Talking too much

John McCaslin
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Posted: Dec 01, 2004 12:00 AM

It certainly was a unique appearance by Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist - a heart surgeon in real life - before the Federalist Society 2004 National Convention.

As the Tennessee Republican put it: "You've succeeded at an almost impossible task: You've put a doctor at ease in a room filled with a thousand lawyers."

The surgeon says he takes great pride in being "a citizen legislator - someone who sets aside a career for a period of time to serve in public office" - sort of like Jefferson Smith in the classic film "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington."

"One of my favorite scenes in that movie is when Mr. Smith takes the oath of office," said Frist. "He raises his right hand and . . . pledges 'I do.' Then the Senate president says with a less than subtle touch of sarcasm: 'Senator, you can talk all you want to now.'"

Wherein lies the problem - unprecedented filibustering in the U.S. Senate.

"A senator takes the floor, is recognized, starts talking and doesn't stop talking," said Frist. "The flamboyant (Louisiana Democrat) Huey Long once took the floor and filibustered for over 15 hours straight. When Senator Long suggested that his colleagues - many of whom were dozing off - be forced to listen to his speech, the presiding officer replied, 'That would be unusual cruelty under the Bill of Rights.'"

BEHIND THE FACADE

Colin L. Powell's stepping down as secretary of state within days of President Bush's winning re-election isn't such a big loss for the nation, says outspoken liberal Rep. Barney Frank.

"The recent resignation, apparently encouraged by the president," opines the Massachusetts Democrat, "has stripped one of the important facades behind which the reality of the Bush foreign policy has been hidden.

"It is deeply regrettable that the president and the secretary of state worked together to keep this facade in place until now, because the fact that the secretary of state would be leaving is the sort of information that would have been relevant to the voters on Election Day."

A member of the homeland security committee, Frank says there "is no clear evidence that Secretary Powell had any great influence on the administration's foreign policy, but his having been around did, I think, help the administration in its effort to appear more reasonable in its foreign policy than it has been."

BIPARTISAN VINTAGE

You know you've reached the top rung of the winemaking ladder when your California chardonnay is chosen by the first lady of the United States for her Thanksgiving dinner table.

Actually, Donald Patz tells The Beltway Beat he didn't know until after the fact that his 2002 Patz & Hall "Hyde" chardonnay was served by Laura Bush to visiting King Juan Carlos and Queen Sofia of Spain last week - and again the next day as the Bush family gathered in Crawford, Texas, to celebrate Thanksgiving.

"I'm told it was one of the favorite wines of Laura this past year, and we felt great about that," says Patz, referring to his winemaking partner James Hall (the pair bottled their first vintage in 1988), who must feel somewhat consoled by the honor.

"The Patzes typically vote Republican," Patz explains. "The Halls typically vote Democrat. We had an even split, pretty much like the rest of the country."

EDUCATION SECRETARY

An appropriate name is "Pa(i)ge"
For a pedagogical sage!
And isn't it telling
That Miss Margaret "Spellings"
Should succeed Mr. Paige on the stage?

- F.R. Duplantier

LIFE GOES ON

Several weeks after their thrilling come-from-behind World Series victory, the Boston Red Sox have been saluted in Congress - sort of.

"Even if the Red Sox are the very best baseball team in the world right now, I know that a return to Yankee domination is but four short months away," Rep. Rosa DeLauro, Connecticut Democrat, dared say in leading the House toast.

"I can only hope that (fellow members) will join me here next year as we return to our annual practice congratulating the Yankees."

Some congratulations for a team cursed since 1918.

"I, for one, will miss the '1918' chants for sure, but life will go on," she said.

MUSLIM TV

"If we do not define ourselves, others will."

So say creators of the U.S.-based Muslim TV network you've been reading about, coming soon into living rooms near you.

The cable television network, called Bridges TV, will not profess one particular sect or philosophy of Islam, its creators say:

"The purpose of Bridges TV is to build a platform that will allow all American Muslims, and furthermore, all Americans, to discuss and debate various philosophies and sects.

"Having said that, Bridges TV caters to mainstream Islam as defined by belief in the Oneness of God, acceptance of Muhammad as a messenger from God and a seal to all prophets."

