Behold the peacock

John McCaslin
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Posted: May 23, 2006 7:05 PM

A primary reason for David Naylor-Leyland's first-ever trip to Washington was to host a luncheon this week showcasing his luxurious Dukes Hotel, in the heart of London between Mayfair and Green Park.

The other, strangely enough, was to visit his great-great-grandfather Frederick R. Leyland's London dining room - otherwise known as James Whistler's Peacock Room - which in 1919 was transported here and reconstructed in the new Freer Gallery of Art.

"It was a rather marvelous and emotional thing for me to see," Naylor-Leyland tells The Beltway Beat, referring not only to the lavishly decorated dining room - an expensive leather interior that Whistler painted over with paintings of peacock feathers (needless to say, Leyland, a wealthy ship owner, was not amused, and a rift ensued between the two) - but also to portraits he saw for the first time yesterday of his family, including a Whistler portrait of Leyland completed in 1873.

And did Mr. Naylor-Leland notice any resemblance to his distant relative?

"Fun enough, I thought my cousin and father looked like him," answered the Englishman.

Before he went into the hotel business, Naylor-Leland was a jockey, riding 80 winners in European point-to-points and under National Hunt Rules. In 1989, he rode in the Grand National, but shortly after his last race in 1990, he broke his neck while hunting.

He now plays golf.


FOX COLONY

As we have pointed out previously, Rep. Ted Poe, Texas Republican, made a name for himself as a straight-talking, no-nonsense felony court judge in Houston, most famous for his "shame punishment" of criminals.

Now, the freshman lawmaker has voiced some of the strongest words yet in this country's immigration debate.

"Mr. Speaker, the United States is under attack," Poe declared in recent days. "And like Dec. 7, 1941, we are asleep on a Sunday morning. . . . We are being invaded, we are being colonized, and there are insurgents from the nation of Mexico and their allies further south."

Furthermore, leading the charge of those who "want Mexico to occupy this entire land," he charged, is Mexican President Vicente Fox, a longtime ally of President Bush. "And it is obvious from the actions from Generalissimo Fox in Mexico that this is his intention."

Among other examples, he drew attention to the Mexican government furnishing Spanish-language books to school districts in Los Angeles. "And in those books they teach that this land, Los Angeles, still belongs to Mexico," Poe charged.

"You know, Vicente Fox, Generalissimo Fox, is really a fox in fox clothing," he said. "He stays behind the border and sends his people here and expects them to colonize and invade the United States."


AGE-OLD QUESTION

As with the chicken or the egg, it's a question of what came first - the wind or the water?

That answer could ultimately lie with the inspector general of the Department of Homeland Security. Hanging in the balance: tens of thousands of insurance claims by south Mississippians, whose homes were destroyed by Hurricane Katrina.

"When people lost their homes - when, on the day after the storm, there was nothing there and they tried to settle with their insurance company - in almost every instance, the insurance companies refused to pay on homeowners' policies, citing those homes had been destroyed by water and not wind," explains Rep. Gene Taylor, Mississippi Democrat.

"And, of course, when your house isn't there, you don't have much of an arguing position."

So, the congressman says he will offer an amendment to the National Flood Insurance Program when it comes before the House next month that asks the inspector general's office to investigate if insurance companies responding to Katrina committed a "crime" not only against the residents of Mississippi, but all Americans.

"Because when the Allstates, the Nationwides, the Farm Bureaus, the State Farms of the world refused to pay the claim on a homeowner's policy and shifted that cost to the National Flood Insurance Program, I suspect that they took costs that they should have paid out of their pockets and their stockholders' pockets and shifted those costs unfairly and, in my opinion, criminally to the taxpayer," Taylor says.

Many insurance-adjustment agents told coastal residents their houses were "washed away, and there was no wind damage," the congressman notes. However, he cites logs from the Navy Meteorological Command showing that in several communities there were 6 to 8 hours of 120-to-180-mile-an-hour winds before the water ever arrived.


DICK'S TURN?

Lynne Cheney is the successful author of numerous books. And Mary Cheney is getting rave reviews for her new book, "Now It's My Turn: A Daughter's Chronicle of Political Life."

And what in the coming years might we read from husband and father Vice President Dick Cheney?

"If I had written a book, I would not have gotten this job that I have today," Cheney told The Beltway Beat at his daughter's book party last Friday night at the Palm, suggesting any tell-all tome of his would ruffle some feathers and step on toes.

Arguably one of the most powerful and high-profile vice presidents in American history, Cheney will have plenty to write about after his second and presumably final term in office expires. (Come to think of it, his recent hunting accident alone could fill a chapter.)

"I will consider a book when that time comes," Cheney said.

Which is music to Mary Matalin's ears. A former senior aide to Cheney at the White House, she heads the new conservative imprint Threshold for Simon & Schuster, which just published Mary Cheney's book.


RISKY EXERCISE

With a broken collarbone, Michael Wood, nominee to become the next U.S. ambassador to Sweden, is recovering after his weekend biking accident in the company of President Bush in nearby Beltsville.

The White House described the mishap as a "one-rider fall," and for that matter, Wood drove himself home from the White House before seeking medical treatment.

Bush, who has suffered plenty of his own scrapes and bruises while tumbling off his $5,474 mountain bike, later telephoned to check up on his nominee, who is founder and president of a Washington investments firm.


HEAR YE! HEAR YE!

Most presidential proclamations go unnoticed. But not the one just issued by President Bush, not after last year's record number of hurricanes that caused devastation across an entire region of the United States.

Declaring this week National Hurricane Preparedness Week, Bush wants all public officials and government agencies to highlight their preparations for the 2006 hurricane season, which begins June 1.


NIXON ERA

U.S. Archivist Allen Weinstein says a University of Virginia professor, Timothy Naftali, will become the first director of the Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum in Yorba Linda, Calif., as it prepares to join 11 other presidential libraries as part of the National Archives system.

Naftali, director of UVa's Presidential Recordings Program, assume his duties Oct. 16.

"As the representative of a younger generation of scholars, he will be able to set a new tone for a national center to study the Nixon era," Weinstein notes.

A sad portion of that era will soon be transferred from archives' storage facility in Maryland to Yorba Linda: 44 million pages of textual records, and more than 3,000 hours of presidential-tale recordings - no doubt several minutes missing, here or there.