Peeled Heinz

John McCaslin
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Posted: Aug 31, 2004 12:00 AM

While he's in New York for the Republican National Convention, syndicated columnist Cal Thomas, host of "After Hours" on the Fox News Channel, is staying with the Illinois delegation at the DoubleTree Times Square Hotel.

In fact, Mr. Thomas is a regular guest at the hotel while taping his show.

"At breakfast this morning, I noticed something missing," Thomas tells The Beltway Beat. "It was the Heinz ketchup in those little, miniature bottles. I asked one of the waiters what happened to the ketchup.

"He said quietly, 'Oh, we took it out because we were afraid the delegates might be offended. But I'll get you some.'

"As he went into the kitchen and brought out one of the little bottles, a supervisor came over and said, 'Here's what you want.' It was a small cup with ketchup in it. No label. He was smiling.' "

MIZ NIPPY

It takes under five minutes to read James Carville's new book, "Lu and the Swamp Ghost."

After all, it's the outspoken Democratic political consultant's first book for children, officially released this week and inspired by an episode in the Louisiana childhood of Carville's mother, Lucille (known as "Miz Nippy").

And to make sure children hear the story with the correct inflections, the book comes packaged with a CD read by Carville in his distinctive voice.

Miz Nippy, to tell a bit of the ghostly tale, grew up in southern Louisiana during the Great Depression. One day she is out checking her papa's turkey traps in the cypress woods and comes across someone - or something - covered head to toe in mud. She heard about the swamp ghost who gobbles up nosy little girls, but this is the first time she came face-to-face with one of the creatures.

Obviously, Carville is living proof that his mother wasn't swallowed whole, but the story is an intriguing one nonetheless.

PEW INTRUDER

Children of Secret Service agents greet their fathers no differently than other children in Washington, or so we gather from the official White House pool report.

As President Bush bowed to pray at St. John's Episcopal Church on an otherwise-sleepy August Sunday morning, the still of the sanctuary was broken by a boisterous toddler who yelled "Dada" to a Secret Service agent and made a brief run at the presidential pew before his mother scooped him up.

JACK AND BOBBY

"Two D.C. guys gone Hollywood!"

Or so best-selling author and former Washingtonian Brad Meltzer tells The Beltway Beat of his latest gig: co-creator of the new TV show "Jack & Bobby," premiering Sept. 12 on the WB network.

"Thank God 'The Sopranos' are gone," Meltzer quips of his first-ever show, which will air Sundays at 9 p.m., the same time slot as the HBO crime-family drama.

Jack and Bobby (not to be confused with the late Kennedy brothers) are two ordinary teenage brothers, one of whom grows up to be president in the year 2049.

"(I)n this election year, where both candidates went to Yale and are members of Skull & Bones, it's nice to imagine a world where truly anyone can become president," Meltzer notes.

BUSH/GIULIANI '04?

"We are very happy that Vice President Cheney will be serving this country . . . for another four years, but we thought it would be amusing to poke fun at the rumors that keep popping up in the press," explains GOP Shoppe founder Brian Harlin, one of Washington's top purveyors of political paraphernalia.

It's not just former New York Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani appearing with the president. These limited edition "rumor buttons," released yesterday to coincide with the Republican National Convention, include a diverse cast of characters - some serious contenders for the 2008 election.

CHARACTER COUNTS

"You know, he's not the prettiest face in the race."

-- President Bush, who says he likes to tease Vice President Dick Cheney about his challenger in this 2004 presidential election, the boyish-looking Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina.

SOLDIERS AND SENATORS

Grosset & Dunlap in 1945 published the political tome "Laughing Stock." Its author, Bennett Cerf, who, if alive today, no doubt would be writing about the controversy swirling around Democratic presidential nominee Sen. John Kerry's military service in Vietnam.

Consider this particular gem of Cerf's, republished in its entirety, about a "Kerrylike" politico of yesteryear:

"My friend!" cried the energetic congressional candidate, "as a boy I fought with our forces in World War I. As an officer, I fought in the Second World War. I saw service in the Korean incident. I have often had no bed but the battlefield; no canopy but the sky. I have marched over frozen ground until every step was marked with blood. I - "

"Just a minute," interrupted a listener. "Did you say you'd slept on the ground with no covers?"

"That's right!"

"And that you saw service in both World Wars?"

