Shunning Hillary

John McCaslin
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Posted: Feb 15, 2005 12:00 AM

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton says she looks forward to working with newly crowned Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean, starting with voting reform.

As people in Iraq and Ukraine "celebrate elections and voter participation," says the former first lady, "we must make sure every vote is counted in elections right here at home."

Which brings us to the Count Every Vote Act of 2005, which Clinton is introducing this week with California Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer. If  passed, the legislation would provide a verified paper ballot for every electronic vote cast and require the Election Assistance Commission to ensure uniform access to voting machines.

"It's outrageous that some people in predominantly minority communities had to wait up to 10 hours to vote (in 2004), while people in other communities often voted in minutes," Clinton says.

If her act sounds familiar, it is because she introduced similar legislation last year, but acknowledges that "it never saw the light of day."

"I couldn't even get a hearing for my bill before the Senate Rules Committee," she complains.

HERE WE GO AGAIN

That was Rep. Jeff Flake, Arizona Republican, complaining Monday about Sunday night's Grammy Awards.

Not so much about the music, rather that American taxpayers - to the tune of $150,000 - are funding "millionaire singers, producers and executives."

An earmark of $150,000 is contained in the 2005 omnibus appropriations bill for the Grammy Foundation, the music-appreciation wing of the Recording Academy that distributes the annual awards.

"A song by the name of 'Here We Go Again' won the Grammy for Record of the Year last night," notes Flake. "After finding out today that Congress kicked in $150,000 . . . I'm thinking the same thing."

FREE AND FREEDOM

With the backing of conservative leader Phyllis Schlafly, Janine Hansen, as national chairman, has launched Mothers Against the Draft.

"We want to be sure to head off any effort to draft our sons and daughters," Hansen explains. "Those who choose to serve in the military should have our respect. But we feel in this land of the free and the home of the brave that those who may be drafted and forced to fight for freedom are not free."

The coming weeks, she says, will be spent surveying senators and congressmen on where they stand on a compulsory military draft and mandatory national service.

HONORING DRATH

The Dacor Bacon House, the club of retired diplomatic and consular officers in Washington, was the setting to serenade, play harmonica and sing "Happy Birthday" to veteran journalist and author Viola Herms Drath.

A special greeting from President Bush and first lady Laura Bush also was read to Drath, one of the first prominent writers to issue specific proposals, guidelines and negotiations on the reunification of East and West Germany. As a foreign-policy adviser to former President George Bush before and after his election, she received praise from former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger when German reunification occurred in 1990.

"You have earned the respect of so many (on) both sides of the Atlantic for your role in building bridges of understanding and in strengthening the German-American relationship," German Ambassador Wolfgang Ischinger noted in his birthday greetings.

At her party, symphonic compositions from Drath's native Germany were played by the "President's Own" band, an Air Force officer serenaded her with German folk songs, and retired Army Lt. Gen. Edward L. Rowny - former commander of the 24th Infantry Division in Augsburg, Germany, who was deputy chief of staff at the U.S. European Command during the 1960s - regaled the affair with "old war stories" and a boffo performance of melodies on his harmonica.

He played a stirring rendition of "Lilli Marlene," a popular song in Germany during World War II, when Mrs. Drath was a teenage refugee in Munich escaping the advance of the Soviet armies.

PROUD PEOPLE

What is it about possessing Texas roots?

President Bush is always talking about his. Alberto Gonzales, sworn in as the nation's 80th attorney general, always talks about his. And on Monday, Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, administering the oath to Gonzales as Bush looked on, spoke about hers. Must be a Texas thing.

GRAPES OF WRATH

"Please RSVP . . . we need to know how much Australian and American wine and beer to buy."

- Myron Ebell, director of global warming and international environmental policy for the Competitive Enterprise Institute, inviting allies in the Bush administration, Congress, business, labor "and our Australian mates" to a reception this Wednesday to celebrate the United States' and Australia's not joining what's being called the "European" Kyoto Protocol, which goes into effect this week.

