Storm Relief

John McCaslin
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Posted: Sep 14, 2004 12:00 AM

With Florida being battered by one of the worst hurricane seasons in memory, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC) is appealing for help - although it is not in need of batteries and bottled water.

"Two major hurricanes in Florida and possibly a third one on the way have made running a political campaign difficult and have seriously hampered fund-raising efforts at a critical time," reveals Sen. Jon Corzine of New Jersey, chairman of the DSCC.

Politicians, in other words, can't appeal to voters who are continuously boarding up their homes and even being evacuated in advance of approaching storms.

Corzine says the weather is the biggest obstacle for Betty Castor, who won the Aug. 31 Democratic primary and is running neck and neck with Republican opponent Mel Martinez.

VETERAN VALENTI

A well-deserved rest for Jack Valenti, who has just retired after 38 years at the helm of the Motion Picture Association of America.

Before landing at the MPAA just one block from the White House, Valenti was in charge of herding reporters during President Kennedy's fateful trip to Dallas - riding just six cars behind the president in the motorcade.

One hour later, the Texas native was aboard Air Force One with a somber and newly sworn President Johnson, at that instant becoming the president's special assistant.

What readers might not know is that Valenti has a distinguished military career. During World War II, he was pilot-commander of a B-25 attack bomber, flying 51 combat missions with the 12th Air Force. He was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross, the Air Medal with four clusters, the Distinguished Unit Citation with one cluster and the European Theater Ribbon with four battle stars.

SPIRITED REPORTER

Viewers of the Fox News Channel will recognize Kelly Wright - who, let's just say, is not your typical Washington reporter. He was headlining the Cotton Club before Capitol Hill.

The Emmy Award-winning reporter began his journalism career in 1977 while serving in the U.S. Army.

"I anchored, wrote and produced a daily five-minute newscast about the 24th Infantry Division/Fort Stewart, Georgia," he says, before becoming a reporter for the Patriot, an Army newspaper.

"When I was assigned to overseas duty in Mainz, Germany, I continued working as a journalist for Army newspapers," he says. "One moment I fondly recall is the papal visit to Germany. I remember standing ankle-deep in mud on a rain-soaked field near Mainz reporting on Pope John Paul's historic visit. . . . It was worth every sneeze I made afterwards."

Leaving the Army, Wright worked for several news outlets, reporting on topics ranging from presidential politics to the trans-Atlantic slave trade.

But he has a much deeper love than reporting: gospel music.

"I've been singing since I was 13," he reveals, adding that he performed first in churches, then nightclubs.

"My breakthrough in music happened in New York City," Wright says. "While working as a reporter . . . I also headlined at the legendary Cotton Club in Harlem, performing jazz, R&B and gospel. After leaving New York, I continued singing but concentrated on gospel. For me, there's no better form of music. It literally lifts your spirit and makes every burden lighter."

BUCKEYE BUNGLE?

Polls indicate that President Bush has opened a wide lead over Sen. John Kerry in Ohio. Not that the Democrat hasn't campaigned heavily in the state.

In fact, maybe the senator from Massachusetts needs to read a road map. Press accounts suggest that he has wasted precious time campaigning in heavily Republican regions of Ohio, where, because of the low number of undecided voters, he won't win much support.

For example, Kerry's bus tour made two recent appearances in Licking County, where Bush captured about 60 percent of the vote in 2000.

En route to events in Akron and Steubenville, the Kerry caravan "took the back roads instead of the interstate," Copley News Service reported, "creating mini-campaign events in small cities like Utica, Mount Vernon and Mansfield. Most of the small gatherings included a sizable share of Bush-Cheney supporters."

And small wonder: Mount Vernon is in Knox County, where Bush walloped Democrat Al Gore 63 percent to 34 percent four years ago.

CARVILLE'S CONFLICT

Will the real James Carville please stand up?

The Columbia Journalism Review (CJR), the pre-eminent media watchdog, previously lamented cable-TV shows whose ideas of news "is to slap two campaign officials on air . . . with a moderator trying (or frequently not bothering to try) to penetrate the blizzard of spin."

"Often, we've thought, the cable channels might just as well dispense with the journalistic camouflage," CJR states. "Now, CNN has done just that - made it official. Paul Begala and James Carville, 'from the left' co-hosts of CNN's 'Crossfire,' late last week joined the Kerry campaign as advisers - and will be continuing their work on CNN."

CJR says "concurrently working for a news organization and a political campaign seems an obvious conflict of interest to us."

CNN spokesman Matt Furman counters that there is no conflict because Begala and Carville's advisory roles with Sen. John Kerry's campaign are "informal." This columnist ducked into Mr. Carville's Alexandria office over the weekend and got handed the following statement:

"(H)is current title is 'CNN Crossfire Host and Democratic Strategist.' In addition, he has no official role with the Kerry/Edwards Campaign. Mr. Carville describes himself as a Democratic strategist with strong opinions. Only Mr. Carville is to be responsible for what he says, not CNN, the Kerry/Edwards Campaign, or anyone else."

Truth be told, Carville is waiting for 2008, when Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, New York Democrat, will likely run for the White House.

"I certainly would beg her to run," Carville told Tim Russert on NBC's "Meet the Press" late in 2003. "Absolutely. I'd be the first on board there."

HIS AND HERS

Talk about winning by a narrow margin, Republican Rep. Bob Beauprez, Colorado Republican, won the last election by 121 votes - the closest congressional contest in the nation.

