INSIDE INSIDE THE THE BELT­WAY

The Washington Times Weekly - - National - By John McCaslin

Knight and Lady

The ti­tles alone of those on hand for Wash­ing­ton au­thor Alessan­dra Gelmi’s re­cent book party at the Philip Berry House in Ge­orge­town were un­usual and wordy enough that we sim­ply copied them ver­ba­tim from the RSVP list:

“Car­los Vil­lar­real, Knight of the Mil­i­tary Or­der of Malta.”

“Rose Marie Caponio, Dame of the Or­der of Saint Lazarus.”

“Count Elio Bondi and his wife, Mary Jane.”

“June Gelmi Vil­lar­real, Lady Com­man­der of the Holy Sepul­chre.”

“Sis­ter Rose Wan­gui, Ge­orge­town Vis­i­ta­tion Con­vent.”

“Seems like a con­clave of Ro­man Catholics,” laughs Miss Gelmi, a play­wright and for­mer creative writ­ing coach at Bos­ton Univer­sity. A writer for myr­iad publi­ca­tions, she’s now au­thor of a three-part story cy­cle, “Who’s Afraid of Red?” It ex­am­ines the Rwan­dan geno­cide through the tri­als and tribu­la­tions of a ro­man­tic courtship.

Cau­cus first

As far as one high-level group of Democrats and Repub­li­cans is con­cerned, if there’s go­ing to be a “na­tional pri­mary” on Feb. 5 — dur­ing which time two pres­i­den­tial can­di­dates could sud­denly emerge as fi­nal­ists, based on the front-load­ing of state pri­maries — there ought to be a “na­tional cau­cus” first.

“The Na­tional Pres­i­den­tial Cau­cus is pick­ing up mo­men­tum and en­dorse­ments,” spokesman Myles Weissleder tells Inside the Belt­way, ex­plain­ing that the lo­cal cau­cuses planned for Fri­day, Dec. 7, would be “a way for vot­ers to get their arms around the can­di­dates and the is­sues.”

“This is a ma­jor ini­tia­tive aimed at pre­par­ing vot­ers for the flurry of votes set for next Jan­uary and Fe­bru­ary — prior to the on-rush of the de facto ‘na­tional pri­mary,’ “ ex­plains Mr. Weissleder. And talk about a po­lit­i­cally mixed bunch of cau­cus or­ga­niz­ers.

The Na­tional Pres­i­den­tial Cau­cus is the idea of a con­sor­tium of par­ti­san, bi­par­ti­san and non­par­ti­san in­ter­ests, among them for­mer Sens. War­ren Rud­man, New Hamp­shire Repub­li­can, and Bill Bradley, New Jer­sey Demo­crat, who are cochair­men of Amer­i­cans for Cam­paign Fi­nance Re­form; Repub­li­can donor and ven­ture cap­i­tal­ist Tim Draper; Bob Fer­tik, pres­i­dent of Democrats.com; and David All, founder of TechRe­pub­li­can.com.

The na­tional cau­cus day, as this di­verse group sees it, would con­sist of thou­sands of lo­cal, self-or­ga­nized, In­ter­net-en­abled, face-to­face gath­er­ings across the coun­try, con­ven­ing in cau­cus to dis­cuss and de­lib­er­ate on can­di­dates and the is­sues. Par­tic­i­pants would then ex­press their pref­er­ences at their choice of a lo­cal Repub­li­can cau­cus, Demo­cratic cau­cus or an open cau­cus.

‘Dark Dune’

Why has NASA strate­gi­cally placed 25 freight-rail cars be­tween the Kennedy Space Cen­ter’s gi­ant launch pad and the pris­tine Florida beach 200 yards away?

NASA con­firms the box­cars are play­ing an in­stru­men­tal role in “Op­er­a­tion Dark Dune.” No, it’s not a top-se­cret space mis­sion. Rather, their height is keep­ing the glow­ing lights of the launch­pad, where space shut­tles are sil­hou­et­ted against the dark night sky, from dis­turb­ing nest­ing sea tur­tles and their newly hatched off­spring.

The space agency ex­plains that the light em­a­nat­ing from the pads can de­ter adult tur­tles from com­ing ashore to lay eggs, and dis­ori­ent hatch­lings as they emerge from their nests and head to­ward the moon­lit sea.

