of Georgetown, Washington D.C.
Transcript from CNN News
Debate Over Spending Choices Intensifying as the Economy Slows and the
Aired August 17, 2001 - 17:00 ET
KING: We all know the saying, "when the going gets
tough, the tough get going." But what do politicians do?
Our Bill Schneider braved the elements to tell us --
SCHNEIDER: John, it is now official. Washington is a
disaster. No, the news is, it's not a political
disaster; it's a natural disaster. For the first time in
history, the president has declared the District of
Columbia a major disaster area. Now, smart politicians
know how to turn a disaster into the "Political Play of
SCHNEIDER (voice-over): Four days of searing heat
followed by two days of torrential rainfall. The result:
A foul mix of flood water, mud and raw sewage surged
through the nation's capital last weekend. Homes were
flooded, businesses shut down, trees collapsed, and cars
were swept away. Washington's 130-year-old sewer system
couldn't take it. A ruptured sewer line opened up a
25-foot-deep sink hole that ultimately swallowed up an
And that's not all. How's this for a new urban horror?
Exploding manholes. Nearly 50 of them have blown their
lids in Washington so far this year. This is a city
where you can walk down the street and get whacked by a
flying manhole cover.
Georgetown restaurant owner Carol Ross Joynt describes
CAROL ROSS JOYNT, RESTAURANT OWNER: They don't just
flicker; they shoot up in the air. It's sort of like --
it's a violent flame, and smoke comes billowing out, and
you can hear it. It's like a roar.
SCHNEIDER: Headline: "Washington goes to hell! Only the
brave dare venture out."
JOYNT: Here's a manhole cover. Stand on it, Bill. Maybe
we'll make some news.
SCHNEIDER: Last week's heat wave drove up the city's
power consumption, which overheated the electrical
cables, which got soaked in the downpours, which then
short-circuited, which caused more manhole explosions,
which knocked out the power just a few blocks from the
White House. Where was the president?
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'm on
SCHNEIDER: He tried to dissociate himself from the
capital, without success.
BUSH: You know where I'm from?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Washington, D.C. BUSH: That's right.
Right now. But guess where I was raised?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Washington, D.C.
BUSH: That's one state going east. What's the state
that's right next door to you?
SCHNEIDER: What do politicians do when faced with
disaster? Get out of town.
(on camera): All of the Congress, the president...
JOYNT: They're all gone, all the lobbyists, you know.
When Congress goes, so goes the lobbying field. And when
the White House leaves, the press corps leaves, so
there's nobody here.
SCHNEIDER (voice-over): Except the poor, bewildered
tourists wandering around the empty Capitol building and
the deserted Mall. The mayor's still around, of course,
but that's his job.
MAYOR ANTHONY WILLIAMS (D), WASHINGTON: Well, we haven't
had the locusts yet, but we pretty much have had a lot
of different plagues hitting the city, and we're trying
to manage them and get on top of them. It's part of what
a mayor does.
SCHNEIDER: If you were smart this week, you got out of
Washington. If you stayed in town, there were a few
JOYNT: Bill, your very own exploding manhole cover.
SCHNEIDER (on camera): And you invented this?
JOYNT: I did. Cheers.
SCHNEIDER (voice-over): To those who have fled, cheers,
and the "Political Play of the Week."
SCHNEIDER: And that includes certain CNN anchors who
have made themselves scarce during Washington's week of
woe. Not you, John, you are at your station, steering
this ship. But watch out for the manholes.
KING: Watch out for the manholes and watch here for the
return of Judy Woodruff on Monday. INSIDE POLITICS will
be right back.
KING: That's all for this edition of INSIDE POLITICS.
But\ of course, you can go online all the time at CNN's
Allpolitics.com. AOL keyword: CNN. Our e-mail address is
I'm John King. Thanks for watching. In a special
footnote: thanks to the INSIDE POLITICS staff for
putting up with their rookie anchor this week. "FIRST
EVENING NEWS" is next.
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