Baby prop

John McCaslin
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Posted: Oct 25, 2005 12:05 AM

Once was the time a politician could pick up a baby and mug for the camera. But these days candidates had better be holding their own child -- and if they don't have any children, they at least ought to be married.

Just ask Virginia General Assembly incumbent Delegate Mark D. Sickles, a Democrat who stands accused of fabricating a family in his re-election campaign.

First, some background. Sickles, 48, was elected to the Virginia House of Delegates in 2003, having moved to his district just outside Washington in 1987 to be close to Fort Belvoir, where he worked at the time for the U.S. Army.

In his current campaign, education and schools have become major issues, which has led Sickles' Republican opponent, Ron Grignol, to charge that the Democrat is misrepresenting his personal life to bolster his education credentials.

"Last week Mark Sickles sent a mail piece deliberately misleading the voters in the 43rd District," the Grignol campaign said.

PRESIDENT'S COUNSEL

Be careful when choosing new hires
And make sure they fulfill your desires;
If you want to choose wiser,
Ask a trusted adviser.
-- Yours truly, Harriet Miers

-- F.R. Duplantier

HOW SO?

"The mailer portrayed Mark prominently on the front of the piece cradling a toddler in his arms in a fatherly embrace. The problem is Mark Sickles does not have a child or a family."

Jay Ford, Grignol's campaign manager, says that after their opponent's mailing "our office received multiple phone calls from confused voters asking, 'Does Mark have a child?' We did not know what people were talking about. We knew Mark to be unmarried with no children, so this naturally came as a surprise to us."

Ford added that it "is disheartening to see how the political process has denigrated so very much that a candidate would attempt to purposely mislead our citizens."

Oh, well, at least Sickles doesn't have to change any diapers.

BQ IN LIGHTS

Nationally syndicated talk-radio host Blanquita Cullum ("BQ" to her friends and fans) will be the hostess and stage-instruction reader for "Teacher of the Year," a new two-act satire play by Joe David that has its Washington premiere Nov. 14 at the National Press Club.

This is just the latest role for Miss Cullum, who was appointed in 2002 by President Bush to be the first Hispanic woman and first talk-show host to sit on the Broadcasting Board of Governors - the governing arm of government broadcasting entities that includes the Voice of America, Radio Free Asia, Radio Free Europe, Radio SAWA and World Television.

As for the play, described as "twistedly comic" by Chicago reviewer Sam Weller, it's a madcap journey into the world of "sex education," filled with laughter and no doubt colorful characters. The playwright is the author of four books, "Teacher of the Year," "The Fire Within," "As Best We Can" and "Glad You Asked!"

SHOW PREP

"Whatever you do, Dad, don't embarrass us." - Advice given by the children of former FBI Director Louis J. Freeh before his appearance last week on "The Daily Show" with Jon Stewart. Mr. Freeh is author of the new book, "My FBI: Bringing Down the Mafia, Investigating Bill Clinton, and Fighting the War on Terror."

VIVIAN'S APPRENTICE

You can't be married to the corporate communications head of the Ritz-Carlton empire and not learn a thing or two about the hotel and tourism industry.

But little did Vivian Deuschl realize that her husband, Dennis, a retired U.S. government spokesman in Washington, was paying such close attention.

As Deuschl tells the story, he was having a rather heated discussion with his wife about her demanding profession, and her response was: "If you're so good at it, you ought to write a book!"

What better venue than the Ritz-Carlton Washington this past Friday evening to celebrate the publication of "Travel and Tourism Public Relations: An Introductory Guide for Hospitality Managers." Deuschl, interestingly enough, teaches a university course on the discipline and realized his students were in need of a proper textbook - what Michael Gehrisch, president and CEO of Destination Marketing Association International, now hails as a comprehensive bible for travel professionals.

Industry insiders arrived from both coasts to toast the attentive husband and author: NBC "Today" show travel editor Peter Greenberg, airline industry guru Chris Chiames, Christine Fischer of the International Cruise Line Association, AAA public relations manager Justin McNaull, publisher Anne Daly Heller of the weekly hotel/convention trade newspaper USAE, Nancy Friedman of Nancy J. Friedman Public Relations in New York, Simone Rathle of Simone Ink in Washington, Travel Industry Association of America Senior Vice President Dennis Petroskey and Vice President Dexter Koehl, Ritz-Carlton president and COO Simon Cooper, Marriott International Vice President Roger Conner, and Marriott/Ritz food and beverage connoisseur Wendy Reisman, to name just a few.

Deuschl was even more touched when his wife and two daughters, Lisa and Piper (the latter about to deliver the family's first grandchild), led the crowd in singing "Happy Birthday" to their father. If you've never seen a flaming Baked Alaska birthday cake, Ritz-Carlton executive chef Rich Arnoldi owns the recipe for such a monster.