‘Hum­ble’ home

Still hold­ing in limbo is a con­gres­sional bill in­tro­duced in Jan­uary that would di­rect the Na­tional Park Ser­vice to des­ig­nate the William Jef­fer­son Clin­ton birth­place home in Arkansas as a na­tional his­toric site, once the Clin­ton Birth­place Foun­da­tion do­nates the house to the fed­eral gov­ern­ment.

Built in 1917, the house is lo­cated at 117 S. Her­vey St. in Hope, pop­u­la­tion 10,467, which is 25 miles north­east of Texarkana, or 120 miles south­west of Lit­tle Rock. The house be­longed to Mr. Clin­ton’s ma­ter­nal grand­par­ents, Eldridge and Edith Cas­sidy, and the fu­ture pres­i­dent lived there from his birth in 1946 un­til his mother, Vir­ginia Kelley, mar­ried Roger Clin­ton in 1950.

Ac­cord­ing to the leg­is­la­tion, the house is owned by the non­profit Clin­ton Birth­place Foun­da­tion, and has been re­stored to the same state as when Mr. Clin­ton lived there. The foun­da­tion has of­fered to do­nate the site to the Na­tional Park Sys­tem.

The Con­gres­sional Bud­get Of­fice es­ti­mates the costs of pre­par­ing and op­er­at­ing the site would be about $1 mil­lion a year.

Wealth and cul­ture

“Good suits, bald­ing mid­dleaged men, and lots of women wear­ing pearls: All of the in­gre­di­ents of a good con­ser­va­tive au­di­ence were in place, and this over­whelm­ingly white au­di­ence had come to feast on a ver­i­ta­ble buf­fet of in­ter­re­lated con­spir­acy the­o­ries.”

Or at least that’s how Calvin Col­lege’s Cara Boekeloo, writ­ing for Cam­pus Progress, de­scribed this sum­mer’s Her­itage Foun­da­tion pre­sen­ta­tion by con­ser­va­tive au­thor Phil Kent, en­ti­tled (like his re­cent book): “Foun­da­tions of Be­trayal: How the Lib­eral Su­per-Rich Un­der­mine Amer­ica.”

A for­mer Ge­or­gia news­pa­per­man and press sec­re­tary to the now-de­ceased South Carolina Sen. Strom Thur­mond, and to­day pres­i­dent of his own con­sult­ing firm while serv­ing as ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the Amer­i­can Im­mi­gra­tion Con­trol Foun­da­tion, Mr. Kent has grown ac­cus­tomed to such crit­i­cism. In­deed, he has rat­tled some big cages with his book re­lease in May.

Fore­most on the “su­per-rich” list of Amer­i­can “un­der­min­ers,” af­ter all, is the sec­ond-largest grant-mak­ing foun­da­tion in the United States: the Ford Foun­da­tion. Ar­gu­ing that “wealth con­trols cul­ture,” Mr. Kent has charged that the in­flu­en­tial Ford fam­ily-of-donors has steered so far to the left since the cap­i­tal­is­tic days of Henry Ford that it’s been fund­ing “com­mu­nist or­ga­ni­za­tions” and now “rad­i­cal Is­lamic or­ga­ni­za­tions” alike.

And he doesn’t stop there, bring­ing un­prece­dented scru­tiny to fi­nan­cially sup­ported causes of hun- dreds of tax-ex­empt or­ga­ni­za­tions. He sim­i­larly sin­gles out the Rock­e­feller Foun­da­tion, which just this month, ear­marked $70 mil­lion to “build the re­silience of com­mu­ni­ties most likely to be hard­est hit by cli­mate change”, and rel­a­tive new­com­ers, such as Ge­orge Soros, the phi­lan­thropist-turned-po­lit­i­cal ac­tivist who spent mil­lions of dol­lars try­ing to pre­vent the re-elec­tion of Pres­i­dent Bush in 2004.

Head­quar­tered in New York, the Ford Foun­da­tion this month is­sued a state­ment say­ing that Mr. Kent’s ac­cu­sa­tion “that the foun­da­tion is un-Amer­i­can and that it sup­ports ter­ror­ism is com­pletely un­true and ir­re­spon­si­ble.”

“The Ford Foun­da­tion would never sup­port groups or or­ga­ni­za­tions in­volved in vi­o­lence or ter­ror­ism, and there is no ev­i­dence to the con­trary,” it states. “The work of our grantees in the midst of con­flict is aimed at build­ing greater re­spect for demo­cratic val­ues, hu­man rights and peace.”

