Sen. Richard Lugar of Indiana is on a mission. He wants the federal government to spend more on pork.
"The current pork market condition presents a good opportunity for the Bureau of Prisons to increase purchases of pork," wrote the failed Republican presidential candidate to Attorney General Janet Reno on December 4, 1998. His pitch to Agriculture Secretary Dan Glickman was even more direct: "I am writing to urge you to consider purchasing additional pork products."
Lugar also touted the benefits of the other white meat in recent missives to Defense Secretary William Cohen and Veterans Affairs Secretary Togo West Jr. In a letter to President Clinton, Lugar underscored two key points, telling the beleaguered chief executive that "White House leadership and direction can be crucial in these matters," and that "pork is a bargain."
Secretary Glickman has been responsive, pledging to create a "pork crisis" task force, increasing agency purchases of pork, and echoing Lugar's calls for other cabinet-level action. On January 8, Vice President Al Gore announced a $130 million pork package in Iowa.
What accounts for Lugar's swinish devotion? The Hoosier is chairman of the Senate Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry Committee, which historically has represented the interests of producers. For the pork industry, falling prices for pig—a boon to consumers in the form of cheaper bacon, ribs, and chops–is indeed a crisis. And for politicians like Lugar, Glickman, and Gore, it's a call to action.