INSIDE INSIDE THE THE BELTWAY
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
“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.
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.
Tough times for Nancy: Death of Michael Deaver