Racial storm

John McCaslin
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Posted: Sep 16, 2004 12:00 AM

Last year, Rep. Sheila Jackson-Lee, Texas Democrat, took one look at the list of names for the 2003 Atlantic hurricane season and cried racial discrimination.

The outspoken congresswoman charged that Ana, Bill, Claudette, Danny, Erika, Fabian, Grace, Henri, Isabel, Juan, Kate, Larry, Mindy, Nicholas, Odette, Peter, Rose, Sam, Teresa, Victor and Wanda (this columnist's mother's name) were all too white and "all racial groups should be represented" when these swirling monsters plow ashore.

Particularly "African-American names," the congresswoman said.

You can be the judge of whether Uncle Sam, tasked with giving hurricanes their handles, bowed to the congresswoman's wishes. Already making their impact felt this horrific 2004 hurricane season were Alex, Bonnie, Charley, Danielle, Earl, Frances, Gaston and Hermine, while a most powerful Ivan (sounds Russian-American) and Jeanne are precariously poised to wreak havoc on our lives, limbs and property.

Still awaiting formation are Karl, Lisa, Matthew, Nicole, Otto, Paula, Richard, Shary, Tomas, Virginie and Walter.

PLANTING POLITICS

More now on yesterday's item about the national Democratic Party appealing for financial aid in hurricane-battered Florida, where a succession of deadly storms has seriously hampered fund-raising efforts at a critical time in the 2004 campaign.

"In line with that," writes Beltway Beat reader Larry Whitehurst from Wisconsin, "I actually tuned to Air America radio and heard one of the morning-show hosts . . . comment that she believed it when she heard that . . . the Bush administration is seeding clouds over the Atlantic to enable more hurricanes so that Florida voters will not be able to reach the polls."

Have you been eating too much cheese, Whitehurst?

"When I heard this, I fell out of my chair laughing," he insists. "I sure hope most other listeners did, because those that would believe something like this . . . should not be allowed even near the election voting booths."

LEAD ROLE

A Vietnam War veteran who managed to drive a stake right through the middle of the 2004 presidential campaign, perhaps ultimately spoiling whatever chances Sen. John Kerry had at becoming president, will be saluted during an invitation-only book party at Morton's in Washington next Tuesday.

John E. O'Neill, who took over command of Swift Boat PCF 94 from then-Lt. Kerry, along with Jerome R. Corsi, a frequent writer about the Vietnam War protest movement, have created a political hurricane with their New York Times best seller "Unfit for Command," which charges that the Massachusetts senator methodically invented his "war hero" persona.

Based on interviews with scores of Kerry's war comrades, the book claims that the Democratic presidential nominee, while serving in Vietnam, kept extensive private journals and staged home movies - playing the lead role - so as to advance his future political ambitions.

"Fellow 'Swiftees' report that Kerry would revisit ambush locations for re-enacting combat scenes where he would portray the hero," the authors write. "Kerry would take movies of himself in combat gear, sometimes dressed as an infantryman walking resolutely through the terrain. He even filmed mock interviews of himself narrating his exploits."

The pair recalls that the "joke circulated among Swiftees was that Kerry left Vietnam early not because he received three Purple Hearts, but because he had recorded enough film of himself to take home for his planned political campaigns."

Testifying later on Capitol Hill, Kerry, among other accusations, compared his superior officers to Lt. William Calley of My Lai massacre infamy.

EMERGENCY SUPPORT

Suffice it to say, Jim Kouri, vice president of the National Association of Chiefs of Police, is among the 92 percent of police commanders who charge that the news industry is not playing fair and impartial in the 2004 presidential election.

Consider the nation's largest police union, the 300,000-member strong Fraternal Order of Police, which announced recently its "enthusiastic" endorsement of President Bush for re-election.

"Yet the news media intentionally or unintentionally ignored this important endorsement," notes Kouri of the president's ability "to wage a war on terrorism and his resolve to protect the homeland."

At the same time, he points out, when the international firefighters union endorsed Democratic presidential nominee Sen. John Kerry - "largely because he believes buying more fire engines will protect us from terrorists" - the news media could hardly hold back their excitement.

"Of course, they never mentioned that the New York City firefighters endorsed Bush - and let's be honest, they are the guys who charged into the burning Twin Towers on September 11, 2001."

MONEY TREES

When it comes to fiscal responsibility, The Beltway Beat gives credit where it is due.

There's no finer example this week than Rep. Randy Neugebauer, who has temporarily restored faith in Congress by ending funding of federal grants to study college dorm room wall decorations and keep personal diaries.

Specifically, the Texas Republican introduced an amendment to the 2005 Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education appropriations bill to prohibit the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) from funding two grants. The amendment was approved by voice vote, and for good reason.

One study, titled "Expressions of Identity in Virtual and Physical Spaces," paid college students $100 to decorate their dorm room walls. Researchers then attempted to discern how students express themselves through the decorations.

As an added incentive, three $1,000 prizes were given away in a lottery to the students who participated in the study.

The second study, "Goals, Identity and Meaning in Life," attempted to find out "what makes a meaningful day" for today's college students. To learn this, the study asked participants to keep a diary in which they documented meaningful events (since 1995, NIMH has provided diary-keepers more than $1 million).

"The federal government has no business paying someone more than a million dollars to figure out that college can be a meaningful experience," says Neugebauer.

NEW PROBLEMS

Perhaps President Clinton's national security documents won't be swiped so easily under legislation just passed by the House to improve the efficiency of operations at the National Archives.

Introduced by Rep. Adam H. Putnam, Florida Republican and chairman of the subcommittee on information policy, the legislation was approved unanimously this week and now goes to the Senate for consideration.

Created by Congress in 1934 as the nation's record keeper, the National Archives is a small agency that has been given a very large task of identifying, acquiring, preserving and providing access to the permanently valuable records of the federal government - including documents that Clinton's former national security adviser, Samuel R. Berger, was observed stealing (some of the records he ultimately destroyed) several weeks ago.

Besides what's now left of Clinton's papers, the National Archives holds everything from the records of the Continental Congress to the battle maps of Operation Desert Storm, parchment to e-mail.

The National Archives and Records Administration "has a difficult but important job as the nation's record keeper, and by passing this bill, we are able to assist this agency by adding the tools they need to make them more efficient in dealing with the problems of the 21st century," says Putnam.

AMERICAN DYNASTY

"We have so many wonderful memories of Iowa from all those years that we campaigned here for . . . President Bush and President Bush."

- First lady Laura Bush, stumping in Iowa this week on behalf of the latter President Bush.