Oh, Henry

John McCaslin
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Posted: Aug 17, 2006 9:08 PM

We’re told speaking invitations have been extended to Vice President Dick Cheney, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist and House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert for a Sept. 19 gala salute to retiring 16-term Illinois Rep. Henry J. Hyde, chairman of the House International Relations Committee.

An impressive list of Washington VIPs are helping to organize the tribute to the popular 82-year-old politician and Chicago native, from Heritage Foundation President Ed Feulner to retired Motion Picture Association of America Chairman and CEO Jack Valenti to Washington crisis-management mogul and professional singer Christian Josi.

TUPELO HONEY

The annual meeting of the Southern Governors’ Association has wrapped up in New Orleans, where Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, former chairman of the Republican National Committee, was selected by his colleagues to lead the bipartisan group into 2007.

And his top priority, the governor says, will be to promote cultural and heritage tourism in the South, particularly civil-rights and musical attractions.

“Southerners have always felt a special affection for what we call a sense of place, and our culture and heritage are important parts of it,” Barbour noted after his selection. “I am especially interested in developing civil rights and blues music attractions that help tell the South’s important story to tourists from all over the world.”

If you ask Mr. Barbour, Mississippi is the “birthplace of American music.” Come to think of it, Elvis Presley was born in Tupelo.

CHEAP LABOR

Uncle Sam’s bureaucrats must have done a double-take when reading one of the applications submitted for a top job vacancy at the National Institutes of Health’s Office of Laboratory Animal Welfare.

After all, the job seeker is none other than Mary Beth Sweetland, senior vice president and director of research and investigations for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.

In her application for the post of director, Sweetland promised that, if hired, she would change the agency’s reputation from being “so impotent that it is useless” to being a force on behalf of animals.

She also offered to work for less than the minimum salary range to save taxpayers money.

BLIND EYE?

“Mission: Impossible.” That’s how Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, Massachusetts Democrat, is now referring to the U.S. war effort in Iraq, which just recorded its deadliest month for Iraqi civilians.

Calling for voters to elect Democrats this fall, Kennedy says President Bush’s “stay the course” strategy in Iraq has failed, and he wants U.S. troops withdrawn from the bloody conflict immediately.

Until then, “President Bush continues to whistle past the graveyard,” he says.

FERRY TO ‘NOWHERE’

We told you this week about an anti-pork group’s nationwide road tour of wasteful congressional pet projects. The tour has now arrived in Alaska and the once-proposed site of the $223 million “Bridge to Nowhere” — linking Ketchikan (population 7,922) to Gravina Island (population 50).

We didn’t know we had so many readers in Alaska, including Graham G. Storey.

“When Annie Patnaude, of Americans for Prosperity, pulls into Ketchikan to examine the infamous Bridge to Nowhere site, she will not be driving, as local roads do not connect to the outer road system,” he writes.

“To get into Ketchikan, Annie will have a take a boat. And as Annie is waiting for that slow and cold ferry, she will have time to reflect that the bridge was actually to connect the airport on Gravina Island to the city it serves.

“She may also discover that the bridge would have helped fuel prosperity in the region through more efficient transportation opportunities.”

CAN’T LOSE

“The great thing about it is that every time I get to vote, our side wins.” — Vice President Dick Cheney, speaking this week about the framers of the Constitution providing that, in his capacity as president of the Senate, he shall have no vote unless the body is evenly divided.

FRANKEN CREATION

Don’t find yourself getting enough of Al Franken?

Not to worry. Next month, filmmakers Nick Doob and Chris Hegedus will present “Al Franken: God Spoke,” described as one year in the life of the liberal author, political satirist and radio talk-show host.

Washington publicist Lindsay Currie tells The Beltway Beat the upcoming release is a “humorous but, more importantly, illustrative documentary about the weight of the media — especially the comedic media -- on the last presidential election.”

Among those making cameo appearances: conservative pundit Ann Coulter, right-wing radio and TV host Sean Hannity, Undersecretary of State for Public Diplomacy Karen Hughes, former Vice President Al Gore, left-wing documentary maker Michael Moore, Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry and environmental lawyer Robert Kennedy Jr.

FREY REPLY

“Ridiculous,” The Beltway Beat hears from embattled author James Frey, whose partly fabricated book, “A Million Little Pieces,” was all but torn to pieces by Oprah Winfrey when she yanked it from her prestigious book club shelf.

Frey takes issue with our column sources, who claimed they watched the author do an about-face after spotting Winfrey’s best bud, Gayle King, at a recent fund-raising gala attended by 500 guests in the Hamptons.

“I didn’t see Oprah and Gayle at that party. Far as I know, they weren’t there,” Frey says of the fourth annual VH1 Save the Music Hamptons benefit concert, hosted by Washington power couple and one-time Clinton insiders Jaci and Morris Reid.

Actually, we never reported that Winfrey was in attendance. King, however, who grew up in Bethesda and attended the University of Maryland, did attend the party.

‘HERD MENTALITY’

We trust that Lynne Cheney, wife of Vice President Dick Cheney, will be treated to a more accepting, if not supportive, audience when she participated in a conversation this week with Aspen Institute President (and Georgetown resident) Walter Isaacson, part of the 2006 McCloskey Summer Speaker Series being held in the Colorado Rockies.

If you weren’t watching C-SPAN over the weekend, the cable channel aired the Aspen Institute’s recent panel discussion featuring Hollywood heavyweights Norman Lear (“All in the Family”), actor and filmmaker Sydney Pollack (“Tootsie,” “Out of Africa,” “Absence of Malice”), and author and filmmaker Nora Ephron (“Silkwood,” “Sleepless in Seattle,” “You’ve Got Mail” and “When Harry Met Sally”).

One thing immediately became clear during this so-called “exchange of ideas”: while Hollywood likes to preach diversity and open-mindedness, it wants little to do with a large chunk of the American population — Republicans and evangelical Christians.

Our three favorite answers (each met with resounding laughter and applause) to questions posed to the panel: If handed a script in which the hero was a conservative Republican, would they make the movie?

Ephron?

“I doubt it.”

Do you have friends who are evangelical Christians, or supporters of George W. Bush, or both?

Ephron?

“No, I don’t.”

Do any of you know one of the 23 percent of Americans who consider themselves evangelical Christians?

Ephron?

“No, and I am not ashamed of it. I just want to say that.”

Portions of the same discussion also were rebroadcast by “The Jerry Doyle Show,” which airs on more than 250 radio stations nationwide.

The Talk Radio Network’s Lee Habeeb told The Beltway Beat: “We had a blast with the sound because Jerry was actually a Hollywood guy — he starred in the cult sci-fi hit ‘Babylon 5,’ and lived the life of the Hollywood star before taking a run at a congressional seat as a Republican.

“So he had some great insights about the herd mentality that prevails in Hollywood. It drove him crazy.”