The Palestinians have no better ally in the White House than Helen Thomas, the Hearst White House correspondent of Lebanese descent.
In a recent column, she opined that President Bush "loves to boast that his policies are bringing democracy to the region. True, certified elections have taken place . . . in occupied Palestine. But the U.S. has become a laughingstock because it rejects the results of the democratic election in Palestine, where Hamas won."
This week, as Congress approved a near-total ban on U.S. aid to the Palestinians, Thomas questioned White House spokesman Tony Snow about the U.S. role in resolving the decades-long Arab-Israeli clash.
"Well," Snow replied, "the U.S. role is one of working with Israel and, when possible, with the Palestinians to try to generate a peace, the same it has always been, Helen - "
"Then why is it bankrupting the Palestinians?" she interrupted.
"The Palestinians are not being bankrupted, Helen. What's happening, as you know, is that there is - Hamas is a terrorist organization. We do not give money to terrorist organizations. What has happened is that this government has tried in a number of ways to make humanitarian aid available to the Palestinian people. We draw a distinction between Hamas, which is - "
"And they were democratically elected," she interjected.
"They were democratically elected, and they're still a terrorist organization," Snow persisted.
"By your designation," she said.
"Yes. Thank you very much, Helen. They are, in fact, by the designation of this government, this administration and prior administrations. So let me continue my answer."
"Tony Snow is going to be jamming," says our source, speaking of the new White House spokesman joining his rock band Beats Workin' on June 3 at the Barking Dog tavern in Bethesda.
Suffice it to say, in his bid to become Maryland's next Republican senator, Lt. Gov. Michael S. Steele is reaching out to every voter.
First thing Wednesday morning, he was interviewed on Bill Bennett's conservative "Morning in America" radio show. By afternoon, he was on the Rev. Al Sharpton's liberal radio show.
"He has aggressively sought to have his message heard by as wide an audience as possible," campaign spokesman Doug Heye says. "As the (Democratic Party's) own poll has shown, that message is resonating with voters across community and party lines."
Campaigns & Elections magazine has just named its 2006 Rising Stars - two dozen Democrats, Republicans and nonpartisan leaders younger than 35 who've begun making a mark in politics.
Among those joining past Rising Stars such as Paul Begala, Ed Gillespie, Karen Hughes, Laura Ingraham and George Stephanopolous - "in one of the largest and most competitive pools in recent years," says Morgan E. Felchner, editor of Campaigns & Elections - are:
Zach Dietch, national field coordinator for the National Republican Senatorial Committee; Amanda Hydro, head of the College Republican National Committee; Julian Mulvey, of the Democratic consulting firm Julian Mulvey Group; Heather Smith, director of Young Voter Strategies at George Washington University; and Max Pulsinelli, founder of Maximum Impact Public Relations LLC, whose focus is on political books and authors.
PIECE OF CAKE
Usually, a visiting convention chairman has nothing but praise for the mayor of the host city. But not in Milwaukee, venue for the 2006 National Rifle Association annual meeting.
"I had not planned to mention this," NRA Executive Vice President Wayne R. LaPierre told the crowd, "but (Democratic) Mayor Tom Barrett's behavior since we came to town makes me think he spent too much time hanging out with New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg a couple of weeks ago."
He was referring to Bloomberg's mayoral powwow on combating crime, which LaPierre labeled a pointless "photo-op."
"Mayor Bloomberg, it's not rocket science," LaPierre said. "Here's what you do. Walk down to town hall and tell your prosecuting attorneys that from now on, no plea bargains, no reduced charges, no dropped cases.
"A drug dealer caught with a gun goes to jail. A violent felon caught with a gun goes to jail. Discharge a gun in commission of a felony, go to jail. Smuggle a gun, go to jail. If you do that, if you stop talking and start acting, your violent-crime rate will drop 30, 40, 50 percent in one year."
GRADE OF F
One of the most outrageous pork-laden projects approved by Congress for 2006 has to be the $41 million added by the Senate for "Byrd Honors Scholarships," named after Sen. Robert C. Byrd, West Virginia Democrat.
Sure, the intentions are good - encourage secondary-school students to excel in their lessons and go on to a postsecondary education.
However, our friends at Citizens Against Government Waste point out: "There are no requirements that must be met or set goals to be achieved. Absent any defined standards, there is no way of knowing whether students who received this aid ever really qualified for the coveted scholarships."
CROSSING THE LINE
The other day, we wrote about a Republican congressman - Rep. Ted Poe, a former Texas judge - voicing some of the strongest language yet in this country's immigration debate.
He said the United States is not only "under attack," the country is "being invaded, we are being colonized, and there are insurgents from the nation of Mexico and their allies further south."
He referred to Mexican President Vicente Fox as "Generalissimo Fox," calling him "really a fox in fox clothing" who "sends his people here and expects them to colonize and invade the United States."
Perhaps it's not surprising that a House Democrat is now accusing Republicans such as Poe of using the U.S. border-security issue to play on people's fears, inciting "xenophobia" in the minds of Americans and provoking extremists to commit violence against immigrants.
Rep. Joe Baca of California singled out New Jersey-based radio talk-show host Hal Turner, described on his Web site as an ardent pro-life, conservative Republican, who "says publicly what most people only dare to think privately."
On March 29, according to Baca, the radio host announced: "It is time to fight, to kill such (illegal alien) invaders. ... If you don't fight and don't support those of us who do, when we're done with them, we can come for you."
The Democrat also drew attention to an Internet game called "Border Patrol," which encourages players to shoot at immigrants as they cross into the United States.
"This is obscene and crosses the line," he says.
NIXON GOES WEST
Even with Deep Throat out of the closet, interest and intrigue still surround the Nixon White House.
Readers responded en masse to our item this week about the Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum in Yorba Linda, Calif., as it becomes part of the National Archives' system of presidential libraries.
"You mean it already wasn't?" one visitor to the existing library wrote to ask.
Not until 2004 did Congress approve a federally operated Nixon library, amending a 1974 act mandating that Nixon's presidential materials were to remain stored in or around Washington.
Thus, the Nixon library was built in 1990 with private funds, housing only 6 million pages of documents, 150 reels of film, 900 audio recordings of speeches and about 3,000 books.
Now, the National Archives will pack up and ship to California 46 million pages of Nixon presidential materials (including White House special files, National Security Council files, and White House central files), more than 2.2 million feet of motion-picture film, 350,000 photographs, 4,000 videotapes, more than 3,000 hours of tapes (1,000 hours of which have not been available to the public), and 30,000 artifacts and presidential gifts.
STICK TO LAW
Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid would agree there are certain things better left said by Republican Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist.
Like when Frist of Tennessee - a heart surgeon by profession - was explaining the ventricular defect called tetralogy of Fallot: "Tetralogy means there are four things, it doesn't matter what they are, but it is a hole between two chambers of the heart; a ventricular septal defect (VSD) it is called.
"The second is an outflow-tract obstruction from the right ventricle to the lungs, and therefore the obstruction there means the blood does not get up through the lungs. There is an overriding VSD and then there is some right ventricular hypertrophy - the right side of the heart is big and very muscular . . .."
"Will the senator yield?" interrupted the Nevada Democrat, a lawyer. "Would you like me to help explain some of that for you?"
"That is three of the four tetralogies," Frist replied. "I know my colleague knows the fourth is that right ventricular hypertrophy. I would be happy to yield to the Democratic leader."
"I have forgotten quite a bit about that," Reid said on second thought, "so maybe you should go ahead and explain it."