Debating Kerry

Posted: Sep 30, 2004 12:00 AM

Tommy "The Matchmaker" Curtis is best known as skipper of the Yacht Club of Bethesda, heralded by Washington newspapers and magazines alike for his astounding ability to match couples and send them happily down the matrimonial aisle.

This single columnist will also have you know that Curtis and Democratic presidential nominee Sen. John Kerry were not only in the same Yale University class of 1966, they went head-to-head in the prestigious senior class public-speaking contest.  Kerry, not surprisingly, was well-known in those days for his skill at debating. Curtis' claim to fame, on the other hand, was getting elected Yale's social chairman and prom committee representative.

"All my work centered around finding women to come to Yale's mixers," he says. "Yale at that time was all men, so mixers were an important part of the school's - and my - social life."

Back to the speaking contest, the institution's austere faculty, clad in their black suits and ties, assumed their appointed places around Woolsey Hall as the competition commenced.

"John was the odds-on favorite," recalls Curtis. "He was the star debater, president of Yale's political union. I was like a walk-on - a 100-to-1 shot. I walked out there completely unprepared."

How bad did Kerry defeat you?

"I defeated John hands down," Curtis says. "I was first runner-up, finishing second place. John finished somewhere down the line."


Should a vacancy occur soon on the bench of the U.S. Supreme Court, this columnist would like to nominate Pennsylvania Supreme Court Justice Michael Eakin.

If for no other reason than to bring a smile to the faces of newspaper readers when unpopular rulings are handed down.

Take last week, when Pennsylvania's highest court decided that the state's drunken driving law was unconstitutionally vague and therefore could not be enforced against those on horseback.

To make a long night short, a man riding a horse along a dark road was rear-ended by a man driving a pickup. However, both men failed sobriety tests. In the end, the court ruled that only the driver of the truck could be charged with driving drunk.

As for Justice Eakin, he issued the lone dissent by observing that the rules of the road "apply to the driver of the mustang and Mustang alike."

And as he is so fond of doing, writes Associated Press scribe Joe Mandak, the justice issued his opinion in rhyme, summing up his dissent with two stanzas mimicking the theme song of television's "Mister Ed" - a '60s sitcom about a talking horse:

"A horse is a horse, of course, of course, but the Vehicle Code does not divorce its application from, perforce, a steed as my colleagues said.

"'It's not vague,' I'll say until I'm hoarse, and whether a car, a truck or horse this law applies with equal force, and I'd reverse instead."

'CELSIUS 41.11'

Celsius 41.11 is said to be the temperature at which the brain begins to die. A fitting title, therefore, one might argue, of a new film premiering Wednesday night at Loews Georgetown Cinema, revealing "the truth behind the lies of 'Fahrenheit 9/11'" - liberal activist Michael Moore's controversial film about President Bush's war on terrorism.

"I saw the impact of 'Fahrenheit 9/11,' the impact it had on the public debate. It changed the dynamic of the debate . . . although it was a political commercial disguised as a movie," "Celsius 41.11" executive producer David Bossie told The Beltway Beat before the premiere.

"So, I decided somebody must take this on; somebody has to have a response to this. It's not right to let it sit out there by itself," he said of "Fahrenheit 9/11." "When lies are told consistently, over and over again, they become the truth in perception. I said 'enough is enough.' "

Bossie, president of the grass-roots lobby Citizens United who previously headed the Center for Government Integrity, picked up the phone and called Hollywood heavyweight Lionel Chetwynd. He agreed to write and produce the film.

With the clock racing towards Election Day, the filmmakers are busy arranging national distribution, although "Celsius 41.11" already is showing on DVD and VHS.


Rosie and Kelli O'Donnell have RSVP'd for the eighth annual dinner of the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), the largest homosexual political organization in the country, to be held Oct. 8 at the Washington Convention Center.

The group sold 3,000 tickets to the event, which will feature appearances by 2004 Democratic presidential aspirant the Rev. Al Sharpton and actress Jessica Lange, who recently starred in the made-for-cable movie "Normal," playing the role of a spouse whose husband decides to have a sex-change operation. Lange will be presented with an HRC award for that acting experience.

Also to be honored by the HRC is Bishop Gene Robinson, the first openly homosexual bishop in the Episcopal Church, while Rosie and Kelli O'Donnell will be feted for their "tireless advocacy on behalf of children."

Last but not least, D.C. Council member David A. Catania, at-large Republican, will be presented with an HRC award "for his bold criticism" of President Bush.


With the presidential debates upon us, the subject of potential gaffes by President Bush has returned to the spotlight.

"The media talking heads rattle off a series of past candidate's verbal missteps and how one of these might doom the president's re-election chances," observes Bob Emmrich, a political observer in Cincinnati. "The problem is compounded by Senator (John) Kerry's reputed 'gift' of speech.

"I am struck, through all of this, by the fact that, no matter how the president says things, everyone on earth knows exactly what he said and that he means every word of it. On the other hand, despite Senator Kerry's eloquence, his defenders spend their time explaining what he said, when he said it, why he said it and often, what he actually meant."