Our story begins when the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission extended an invitation to the president and general counsel of the Center for Equal Opportunity, Roger Clegg, to be part of a panel discussion originally scheduled for Wednesday to strike a balance between diversity and affirmative action.
Per the commission's request, Clegg, the former No. 2 official in the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division under President Reagan and the first President Bush, on Thursday submitted his written statement to the EEOC. But the very next day, the center now states, Clegg was informed that the commission's chairwoman, Cari M. Dominguez, decided to withdraw his invitation.
Clegg, the center says, learned from an unnamed source that career staff at the EEOC threatened "mutiny" if he were to participate; not to mention that several "establishment civil rights groups" had called to object to his testimony (now posted here.)
On Tuesday, the EEOC posted notice that the panel meeting was "cancelled." When reached Wednesday, EEOC spokesman Charles Robbins told The Beltway Beat that the notice instead should have stated that the meeting was "postponed, not cancelled."
Robbins also made clear that Dominguez never personally spoke to Clegg, either to "invite or uninvite" him.
"Those are not accurate attributions to the chair," he said of the charges, "nor did she direct anybody to say that."
As for postponing the testimony, Robbins explained that the EEOC "needed more preparation," and he drew attention to four similar meetings postponed since the start of 2005.
"We weren't ready," he said.
Clegg doesn't buy it. In an interview with The Beltway Beat on Wednesday, he said: "I think the unpleasant truth is that there are a lot of companies (and universities) out there that are engaging in illegal discrimination in the name of diversity, and the career staff at the EEOC doesn't want to enforce the laws against them.
"Unfortunately, the political appointees over there are unwilling to confront the career staff. And I think part of that is they don't want bad publicity, part is because they are under pressure from outside civil rights groups and part is they have their own ambitions to go on to their next job - all things that make it unpleasant to rain on the parade of affirmative action."
The five-year term of Dominguez, whom President Bush nominated to be chairwoman of the EEOC's five-member commission, expires July 1.
MIXING IT UP
Don't ask us why country music singer Kenny Chesney was guest performer at the White House for President Bush's official black-tie dinner for Australian Prime Minister John Howard.
The Country Music Association's 2004 Entertainer of the Year, whose marriage one year ago this month to actress Renee Zellweger lasted only four months (she purported "fraud," without providing details), was sporting a large broad-brimmed black cowboy hat and an open blue shirt.
One of the first songs Chesney performed in the formal East Room setting is "one of the biggest songs we've ever had," he told the audience, "There Goes My Life."
"Call me cynical," wrote Mark Silva, the White House pool reporter and correspondent for the Chicago Tribune, "but judging by the looks on the faces of many in the audience, I'm guessing that most do not have this on their iPods."
Sure enough, in the audience were the Marriotts, the Murdochs, the Eisenhowers - you get the picture.
"I grew up in East Tennessee, and it's good to see (Sen.) Lamar Alexander here," Chesney said, when beginning another song about beer and being drunk.
"Some say it's a backward place," he sang. "But I make it a point to say, 'That's where I come from.'"
Any movement yet, Silva?
"The Marriotts are not swaying back and forth. Nobody is. The next one has a bit of rockabilly in it. Still no swaying," he wrote. "Wait, I see some feet tapping beneath the gowns. Several feet. But guess who's getting sleepy?
"Bush walks up to the stage: As much as we're happy to have the Howards here, it's great to have Chesney here, he says. He asks if this is Kenny's high school band, and Kenny says they've been together a long time. 'At least you went to high school,' Bush says with a laugh and starts to leave. He is out by 10:11 (p.m.)"
GIVE IT TIME
"I feel so loved." - Opening words of White House spokesman Tony Snow at his first formal White House news briefing this week.
SAFER THAN PHONING
Given all the hoopla surrounding the National Security Agency gaining access to John Q. Public's telephone records, we have to wonder if that's what Jimmy Carter's former White House National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski and Democratic House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of California were discussing during their private lunch for two yesterday at Teatro Goldoni on K Street.
On the other hand, the pair might have been weighing President Bush's long-awaited proposal to "combat" illegal aliens, a major topic of concern to Pelosi's constituents.
NIP IT IN THE BUD
Several months ago, Australia's most prominent Catholic Church leader, Cardinal George Pell, made headlines by declaring that "Islam is not a tolerant religion."
This past weekend, the Sydney archbishop traveled to tiny Front Royal, Va., delivering the commencement address to Christendom College's 2006 graduating class. For anybody, like him, concerned about radical Islam, the Oxford-educated Cardinal Pell didn't disappoint.
Indeed, he focused on a "new challenge" facing the world and its threat to Western civilization.
"I want to say a few words about Christendom's most enduring enemy, not to rekindle ancient hatreds but to stress the need for discerning cooperation, to work for progress and coexistence, to avoid disaster. I want to talk about Islam," he began.
"September 11 was a wake-up call for me personally. I recognized that I had to know more about Islam. You, too, need such knowledge. After the attack, many people were claiming that Islam was a peaceful religion. I decided to look into this myself and began to read the Koran. I recommend you to do the same because the challenge of Islam will be with us for the remainder of our lives."
He made a point of emphasizing "Islamic terrorism" and "jihad" and its emphasis on waging war, warning graduates that "these terrorists want to provoke a clash of civilizations. As far as possible, we should not oblige them."
Forget about all the controversy surrounding "The Da Vinci Code." Al Gore's own documentary, "An Inconvenient Truth," similarly premieres in Washington today.
And coinciding with that release, the Competitive Enterprise Institute was set to unveil a national global warming alarmism TV-ad campaign at the National Press Club this week.
Gore "has always promoted causes that would require taking decisions away from the people and putting them in the hands of an expert elite," Myron Ebell, the CEI's director of Energy and Global Warming Policy, observed recently.
"That is what he has in mind when he says in (an) interview, 'We ought to have a level of commitment comparable to the Apollo program and World War II combined. We ought to be pulling out all the stops. Everything is at stake.'?"
Ebell fears that like World War II, when Uncle Sam took control of the economy and rationed energy, "Mr. Gore's ideal would be to give each person a book of energy rationing coupons and every year put fewer coupons in the book. It is a program of mandatory energy starvation."
We had to laugh at Sebastian Ahrens, managing director of Hapag-Lloyd Cruises, who provided The Beltway Beat with a tour of the plush, five-star German expedition vessel Hanseatic while it was moored in Old Town Alexandria this week.
Asked whether smoking was permitted aboard the ship, Ahrens answered that while a "no-smoking" policy has been considered, passengers for the time being can puff away.
After all, he pointed out, one of the ship's guest lecturers of late was the chain-smoking former German Chancellor Helmut Schmidt, who was accompanied on his educational cruise by his wife, Hannelore, also a persistent smoker. Only when the elderly couple "had food in their mouths," Ahrens noted, were they without lit cigarettes.
Which brings us to a rather intriguing European newspaper clipping from August 2003, later picked up by Agence France-Press, explaining the Schmidts' amazing smoking habits:
"Good news: Smoking is good for you, ex-German Chancellor Helmut Schmidt's wife said yesterday. Hannelore Schmidt, 84, says she won't speak on television if she is not allowed to smoke. 'It keeps my brain ticking, otherwise I can't work,' she said.
"Husband Helmut, also 84, is a fiendish smoker as well, rarely seen without a cigarette in hand. 'If we stopped smoking at our age, the resulting stress for our systems would be more dangerous than a whiff of nicotine,' Schmidt's wife added."