LIFE OF THE PARTY

Every four years it's the same argument: Why hold costly national political conventions if the party's nominee already is crowned?

Yet every four years, Republicans and Democrats flock to places like New York City and Boston, host cities of the 2004 conventions, where the biggest concern these predictable days is what cocktail party to attend.

Likewise, newspapermen and TV anchors have found it increasingly difficult to report any significant news from the almost weeklong extravaganzas. And who pays for it all?

"Taxpayers, unfortunately, have had to bear the brunt of the cost for these conventions, which last year totaled almost a third of a billion dollars," says Rep. Roscoe G. Bartlett, Maryland Republican, one of several lawmakers who want the pickpocketing to stop.

"The conventions no longer serve the purpose they were intended to serve (when they) used to decide a political party's presidential nominee," the congressman says. "However, it has been a long time since there was any suspense or even pretense about the nominee from either the Republican or Democratic . . . conventions."

Last year, taxpayers forked over about $40 million for the Republican convention in Gotham and almost $50 million for the Democrats' bash in Boston. And this does not count the tremendous costs that host cities coughed up to provide security, police protection and transportation services.

CLOSET COMICS

Who says politicians can't make us laugh every once in awhile?

Headlining the annual Washington Press Club Foundation's Congressional Dinner this week were the embattled (of late) House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, Texas Republican, and the outshone (of late) Sen. Richard J. Durbin, Illinois Democrat.

DeLay told the large crowd that it was an honor to appear before "so many friends" - adding upon second glance, "or so many people."

Lest anybody forgot, the House ethics committee last fall approved "a public admonishment" of DeLay after he sought to influence a fellow congressman to support Medicare prescription drug legislation. He caused further uproar when trying to change the ethics rules so they wouldn't apply to him.

"It's really hard to be me," DeLay deadpanned to laughter.

"Even if you weren't funny, the House would just change the rules and say you were," Durbin couldn't help but remark when he got his turn at the podium.

Unlike the Republican, Durbin hasn't been the subject of much attention of late, given the national spotlight remains focused on his fellow Illinoisan Sen. Barack Obama - junior senator that he is.

TREE RAGE

"We start to think that these things are important, like (the rape trial of NBA star) Kobe Bryant and (the molestation trial of) Michael Jackson and yada, yada and meanwhile, you know, endangered forests are being slaughtered for toilet paper, you know, sequoias - whatever it is."

Or so Daphne Zuniga, the actress who starred in the television series "Melrose Place," remarked to CNSNews.com senior staff writer Marc Morano during the Washington Press Club Foundation's 61st annual Congressional Dinner, which she attended as a guest of Congressional Quarterly.

HOT SCOOP

That was Fred Parker, who, with his brother Jim, founded the popular chili parlor chain Hard Times Cafe (the original Hard Times opened in Old Town Alexandria 25 years ago), doing the judging at the National Press Club's "Chili Cook-Off."

"There aren't too many chili cook-offs around here in the wintertime, so this annual Press Club event helps me keep my taste buds honed," Parker tells The Beltway Beat.

As a board member of the International Chili Society, Parker helps judge the world championship chili cook-off held in Las Vegas every October.

"Will Rogers, the beloved cowboy philosopher and National Press Club member, said he always judged a town by the quality of its chili," Parker notes. "He was a wise man."

BE KIND TO MEN

"Sex, Lies and the Vagina Monologues" was the title of Christina Hoff Sommers' Monday night speech to the Network of Enlightened Women (NEW) at the University of Virginia.

"This is the only college event in the nation that we are aware of that will be challenging the dominance of 'The Vagina Monologues,'" said NEW President Karin Agness, who points out that the monologues, hailed by some as the bible for a new generation of women, will be "performed and celebrated throughout the nation on college campuses this weekend."

A resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research who considers herself an "equity feminist" as opposed to a victim feminist, Ms. Sommers is author of "Who Stole Feminism? How Women Have Betrayed Women" and "The War Against Boys: How Misguided Feminism Is Harming Our Young Men."