"That's right!"

"And that your feet have bled from walking on frozen ground?"

"That's quite right!"

"Then," concluded the listener, "you've done enough for your country. Go home and rest. I'll vote for the other fellow."

TROOP TALLY

Most Americans have two months before they cast ballots in the 2004 presidential election. The Pentagon, on the other hand, hoping not to repeat the controversy that plagued the military vote in 2000, has designated the upcoming week "Armed Forces Voting Week."

The initiative will remind military personnel to request and submit absentee ballots in a timely and proper manner for this year's all-important election. Four years ago, nearly 30 percent of military voters requesting ballots did not receive them in time to vote, and because of the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, an even higher number of U.S. troops are now deployed overseas.

The military vote - or lack thereof - made for some unflattering headlines during the controversial 2000 Florida recount, when election officials rejected hundreds of the military's absentee ballots because they lacked required postmarks and/or signatures.

CARDING DEMETRIA

In our previous column, Donna Brazile, campaign manager four years ago of Vice President Al Gore's unsuccessful presidential campaign, said she won't ever forget "that fateful election night" of 2000.

"[I]t was my sister Demetria's harrowing experience in 2000 that motivated me to become an advocate for election reform," she explained. "In Seminole County, Florida, she was asked to produce not one, not two - but three forms of ID in order to cast a vote for the president of the United States."

Of the many readers to respond, Matthew Manka of Florida writes: "Ms. Brazile's sister should consider herself lucky; her county (in a state with a high, and dare I say, illegal, alien population) is making sure only registered voters vote.

"In my county, as an almost 40-year-old with graying hair, I am carded more often for buying beer than I am to ensure I am voting legally. There is nothing wrong with being vigilant about the sanctity of voting."

HILLARY'S COOKIES

Recalling that an estimated 4 million evangelicals stayed home on Election Day in 2000, the Family Research Council wonders what will turn them out in 2004?

President Bush's "fortune" on Nov. 2 rests with the pro-family base, says the highly conservative council, so during this week's Republican National Convention in New York City, its members will be handing out thousands of fortune cookies containing messages that it says the Bush campaign should use to motivate pro-family voters.

Among the cookie notes: "Real Men Marry Women," "Save the Constitution! Impeach an Activist Judge" and "#1 Reason to Ban Human Cloning: Hillary Clinton."

BRING YOUR ID

"I'm so glad now that I'm old. I'm going to meet Pat Boone!"

- Republican National Convention female delegate from Tennessee, RSVP'ing for breakfast in New York City this week with Pat Boone, national spokesman for the 60 Plus Association.

REID'S READ

Ask former Clinton administration official Morris Reid and he'll tell you it's "pathetic that so much reactive effort is being poured into the type of wound John Kerry received or how much he bled."

"To the dismay of the Democrats, we are witnessing . . . a decorated Vietnam War hero being embarrassingly dictated by a president who never served in combat," says Reid, who plans to plant himself in New York City for the Republican National Convention and help defend his party's presidential nominee.

But, says the man who once headed Vice President Al Gore's campaign office, it's Kerry's duty to rise to the occasion, or else start swimming.

"Kerry must right his ship now, stop the hemorrhaging and demonstrate to the American people that he possess effective leadership qualities," says Reid, who also was senior political staff aide to Commerce Secretary Ron Brown and Housing and Urban Development Secretary Andrew Cuomo.

"President Bush will undoubtedly get a bounce from the (convention)," he predicts, "so the only way the Democrats can counter and take back the White House is if Kerry begins to proactively push forth his agenda."

In other words, it's time to report for duty.

VEEP FOR LIFE

"Forty more years."

- Chant by an audience member in Pottsville, Pa., after Vice President Dick Cheney had announced that he and his wife, Lynne, who first tickled his fancy when he was a mere lad of 14, will mark their 40th wedding anniversary this Sunday. Cheney replied that he would settle for four more years.

PAYS TO PRAY

Ma and Pa's restaurant in Eagle Rock, Va., does its part to encourage church attendance on Sunday.

The country eatery serves an all-you-can-eat Sunday buffet - the most recent holy day it was barbecued pork chops, fried chicken, veggies, salad bar with pickles, and raspberry cobbler and banana pudding - for $7.95.

However, the price drops to $6.95 for those diners who present a current church bulletin.