The network, which was to debut Wednesday, will originate in Buffalo, N.Y.

"One show features a Muslim newspaper reporter named Jinnah who solves whodunits," reveals Buffalo News reporter Jay Tokasz. "A soap opera explores the melodrama of a Muslim father confronted with his daughter's desire to marry a non-Muslim. 'Allah Made Me Funny' chronicles a Muslim comedy tour."

There will also be music videos and animated children's shows, classic movies and food and culture programs, all geared toward American Muslims. As Tokasz points out, Muslims in this country are not only more educated than the typical American, the average annual household income is $11,000 higher than the overall U.S. average.

"Its founder and chief executive officer, Muzzammil S. Hassan, 40, hopes the network will help balance negative portrayals of Muslims that have dominated American media since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001," Tokasz explains.

He adds that the network already has carriage agreements with Comcast Cable Co., the nation's largest cable operator.

One of the most frequently asked questions the network says it has received is why the U.S. government would allow its operation in the first place.

"We have briefed the U.S. State Department and have had several good meetings with them in Washington," it answers. "We have consistently received positive feedback," including from Stuart Holliday, media assistant to Secretary of State Colin Powell."

HUNTING MPS

Beltway Beat reader Mike Orceyre of St. Petersburg, Fla., couldn't help but laugh when reading our column about U.S. sportsmen rallying around their British brethren after Parliament issued a hunting prohibition with hounds.

Or, as this columnist unintentionally phrased it, the House of Commons on Nov. 18 "rammed a bill to ban hunting with hounds through Parliament."

Orceyre: "'(H)unting with hounds through Parliament' is something I should dearly love to see."

LANGUAGE EXPERT

"Adios - that means goodbye."

- President Bush, pulling away in his pickup truck from a gaggle of reporters at his Texas ranch this week.

TURN RIGHT

What's the best way for the left to right itself? By following the right, of course.

Eminent historian Alan Brinkley, writing the lead essay in the December issue of the American Prospect, argues that Democrats can't just sit around "waiting for the Republicans to fail" - they must "emulate, at least in some ways, the great success of the right in turning itself from a frail 'remnant' (as some conservatives liked to call themselves in the 1950s) into a mighty force that now dominates American politics."

Brinkley offers four prescriptions, including building an internal infrastructure and making peace with the military, that if swallowed could once again move the Democratic Party toward majority status.

CAN'T COMMIT

How crucial was the women's vote in the 2004 presidential election?

That depends on whether they are married.

A Democracy Corps survey for the group Women's Voices/Women Vote finds that unmarried women increased their share of the electorate substantially from 2000 to 2004.

"Roughly 7.5 million more unmarried women voted in 2004 than in 2000 (22 to 23 percent of the electorate in 2004 versus 19 percent of the electorate in 2000)," the survey finds. "This represents the single largest increase in share of the electorate among any demographic group."

Ironically, despite the impressive increase, unmarried gals still represented the largest demographic group underrepresented at the polls.

POSTAL BUDGETEER

Former Office of Management and Budget Director James C. Miller III has been confirmed by the Senate to a full term as a member of the Board of the United States Postal Service.

"I am honored to have been chosen by President Bush to serve on this board," he reacts. "I believe a strong, viable, and efficient postal service is critical to both commerce and the quality of life in this country, and I intend to contribute in any way I can to that realization."

Also a past chairman of the Federal Trade Commission, Miller was appointed to a term that won't expire until 2010.

NOT ALL ABOARD

The United Rail Passenger Alliance, a policy institute focusing on solutions and plans for passenger-rail systems in North America, is critical of government-owned Amtrak for not being visible enough.

"This week marks the official beginning of what's predicted to be a record setting holiday travel season. Already the news stories have begun about local airport congestion and highway congestion," URPA President Bruce Richardson notes. "Conspicuous by its absence outside of the Northeast is any mention of Amtrak in the holiday rush stories."

He says Amtrak "has got to start getting in front of the news media on a more aggressive basis to remind Americans there are passenger trains. Amtrak is losing millions of dollars a year in revenue because it doesn't take the news media seriously unless it's begging for more free federal money."