Pass the calamari

John McCaslin
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Posted: Sep 20, 2005 12:00 AM

Congressional critics of George W. Bush's initial response to Hurricane Katrina were eager to turn on their TV sets during prime time on Thursday when the president, addressing the nation from Jackson Square in New Orleans, delivered arguably one of the most important speeches of his presidency.

At the same time, hundreds of miles away in Washington, 2004 Democratic presidential nominee Sen. John Kerry arrived at a crowded Cafe Milano in Georgetown, took off his suitcoat, and sat down to a shirt-sleeve dinner with three unidentified men.

"The senator arrived at Cafe Milano about 7:30," a network news executive in Washington, who was seated nearby, tells The Beltway Beat. "Senator Kerry's dinner lasted through the president's speech - and due to his positioning at the table, his back was to the bar television throughout the entire speech. He never turned around once during the address."

Bush's speech ended at approximately 9:25 p.m. local time. Lo and behold, when he was still seated at the table wiping squid from his chin, Kerry responded to the president's address with a statement of his own, issued at exactly 9:54 p.m.

"Leadership isn't a speech or a toll-free number," began the senator. "Leadership is getting the job done. No American doubts that New Orleans will rise again, they doubt the competence and commitment of this administration. Weeks after Katrina, Americans want an end to politics as usual that leaves them dangerously and unforgivably unprepared. Americans want to know that their government will be there when it counts with leadership that keeps them safe, not speeches in the aftermath to explain away the inexcusable."

SPY ON SPIES

A most intriguing gentleman is returning to the nation's capital this week for the official release of his new book that is already rocking the United Nations: "The U.N. Gang: A Memoir of Incompetence, Corruption, Espionage, Anti-Semitism and Islamic Extremism at the U.N. Secretariat."

You don't say?

"In reading the title and subtitle, you don't have to read the book actually," teases Pedro Sanjuan in an interview with Inside the Beltway.

And how does he support his subtitle's mouthful of accusations?

"I was minding my own business in the Reagan administration as assistant secretary of Interior for Territories and International Affairs," he begins, "when all of a sudden George H.W. Bush, then vice president who I knew fairly well in those days, got it into his head that since I spoke Russian I would be a great spy at the U.N. After all, the U.N. Secretariat in those days was an intelligence collection agency for the Soviet Union."

What happens upon his arrival at the U.N., which this column unfortunately does not have space to reprint, are most unusual face-to-face encounters and verbal exchanges with leading U.N. officials, including the top Soviet officer at the U.N. who told the newly arrived U.S. official that he had it on good authority that he and his entire family, despite their surname and heritage, were Jewish.

"He ran out saying, 'Not only do the Americans send a spy, he is a Jew,'" Sanjuan tells us. "And that's just the first chapter."

Publishers Weekly says of his book: "The United Nations headquarters appears as a Byzantine bureaucracy riddled with lazy staff, rampant sexual harassment, hectoring anti-Semitism and flagrant drug dealing in this contemptuous memoir. And worse: Sanjuan alleges that the U.N. library housed the largest KGB intelligence operation in America and hints darkly - with no apparent evidence - that the 9/11 attacks may have been plotted by Islamic jihadists at the U.N."

POWER OF ONE

As President Bush experienced when motorcading back to the White House from the National Day of Prayer and Remembrance at the Washington National Cathedral, it doesn't take a large gathering of placard-waving protesters to get his attention.

Or so we read in the official White House pool report: "As the motorcade left the cathedral grounds at 12:10, children from Beauvoir, the National Cathedral elementary school, in their uniforms, jumped up and down in excitement cheering the president.

"Later, as the motorcade was turning off Rock Creek Parkway, a bicyclist stood in defiance with his arms raised and his thumbs pointing down."

'P' FOR PRESIDENT

Here's a problem that is knotty
And could drive a person dotty:
When a meeting's not brief,
The commander in chief
Sometimes has to use the potty.
- F.R. Duplantier

GOOD OMEN?

There will be a President Allen, whether Virginia Sen. George Allen makes the cut in 2008 or not: at least on ABC's new show "Commander in Chief," starring Geena Davis as President Mackenzie Allen.

Davis' character assumes power as commander in chief when the Republican president dies during surgery. Donald Sutherland plays her antagonist as speaker of the House.

"Filming for the show will be in Richmond and in Washington," says LaDonna Hale Curzon of Alexandria, who answered the casting call "but didn't get a call back."

JUNGLE LOVE

Sorry, bachelors, but Washington's "Queen of the Corporate Jungle" has gotten hitched - again.

"Some men are brokenhearted that I got married," Evelyn Y. Davis, the nation's leading minority stockholder and editor of the financial newsletter Highlights and Lowlights, doesn't mind telling PR Newswire.

Davis married James Patterson in a civil ceremony in Arlington - her fourth trip down the aisle, his second. The couple reportedly met after he sent her several fan letters.

"She is a major investor gadfly - shows up at all the corporations' annual meetings, pummels the CEOs with questions, a lot of them hard questions," one of her admirers tells this column.

The couple will reside in her Watergate apartment.

HARRY AND BUBBA

C-SPAN has asked members of Congress which books they read during their summer recess, and topping the list is Thomas Friedman's "The World is Flat: A Brief History of the Twenty-First Century."

The survey, timed for the start of the network's Book-TV Bus, finds that the most widely read author among the polled congressmen is David McCullough.

"The broader list of responses is indicative of the varied backgrounds and interests of members," C-SPAN says. "For example, 'Williams Obstetrics' made the list and 9 percent of participants read an installment from the 'Harry Potter' series. Political memoirs also proved popular: 'Conscience of a Conservative' by Barry Goldwater, 'One Soldier's Story' by Sen. Bob Dole and 'My Life' by former President Bill Clinton all made an appearance on the list of summer reads."

ASBESTOS ALARM

As the nation tries to figure out how to pay for victims of Hurricane Katrina, there could be trouble ahead for a proposal to create a $140 billion trust fund to pay asbestos victims.

A report by Washington research firm Bates White shows the trust fund created by the Fairness in Asbestos Injury Resolution (FAIR) Act of 2005 will go bankrupt within three years.

The FAIR Act, which removes asbestos claims from the courts and creates a fund to be financed by defendants and insurers, simply will be overwhelmed by the number of people claiming asbestos caused their illnesses, the report states. And taxpayers could be left footing the bill.

"When the trust fund goes broke, hundreds of thousands of claimants will be right back where they started," says report author Charlie Mullin.