TEE BOY

That was 7-year-old Christian Thomas, the grandson of syndicated columnist and TV pundit Cal Thomas, playing the all-important position of "tee boy" after the opening kickoff the other day between the Washington Redskins and San Francisco 49ers.

"His is a remarkable story," says the proud grandpa. "He survived serious heart surgery in August 2004, when he was six."

Thomas bid on the tee-boy privilege at a recent Youth for Tomorrow auction, proceeds of which assist Redskins coach Joe Gibbs in his efforts to help shape the lives of boys and girls who have had early brushes with the law.

And what does a tee boy do?

"He'll run on the field, grab the (kicking) tee and take it back to the sidelines," Thomas explained before the game. "Needless to say, I am proud of the boy, and as a longtime Redskins fan myself, it's great to be raising up a third-generation Redskins fan."

John Thomas, Christian's dad, says his son could not have been more thrilled when, recovering from his heart surgery in the hospital, an autographed football arrived at his bedside, sent over personally by Gibbs.


PEOPLE FROM FLINT

If it's not in your bookstore yet, "Do As I Say (Not As I Do): Profiles in Liberal Hypocrisy" will be within days.

The expose, by investigative reporter Peter Schweizer, reveals some outrageous contradictions between the public stances and real-life behavior of America's favorite liberals from Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton and Edward M. Kennedy to radio host Al Franken and filmmaker Michael Moore. Take the self-described "poor boy from Flint."

"Michael Moore claims he grew up poor in urban, blue-collar, largely black Flint, Mich.," Schweizer notes. "Actually, he grew up nearby in the largely white, middle-class town of Davison."

The author reveals that Moore's dad was not "just another working stiff," as Moore insists; rather, he put his four children through private schools, "played golf every afternoon at a private club, and retired comfortably at the age of 56."

And get this, the rotund filmmaker and defender of the little guy once owned shares of Halliburton Co. that the Internal Revenue Service says he sold for a 15 percent profit, gobbling up next some shares of McDonald's Corp.

If the author sounds familiar, his other books include "The Bushes: Portrait of a Dynasty" and "Reagan's War: The Epic Story of His Forty-Year Struggle and Final Triumph over Communism," which was made into an award-winning documentary in 2004 - not by Moore, obviously.


CASHING IN

How eager is one side to cash in on former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay's indictment?

They're already taking orders for T-shirts with the Texas Republican's police mug shot.

Even before Mr. DeLay - charged with violating Texas election law - was booked on the charges, the Public Campaign Action Fund was offering $15 mug-shot T-shirts for sale on its Web site (www.pcactionfund.org/tshirt/).

The PCAF is a "a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization dedicated to reforming America's campaign finance laws." Writing in FrontPageMagazine.com, Richard Poe reports that the PCAF is heavily backed by left-wing billionaire George Soros.

The charges against DeLay involve his successful efforts to elect a Republican majority in the Texas Legislature. DeLay says Ronnie Earle, the Democratic attorney general in Travis County, Texas, is pursuing a partisan vendetta by pressing charges of money laundering.


KING MEMORIAL

"Star Wars" filmmaker George Lucas has just made a $1 million contribution to help build a memorial in Washington to Martin Luther King, to be located on the Mall in a direct line between the Lincoln and Jefferson memorials.

Memorial project President Harry E. Johnson Sr. says that with this latest contribution, more than $40 million of the $100 million needed to complete the memorial has been raised. In August, Congress authorized $10 million in matching funds for the memorial, which is slated for completion in 2008.

Lucas joins a growing list of national figures supporting the memorial, including Coretta Scott King, Andrew Young, Colin L. Powell, Jack Kemp and J.W. Marriott Jr.

In making his donation, Lucas stated: "Martin Luther King Jr. has inspired millions of people, and this memorial will ensure that his message endures for generations to come."


FIGHTING WORDS

Washingtonians including lawyer C. Boyden Gray, publisher Al Regnery, Bush religion strategist Leonard Leo and Father William Stetson of the Catholic Information Center were among the many who gathered in Georgetown Wednesday night to celebrate Kevin Seamus Hasson's new book, "The Right to be Wrong: Ending the Culture War Over Religion in America."

The party for the founder and chairman of the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty was hosted by Mr. and Mrs. Curtin Winsor III.

Although most call it the "culture war," Hasson says the country is actually experiencing a running feud over religious diversity that rears its head during judicial confirmations and school board meetings alike - one side demanding only their true religion be allowed in public, the other insisting no religions belong there.

A summary says the book provides a solution that avoids both pitfalls, drawing lessons from "heroes and scoundrels, of riots, rabbis and reverends, founders and flakes, from the colonial period to the present."

The fund is a nonpartisan, interfaith, public-interest law firm that protects the free expression of all religious traditions.