John McCaslin

Seth Leibsohn, who, when he isn't busy as a Claremont Institute fellow, produces William J. Bennett's popular radio show, "Morning in America," tells The Beltway Beat that to the best of his knowledge it all began with a 10-year-old girl from Montana.

Shelby Dangerfield painted her right index finger purple in January and promoted the idea to her friends in Billings - "in solidarity with the people of Iraq who braved much worse than the Montana winter to have their fingers painted purple as they voted in their first free elections," Leibsohn explains.

Recently, a caller to Bennett's radio show suggested that as many Americans as possible paint their right index fingers purple this week to show support for Iraqis as they return to the polls for crucial parliamentary elections.

The radio host, who was education secretary under President Reagan, not only ran with the idea, he posted it on National Review's blog. From there, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, and Americans for Victory Over Terrorism (a project Bennett heads for Claremont), all jumped on board and launched - as Bennett paraphrased William Shakespeare, to give the "whole idea a habitation and a name."

"Bennett wrote an open letter to store owners and managers nationwide asking them to put purple ink at their checkout counters for their customers, and National Review Online picked that letter up and published it - as did many in the blogosphere," Leibsohn said Monday. Soon, the Fox News Channel endorsed the purple-finger campaign.

"A Miami artist who listens to Bennett's show sent her painting of Arab women voting with their purple fingers to the site, as did a fireman and his child from Jacksonville, and so many other Americans.

"While we can't say how many Americans will be painting their fingers purple this week, we can say that a child, the Internet and radio can still be the most powerful forces in the culture, perhaps even in politics," says Leibsohn, adding the Washington Times to the mix Monday.


We're not kin, but thanks to the many readers who forwarded to this columnist a recent London Sunday Telegraph piece about Roger McCaslin and the AK-47 he carries for protection.

John McCaslin

John McCaslin is a contributing columnist on and author of Inside The Beltway: Offbeat Stories, Scoops, and Shenanigans from around the Nation's Capital .

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