This year, Beauprez is facing Democrat Dave Thomas, who, given the second paragraph of his latest campaign press release (written, most likely, by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee), could stand to hire an editor:

"Once again, Rep. Beauprez has shown where his/her priorities lie," said Bev Noun, campaign manager for Dave Thomas.

A GUY'S GUY

"Fine looking car. I used to have one just like it."

- President Bush, after loading a bag of ice into the trunk of a battered, mud-covered green Lincoln Continental driven by a man sporting dreadlocks in hurricane-battered Florida.

BIPARTISAN PARTNERS

Joe Andrew, former chairman of the Democratic National Committee, has joined Sonnenschein Nath & Rosenthal's expanding law firm as a partner in its Public Law & Policy Strategies Group.

Andrew is described as a "new breed of lawyer who stands at the intersection of business, law, government and politics."

Fred McClure, who was legislative affairs assistant for former President Bush and special assistant for legislative affairs for President Reagan, is already a partner in the bipartisan group.

EVEN SPLIT

"I thought you might appreciate the humor and perspective of my twin 8-year-old sons regarding the 2004 presidential election," writes Todd D. Mora, executive director of finance and operations for Comstock Public Schools in Kalamazoo, Mich.

"One of my sons said he would vote for George Bush because 'he has done the job and has experience and could do the job again.' He added that he didn't like John Kerry because his political ads interrupted his cartoons that he watches after school (yes, I'm thoroughly ashamed to admit my son watches television after school).

"My other son said he would vote for Mr. Kerry because 'he is better looking.' I asked if had any other reasons and he said 'nope.'"

The school official said he is "awestruck at how my two 8-year-olds had cut to the quick of this election year in a matter of seconds, and pundits and talking heads are going to take two more months and immeasurable hours of television to say the same thing."

OUCH!

Wow, has the 2004 presidential campaign turned ugly, or what?

Asked last week about former Vice President Al Gore's comment that Vice President Dick Cheney's recent remarks about terrorism - that, for safety's sake, it would behoove voters to re-elect the Republicans - were sleazy and despicable, White House spokesman Scott McClellan replied: "Consider the source."

SCARED YET?

The purported George W. Bush-Dick Cheney re-election strategy of peddling "fear" is reportedly spreading to Capitol Hill.

"The latest rumor on the Hill is the Republicans will engulf the Senate floor in divisive debates," we're told by Sen. Jon Corzine, New Jersey Democrat, dragging the Senate "through the same divisive strategy they've used on the campaign trail."

As for proof, the senator notes that Congress "is barely back in session and . . . Senate President Dick Cheney kicked off the legislative season with yet another outrageous statement."

He was referring, as in our previous item, to Cheney's remark that "it's absolutely essential that eight weeks from today, on Nov. 2, we make the right choice, because if we make the wrong choice, then the danger is that we'll get hit again and we'll be hit in a way that will be devastating from the standpoint of the United States."

MILKED TWICE

Oh, the webs that are weaved in Washington.

One of the apparent, more sticky ones is resulting in a public interest watchdog group calling on the Department of Health and Human Services to investigate its multimillion-dollar contract with one of Washington's largest public relations firm.

Published reports reveal that Ketchum Communications is the HHS's principal contractor in its $87 million campaign to win public support for changes to Medicare. At the same time, the same PR firm is under contract with the American Society of Clinical Oncologists to scuttle some of the very changes HHS is paying it to promote.

(Kind of reminds us when the competing Bob Dole and Jack Kemp Republican presidential primary campaigns were being run by the same political relations firm).

In a letter sent to the HHS inspector general, Public Interest Watch Executive Director Lewis Fein cites "a blatant conflict of interest in this matter and that taxpayer funds are being used inappropriately as a result."

LOSING BIDS

King Street Blues, the last remaining "roadhouse" of its kind in Alexandria, has gotten into the 2004 presidential election spirit by having artist Brian McCall create life-size papier-mache caricatures of a Texas-attired President Bush riding a steer, and leather-clad Sen. John Kerry racing a motorcycle.

"After the election in November, one of the candidates is coming down off the wall, dependent on the outcome of the election," says restaurant owner Lisa Capobianco. "The 'loser' will be auctioned off at the restaurant, and the proceeds will be donated to the local branch of the Boys and Girls Club."

Capobianco's husband, Ralph Capobianco, built King Street Blues around memories of childhood car trips and stopping at wonderful roadside restaurants along U.S. Route 1 - the kind that served hot bread, real mashed potatoes, homemade pies and plenty of political discourse.

Roadhouse regulars include journalists, pundits and politicians, including former Virginia Lt. Gov. Donald S. Beyer Jr., who was national treasurer of Howard Dean's 2004 presidential campaign.

COLORING OUR WORLD

If anybody cares to send The Beltway Beat a George W. Bush coloring book, we'd be delighted to color it.

In the meantime, pass the crayons, as we delve into "A Child's-Eye View of John Kerry," by Dougie's Books of Upland, Calif.

Our favorite page shows Kerry standing next to his SUV, explaining that he doesn't own the gas-guzzling vehicle, his family holds the title. But let's start from the beginning.

"John Kerry has lots of big houses everywhere that his wife bought," children read. "They go in their own jet and don't have to sit next to some guy in a plane who smells and snores and drools when he sleeps.

"His wife also bought him lots of cars and trucks. He . . . says we should not use so much oil. But then they found out that he has a big gas guzzler SUV. A reporter asked him about that, and John Kerry had to think quick. He told the reporter that it wasn't his SUV. It belonged to his family.

"At least the reporter didn't get yelled at and told to shove it."