of cicadas begin to emerge from their long sleep this week, all of Washington’s eyes have been transfixed on the fallout of the Abu Ghraib prison abuse scandal. It has drawn in the Pentagon, the White House and Congress.

The last time the cicada swarm paid Washington a visit, the scandal began with a Member of Congress — more specifically then-Sen. Gary Hart’s (D-Colo.) personal life. On May 3, 1987, The Miami Herald published photos of the Democratic presidential candidate with model Donna Rice on a boat called “Monkey Business.” The ensuing charges of infidelity forced Hart to drop out of the race a week later.

But that was just the beginning. As the cicada swarm intensified through the month, a Senate select committee was holding hearings into the Iran-Contra scandal.

And as Roll Call reported May 18, 1987, all eyes were on Daniel Inouye, chairman of the Select Iran Committee.

“As Sen. Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii) climbed into a crowded limousine last week after a long day of Iran-Contra hearings, several bystanders remarked to one another, ‘There goes the next Majority Leader.’

The softspoken Chairman of the Select Committee on Iran backed off from such praise. ‘Oh, I’m not looking forward to that,’ Inouye said.

But the people around him believe otherwise. In the 24 years Inouye has spent in the Senate, he has carefully built a strong, bi-partisan, and, some say, unbeatable coalition of support.”

Alas, the seven-term Senator has yet to reach the chamber’s highest post.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the Capitol, House Members and staffers were concerned about the future of the House Barber and Beauty Shops.

From Roll Call, May 11, 1987:

“The $3.50 Congressional haircut is in jeopardy.

“A House Administration subcommittee is reviewing the finances of the House Barber and Beauty Shops and may decide soon to contract the services to the private sector, according to committee sources.

“Another option is raising prices, which currently range from just $3.50 to $8.50 in the Barber Shop.”

In other interesting House news, a former Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee treasurer was preparing to coast to an easy victory in a special election to replace the late Rep. Sala Burton (D) of San Francisco.

Nancy Pelosi, now the House Minority Leader, was forecasted to easily win the June 2 election, which was viewed as a formality after defeating 13 challengers in the April Democratic primary.

“Pelosi has got the seat locked up,” San Francisco political analyst Tim Redmond told Roll Call on June 1. “Her campaign strategy has been to stay out of trouble — hide in the house and close the curtains.”

And as the cicadas were dying in Upper Senate Park, leaving behind countless shells for Hill staffers to step on, the finishing touches were being put on the newest Senate office building.

Roll Call reported May 25, 1987, on the dedication of the much-derided ultra-modern Hart Senate Office Building:

“Through tears, cheers, song and speech, the newest Senate office building was dedicated last Wednesday to the memory of the late Sen. Philip Hart (D-Mich.).

“The Hart building has a controversial history. Once called the ‘Taj Mahal on the Potomac’ by an irate Sen. John Chafee (R-R.I.), its construction was plagued by delay, skyrocketing costs, and opposition within Congress. …

“But there was little controversy during last week’s ceremony, as the Hart building stood, finally complete, a memorial to one of the Senate’s most respected Members.

“In the shadow of ‘Mountains and Clouds,’ the controversial five-story sculpture by Alexander Calder that looms in the building’s atrium, a string of the Senate’s finest toasted their former colleague.”

Who knows what the next few weeks will bring?