Party animal

John McCaslin
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Posted: Apr 28, 2005 12:00 AM

"I want to thank the mayor for being here. Lyda Ann Thomas greeted me coming in. I said, 'Do you still have Splash Day?' You have to be a baby boomer to know what I'm talking about. I'm not saying whether I came or not on Splash Day, I'm just saying, 'Do you have Splash Day?' It's great to be back in Galveston. What a cool city."

- President Bush, not realizing during a visit to Galveston, Texas, this week that an annual beach party dating from the 1950s is now an unofficial homosexual event.

DRIVER'S SEAT

Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. was asked by Don Imus on "Imus in the Morning" this week why the Bush family, if it is really so friendly with the Saudi royal family, can't persuade them to lower the price of oil?

"We keep thinking that personal relationships somehow are going to alter the behavior of the House of Saud," the Delaware Democrat replied. "I don't see any evidence of that. I mean, these guys are tough."

How tough?

"These guys know they have us right now, and I think ... they're looking at maybe 'you back off us a little bit on our need to democratize - all your talk, Mr. President, about us spreading freedom around the world' - that sounds good, but not on the Saudi Arabian peninsula.

"So I think they've got President Bush kind of in a spot right now."

FAREWELL TO JEFFORDS?

Politically speaking, Vermont has always stood alone.

There is Rep. Bernard Sanders, who, when sworn in as Vermont's at-large member of the House in 1991, became the first independent - Democratic Socialist, if you will -- elected to Congress in 40 years. He's been re-elected seven times, becoming the longest-serving independent in Capitol Hill history.

And who will forget 2001, when Sen. James M. Jeffords of Vermont rocked every committee on Capitol Hill by switching his party affiliation from Republican to independent and handing control of the Senate to Democrats?

Then there's former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean, a freethinker if there ever was one, now in sole charge of the Democratic Party.

If that bunch isn't independent enough, enter Vermont Commons, "voices of independence" who are proposing that their state secede from the United States while there still is one.

"From 1777 (to) 1791, the citizens of Vermont governed themselves as an independent republic," say the otherwise ordinary citizens, who are "dedicated to the proposition that Vermonters should peaceably secede from the United States and govern themselves as an independent republic once again."

Vermont Commons believes that America is doomed to collapse, no different from the Sumerian, Persian, Greek, Roman, Hapsburg, British and Soviet empires - "you name them, they all fell, and most within a few hundred years."

Similarly, the group says, the United States "is showing multiple signs of its inability to continue. Indeed, it is now possible to contemplate its collapse."

"The neocons in power in Washington these days, who were delighted to talk about America as the sole empire in the world following the Soviet disintegration, will, of course, refuse to believe in any such collapse," says one posting on the group's interactive Web site.

"But ... it behooves us to examine seriously the ways in which the U.S. system is so drastically imperiling itself that it will cause not only the collapse of its worldwide empire but vast changes on the domestic front as well."

FAMILY SAGA

Tough trade restrictions with Cuba won't get any weaker so long as a bipartisan bunch in Congress, two with family ties to Fidel Castro, has its way.

Reps. Lincoln Diaz-Balart and Mario Diaz-Balart, Florida Republican brothers whose Aunt Mirta Diaz-Balart was once married to Castro, have helped establish the bicameral, bipartisan, "pro-embargo" Congressional Cuban Democracy Caucus.

The caucus, formed this week, supports a pro-democracy movement within Cuba, while highlighting accusations of atrocities by the aging Castro.

The congressional pair's father, Rafael Lincoln Diaz-Balart, who rose to become majority leader of Cuba's House of Representatives, was once a comrade - even a roommate - of Castro's. It was he who introduced his sister to Castro, and the couple married in 1948.

A year later, Fidel Castro Diaz-Balart was born. However the Diaz-Balart family grew to despise the Cuban leader, and in 1954, the couple divorced. Under Cuban law, the son remained in the custody of Mr.Castro.

BYPASSING BISHOPS

The president of the Cardinal Newman Society is "blowing the whistle" on Catholic colleges that have invited politicians such as Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton to deliver commencement addresses and receive honorary degrees this graduation season because their public positions run contrary to Catholic teaching.

"We are blowing the whistle on any Catholic college that blatantly disrespects the bishops by defying their clear command and teaching," says Patrick J. Reilly, president of the national organization dedicated to the renewal of Catholic identity at America's 220 Catholic colleges and universities.

"After decades of scandal at secularizing colleges, last June, the bishops drew a line in the sand," he says. "No college that deliberately crosses that line deserves the label 'Catholic' or the support of the faithful - most especially monetary support."

In addition to Clinton, whom he labels a "strident advocate" of legalized abortion, embryonic stem-cell research and contraception (the New York Democrat is set to speak at Marymount Manhattan College), he cites scheduled commencement speakers such as veteran White House journalist Helen Thomas, former New York Times reporter Peter Steinfels and former Washington Gov. Gary Locke.

PERFECT STORM

What a pious, preposterous "spin"
Was applied to the dissidents' din
As they held out the hope
For a new kind of pope
Who would give dispensation to sin!
--F.R. Duplantier

MORE BAD NEWS

Among favorite charities listed by Laura Ingraham on her Web site is the American Cancer Society. Sadly, the popular talk-radio host now joins a growing number of U.S. women diagnosed with breast cancer.

This week, shortly before she underwent surgery, Ingraham called into her radio show from her hospital bed, asking listeners to keep her in their prayers.

"You know I hate drama kings or queens, but I am asking for your prayers today and for the foreseeable future," said Ingraham, who learned of her diagnosis on Friday. "As so many breast cancer patients will tell you, it all came as a total shock."

While she awaits a full postoperative report, Ingraham declared: "I know I'll obliterate this." (Engaged to be married, she quipped: "If he thinks he's going to get out of marrying me because of this little blip, he's sadly mistaken.")

Cancer-wise, it has been a bad few months for well-known broadcasters. In addition to Ingraham, whose cancer was detected during a routine breast examination, ABC News anchor Peter Jennings and Fox Radio host Tony Snow are battling the disease.

FATTENING HER UP

We'd written recently about a soon-to-be mother duck choosing the "best" place in Washington to make her nest: the planter of the Ritz-Carlton Georgetown.

After all, attentive hotel staff are serving her cracked corn and bottled water - in silver bowls, no less.

Perhaps we spoke too soon.

"Your note on the mother duck-in-waiting at the Washington Ritz reminds me of an account penned long ago by former Southam newspapers Washington correspondent Allan Fotheringham about ducks at the hotel's posh Montreal location," writes Beltway Beat reader Bob Timms of Haddonfield, N.J.

"He noted that ducks were given great attention at the hotel every summer - and served to guests every fall! Hopefully 'mom' and her ducklings (in Washington) will receive greater, um, hospitality."

FREQUENT FLIER

Number of states President Bush has visited in his not-so-popular 60-day push to strengthen Social Security: 23.

BARBIE MEETS JESUS

The Beverly Hills Teddy Bear Co., creators of dolls such as Shrek and the Grinch Who Stole Christmas, announces a new line of interactive Bible characters that promise to entertain children while engaging them in stories for the Scriptures.

"It's always been on my heart to do this, and now we finally have the right talent and right people to make a doll line of the greatest people ever to walk the earth," says David Socha, founder of the California company and creator of the Messengers of Faith dolls.

Initially, dolls depicting Jesus Christ, David, Moses, Esther and Mary are being produced, with additional biblical characters to be released in the future.