Saddam Flush

John McCaslin
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Posted: Apr 30, 2003 12:00 AM

The unique playing cards featuring Iraq's 55 "most wanted" former leaders have become a hot collector's item from here to Baghdad.

In the past two weeks, Nick Lucca, of greatUSAflags.com, says his distributorship has sold more than 700,000 decks, each at a cost of about $6.

Interestingly enough, at least 2,000 decks were ordered by U.S. troops still deployed in and around Iraq (the Pentagon reportedly produced only 200 decks for its top military officials).

"One of the first orders we received was from Kuwait," Lucca told this column in a phone interview. "A top military official there ordered 111 decks for his troops that were about to go home.

"We gave him a real good price," he added, "and I asked only one favor - that he take a picture of the troops holding the cards. He said that would be OK, except that the military won't let the faces of its special forces troops be photographed."

Lucca's company in Illinois is the official distributor of the glossy cards produced by the United States Playing Card Co., the leading playing card company in the world.

"This is one of the hottest items in the country and we can barely keep them in stock," he says, adding that their casino-quality stock makes for a great poker night. Particularly if you're holding a royal flush, Saddam high.

ASPEN ANYONE?

Dani Doane is director of House Relations for the Heritage Foundation. In that capacity, she has just distributed to senior management of the Washington think tank the latest complete list of congressional caucuses.

"It is quite sizeable - I counted 139 - which means about one out of every four members 'chairs' a caucus," Doane wrote in a memo. "They have to re-register every year, which means they are active but (the) level of activity is always varied."

Some of the more intriguing caucuses:

The Congressional Ski and Snowboard Caucus, Horse Caucus, House Potato Caucus, Congressional Bike Caucus, Congressional Caucus on Sri Lankan Americans, Congressional Entertainment Caucus, Congressional Furnishings Caucus, Congressional Organic Caucus, Hellenic Caucus, Religious Prisoners Congressional Task Force, and the Silk Road Caucus.

MORE DONNAS?

We already knew CNN was losing viewers. Has it now lost its clout?

Donna Brazile, Al Gore's outspoken presidential campaign manager and now top minority voter outreach adviser to the Democratic National Committee (she recently warned that Democrats cannot take black voters for granted in 2004 because Republicans are making "inroads" into one of the party's most loyal voting blocs), was asked last week by CNN to appear in the popular 8:30 a.m. time slot.

That happened to be the same time Brazile agreed to be interviewed by Jim Blasingame, creator and host of the radio/Internet talk show "The Small Business Advocate."

"Guess what she did," Blasingame wrote later to a few of his listeners. "She told CNN she had already made a commitment and would have to pass. I told her, on the air today, that I thought she should be America's first woman president. The Democrats - heck, politicians period - need to start cloning Donna Braziles."

NORMANDY TO BAGHDAD

What does the soon-to-conclude war in Iraq have to do with the quaint town of Moberly, Mo. (population 12,839)?

The latter is the picturesque site of the annual Gen. Omar Bradley Lecture, to be given this May 12 by Anthony J. Principi, secretary of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

"The lecture is part of a daylong event honoring the memory of Gen. Bradley, a native of Moberly, who commanded the largest American army ever assembled, was the last five-star general officer in the American military and was the first chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff," says the lecture's spokesman, Samuel C. Richardson II.

Richardson educates people that President Harry S. Truman named Gen. Bradley to head the Veterans Administration on V-J Day in 1945.

"All the boys did what you told them to do, and now it's your job to take care of them," Gen. Bradley said the president told him on the occasion of accepting the VA post.

Given the current world climate, speakers throughout the day this year are expected to compare the performance of the American military in Operation Iraqi Freedom with the armed forces Gen. Bradley commanded in World War II and the Korean War.

Principi will be introduced by Sen. Christopher S. Bond (R-Mo.). After his lecture, a keynote address will be delivered by fellow Missouri Republican Rep. Kenny Hulshof.

HELEN'S WAR STRATEGY

Helen Thomas, who has long been at the White House, first for UPI and lately with Hearst Newspapers, regards herself as "the dean of the White House press." She often lectures on the necessity of a disinterested and impartial press. But her hostility to Israel would be legendary if it were not real, and long-running.

Barry Rubin, of the Jerusalem Post, tells of a journalists' dinner with Tariq Aziz, the right-hand man of Saddam Hussein who is now in U.S. military custody, at the Iraqi Embassy in Washington in 1984.

Dean Thomas interrupted Aziz with a question: "Why didn't you retaliate against Israel when (it) destroyed your nuclear reactor?"

Aziz tried to brush off the question. She persisted, and he resisted. Mzz Thomas, described by the Wall Street Journal as "American journalism's nutty old aunt in the attic," answered her own question. "Just yellow, I guess."

CAN'T BLAME FIDEL

Albert Fox, who's spent years working to lift the travel ban to Cuba, was upset after directors of the Cuba Policy Foundation, created in the wake of the Elian Gonzalez episode, resigned over Fidel Castro's recent human rights crackdown.

Or did the crackdown happen to come along at an opportune time?

"They were disingenuous in their public statement," says Fox of the Alliance for a Responsible Cuba Policy Foundation. "They folded for two reasons: one, because in light of the crackdown, it is conventional wisdom that nothing will happen on Capitol Hill for at least a year.

"And two, funding is hard. They were out of money. It had nothing to do with principle."

Fox said the group's "self-serving" public statement "demeans all the hard work" others have accomplished to lift the travel ban and U.S. economic embargo on Cuba.

Another insider, speaking on the condition of anonymity, agreed that the resignations "were a death-with-dignity ploy."

"They ran out of money."

The first director of the Cuba Policy Foundation was Sally Grooms Cowal, a former ambassador to Trinidad and Tobago. She resigned several months ago over a funding dispute with Smith Bagley's Arca Foundation, a Democratic philanthropy organization. Arca says it gave the foundation $450,000 in 2001.

CITIZEN KAYNE

A former cop-turned-political strategist is the new president of the National Rifle Association, succeeding actor Charlton Heston, who served an unprecedented five years.

Kayne Robinson was elected unanimously Monday (April 28) by the NRA board of directors. Wayne LaPierre, the chief executive of the association, said "as a career law enforcement officer, Kayne understands the difference between the rights of lawful firearms owners and the blight of violent criminals on the streets."

Robinson is former chief of detectives and assistant chief of the Des Moines, Iowa, Police Department. During the 2000 campaigns, he was chairman of the Republican Party of Iowa and helped produce the 1999 Iowa straw poll and the 2000 Iowa presidential caucus, the first in the nation.