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Inside the Beltway

- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 9, 2005

Filibuster and mayo

How many Americans were actually paying attention when the Senate debated the filibuster around the clock?

Not too many, it appears.

A majority, 61 percent of Americans, could not define or describe a "filibuster" in their own words, finds a new nationwide survey of 1,000 adults by the Washington-based Polling Company.

And if you think that's bad, Americans' knowledge of the filibuster exceeds their ability to name at least one member -- either by name or department -- of PresidentBush's Cabinet.

Our favorite findings, however: 4 percent of Americans polled identified filibuster as a medical procedure, 2 percent said it was a sports team, another 2 percent said it was a household appliance, 1 percent said it was a breed of horse, and 1 percent said it was a type of sandwich.

Blueberry queen

Speaking of the Polling Company, that was its president and CEO Kellyanne Conway, one of the most quoted pollsters on the national scene (she was crowned the most accurate predictor of the 2004 elections), celebrating her firm's 10th anniversary last evening at Sesto Senso in Washington.

Apart from political polling and focus groups, Mrs. Conway -- who we have it on good authority was New Jersey's Blueberry Princess before attending Trinity College, Oxford University, and George Washington University Law Center -- provides research and analysis, strategic counsel and crisis management to clients like Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia (Heidi Diamond, president of Martha Stewart television, was on Sesto Senso's guest list last evening), Microsoft Corp., Philip Morris, ABC News, American Express and Major League Baseball.

"Extremely humbling. It's been a privilege to work with such a diverse portfolio of clients," said Mrs. Conway, who was surrounded by her husband, George Conway, and the couple's 7-month-old twins, George Jr. and Claudia.

In lieu of parting gifts ("We figure you have enough mugs, pens and paperweights," Mrs. Conway said), the pollster provided on behalf of her guests a financial grant to an aspiring women's business owner, as well as a spa certificate "to a stay-at-home mom who made a different career choice."

And Martha Stewart fans take note: Her new daytime TV endeavor will premiere in September in more than 90 percent of the country.

Honest work?

Massachusetts Sen. Edward M. Kennedy will participate in a special Capitol Hill screening next Tuesday of "30 Days," a new television documentary by Morgan Spurlock, otherwise known as the guy who spent 30 days eating nothing but McDonald's food and lived to tell about it in the film "Super Size Me."

In his latest documentary, Mr. Spurlock and his fiancee, Alex, spend a month trying to live on the minimum wage in Columbus, Ohio, where they apparently struggle to find jobs and affordable housing. (Could they even afford to eat at McDonald's?)

"Just as Super Size Me looked at obesity and nutritional ignorance in this country, the first installment of '30 Days' examines the working poor and their financial strains in the U.S.," says the Center for American Progress, whose president and CEO is John Podesta, chief of staff to President Clinton from 1998 to 2001.

At the screening's conclusion, Mr. Podesta will moderate a discussion attended by Mr. Spurlock and Mr. Kennedy, an advocate for raising the minimum wage.

The Department of Labor has set the federal minimum wage is $5.15 per hour, although many states have minimum wage laws that are higher. (If employees are subject to both the state and federal minimum wage, they are entitled to the higher of the two minimum wages.)

Ohio, where Mr. Spurlock sought employment, is one of only two states with minimum wage rates lower than the federal rate, the other being Kansas, which might explain why he chose the state for filming. Had he chosen to stay home and look for work in California, he would have found the state's minimum wage is higher than the federal rate.

Dog days already

Suffice it to say, yesterday's Oval Office meeting between President Bush and Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoganleft the White House press pool uninspired.

"The highlight for the pool was a brief visit from Miss Beasley [sic], who trotted into the West Wing ... to show off her summer cut," reads yesterday's official White House pool report.

Miss Beazley, a Scottish Terrier, arrived at the White House on Jan. 6, 2005, a birthday present from Mr. Bush to first lady Laura Bush.

Required reading

"Wanted to let you know that the second edition of our book, 'The Complete Idiot's Guide to American Government,' hit the bookshelves this week. Considering we are still somewhat in shock that the publishers ever bought the idea in the first place, we are pretty excited."

-- Author Mary Shaffrey, of the Winston-Salem (N.C.) Journal's Washington bureau, and a former reporter for The Washington Times, in a note yesterday to Inside the Beltway.

John McCaslin, whose column is nationally syndicated, can be reached at 202/636-3284 or jmccaslin@washingtontimes.com.