Eye of the Storm

John McCaslin
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Posted: Aug 22, 2007 11:21 AM
Eye of the Storm

Knight and Lady

The titles alone of those on hand for Washington author Alessandra Gelmi's recent book party at the Philip Berry House in Georgetown were unusual and wordy enough that we simply copied them verbatim from the RSVP list:

"Carlos Villarreal, Knight of the Military Order of Malta."

"Rose Marie Caponio, Dame of the Order of Saint Lazarus."

"Count Elio Bondi and his wife, Mary Jane."

"June Gelmi Villarreal, Lady Commander of the Holy Sepulchre."

"Sister Rose Wangui, Georgetown Visitation Convent."

"Seems like a conclave of Roman Catholics," laughs Miss Gelmi, a playwright and former creative writing coach at Boston University. A writer for myriad publications, she's now author of a three-part story cycle, "Who's Afraid of Red?" It examines the Rwandan genocide through the trials and tribulations of a romantic courtship.

 

Worse than '79

Democrats had better hope the mood of the nation changes before Election Day 2008.

On the heels of this week's astounding Gallup Poll finding Congress' approval rating at its lowest since Gallup first began tracking public opinion of Congress, the Gallup News Service opines that the "honeymoon" period for the new, much-ballyhooed Democrat-controlled Congress was certainly "brief."

How brief?

The poll ending Aug. 16 finds just 18 percent of Americans approve of the job Congress is doing, which matches the previous low recorded in March 1992 during the House bank scandal, in which members overdrew their accounts without penalty. Even in the midst of the 1979 energy crisis, when American motorists waited for hours in gasoline lines, Congress had a more respectable approval rate of 19 percent.

 

Caucus first

As far as one high-level group of Democrats and Republicans is concerned, if there's going to be a "national primary" on Feb. 5 — during which time two presidential candidates could suddenly emerge as finalists, based on the front-loading of state primaries — there ought to be a "national caucus" first.

"The National Presidential Caucus is picking up momentum and endorsements," spokesman Myles Weissleder tells Inside the Beltway, explaining that the local caucuses planned for Friday, Dec. 7, would be "a way for voters to get their arms around the candidates and the issues."

"This is a major initiative aimed at preparing voters for the flurry of votes set for next January and February — prior to the on-rush of the de facto 'national primary,' " explains Mr. Weissleder. And talk about a politically mixed bunch of caucus organizers.

The National Presidential Caucus is the idea of a consortium of partisan, bipartisan and nonpartisan interests, among them former Sens. Warren Rudman, New Hampshire Republican, and Bill Bradley, New Jersey Democrat, who are co-chairmen of Americans for Campaign Finance Reform; Republican donor and venture capitalist Tim Draper; Bob Fertik, president of Democrats.com; and David All, founder of TechRepublican.com.

The national caucus day, as this diverse group sees it, would consist of thousands of local, self-organized, Internet-enabled, face-to-face gatherings across the country, convening in caucus to discuss and deliberate on candidates and the issues. Participants would then express their preferences at their choice of a local Republican caucus, Democratic caucus or an open caucus.

 

Eye of the storm

Little did Newark, N.J., realize it would become the eye of the storm as far as the illegal-immigration debate and 2008 presidential campaign are concerned.

Given the recent high-profile execution-style gang murders of three college students in Newark, with one of the suspects being an illegal immigrant twice arrested in the United States on felony charges of raping a young girl and weapons violations, there's no better time for immigration-reform-minded presidential candidates to go on the offensive.

Former Republican Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney did just that yesterday, launching in both Iowa and New Hampshire a radio ad highlighting his plan to withhold federal funds from cities that adopt so-called "sanctuary city" policies and ignore federal immigration laws.

While campaigning in Iowa last week, Mr. Romney reacted sharply to the slayings, suggesting they might not have happened if Newark and other cities that provide "sanctuary" to illegal aliens enforced U.S. immigration laws. Indeed, in his ad released yesterday, Mr. Romney went so far as to say: "That's the problem with cities like Newark, San Francisco and New York City that adopt sanctuary policies."

The spotlight on Newark won't end anytime soon, either. The murder trials of the several suspects already charged in the gruesome slayings are expected to last well into the 2008 presidential campaign.