For now, the dust ap­pears to be set­tling. Then again, we were told by Mr. Kent’s pub­li­cist on Aug. 20 that the au­thor is on a Mediter­ranean cruise un­til the end of Au­gust. The Ford Foun­da­tion, mean­while, is busy an­nounc­ing its se­lec­tion of San Fran­cisco-based me­dia con­sul­tant Luis Ubi­nas as its next pres­i­dent, suc­ceed­ing Susan V. Ber­res­ford, who will re­tire in Jan­uary af­ter 12 years.

Mr. Ubi­nas will be only the ninth pres­i­dent in the foun­da­tion’s 70-year his­tory, though given this di­vi­sive and dan­ger­ous new age and with so many emo­tions run­ning high, he will no doubt be the first pres­i­dent to have ev­ery foun­da­tion dol­lar ex­am­ined un­der a pub­lic mi­cro­scope.

Whip sting

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and her out­spo­ken anti-Iraqi war col­league, Rep. John P. Murtha of Penn­syl­va­nia, are lick­ing their wounds af­ter a pop­u­lar fel­low Demo­cratic leader — Wash­ing­ton Rep. Brian Baird, a se­nior Demo­cratic whip on the Demo­cratic Steer­ing Com­mit­tee, who was pres­i­dent of his 1998 fresh­man class — just re­turned home from Iraq to say that the U.S. mil­i­tary is “mak­ing real progress” in the wartorn coun­try.

Fur­ther­more, Mr. Baird told the Olympian news­pa­per, and de­spite Mr. Murtha’s long-stand­ing wishes for an im­me­di­ate U.S. mil­i­tary with­drawal from Iraq, “the con­se­quences of pulling back pre­cip­i­tously would be po­ten­tially cat­a­strophic for the Iraqi peo­ple them­selves [. . .] and in the long run chaotic for the re­gion as a whole and for our own se­cu­rity.”

‘Deaveresque’

“As you can imag­ine, this is a very dif­fi­cult time for ev­ery­one as­so­ci­ated with Ron­ald Rea­gan, es­pe­cially Nancy Rea­gan. She is dev­as­tated,” says Fred­er­ick J. Ryan Jr., chair­man of the board of trustees of the Ron­ald Rea­gan Pres­i­den­tial Li­brary Foun­da­tion.

“On Fri­day [Aug. 17], she at­tended the funeral for Merv Grif­fin, a friend for 50 years. Satur­day morn­ing, she awak­ens to the news of Mike Deaver’s pass­ing. He had been among her clos­est of friends and con­fi­dants since the 1960s, when Ron­ald Rea­gan was gov­er­nor [of Cal­i­for­nia].”

Mr. Deaver, who for more than a decade has worked in the Wash­ing­ton of­fice of the pub­lic re­la­tions firm Edel­man, suc­cumbed to pan­cre­atic can­cer at his Bethesda, Md. home. He was 69.

“As any ad­vance­man or po­lit­i­cal oper­a­tive will ad­mit, to this day, the ul­ti­mate com­pli­ment on a pres­i­den­tial event is for it to be de­scribed as ‘Deaveresque,’ ” Mr. Ryan, a for­mer top Rea­gan aide, tells Inside the Belt­way of the for­mer White House deputy chief of staff, who or­ches­trated count­less pub­lic ap- pear­ances for Mr. Rea­gan, and in do­ing so helped to shape his pop­u­lar pres­i­dency.

“He was a friend and men­tor for so many of us,” says Mr. Ryan. “He was will­ing to see the best in peo­ple, es­pe­cially young peo­ple. I was 26 when I took the job to work on his part of the White House staff. And there were oth­ers younger than me who Mike was will­ing to take the chance on and see po­ten­tial in them.”

In the com­ing days, he adds, a spe­cial ex­hi­bi­tion will go on dis­play at the Rea­gan li­brary in Simi Val­ley, Calif., in me­mory of Mr. Deaver.

“Al­though the im­pact he had on Ron­ald Rea­gan’s pres­i­dency can be felt through­out the en­tire li­brary, there will be a col­lec­tion of pho­tos of Mike taken with the Rea­gans over the years as well as a con­do­lence book for vis­i­tors to pay their re­spects,” says Mr. Ryan.

Getty Images

The Con­gres­sional Bud­get Of­fice es­ti­mates the cost of re­pair­ing and op­er­at­ing the Hope, Ark., birth­place home of for­mer Pres­i­dent Bill Clin­ton would be about $1 mil­lion a year.

As­so­ci­ated Press

Tough times for Nancy: Death of Michael Deaver

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