- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 12, 2005

Routine drill

It was almost a year ago — June 9, 2004 — when Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist of Tennessee was hosting a Capitol Hill reception for close friends of Ronald Reagan who were in town to attend the former president’s funeral.

Suddenly, urgent word was relayed to Mr. Frist to evacuate his office. An unidentified plane — later determined to be carrying Kentucky Gov. Ernie Fletcher to Mr. Reagan’s funeral — was feared headed toward the Capitol dome. Among the Reagan alumni who fled for safety were former U.N. Ambassador Jeanne Kirkpatrick and former Secretary of State George P. Shultz.

Yesterday, Mr. Frist was hosting yet another reception — you guessed it, for friends of Mr. Reagan. This time, the Reaganites were in town to toast former first lady Nancy Reagan at a gala dinner in her honor last night.

Once again, urgent word reached Mr. Frist that a threatening plane had appeared on the radar screen. “Get out” came the order.

“It was almost like a joke,” Frederick J. Ryan Jr., chairman of the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library Foundation, told Inside the Beltway. “Last time, Senator Frist was hosting a reception for Mr. Reagan’s closest friends … and here we had some of those same people on hand for today’s evacuation.”

Fortunately, what evacuees heard was a military jet scrambling to intercept any intrusive aircraft.

Cancer Schmancer’

That was Hollywood actress Fran Drescher sharing a table at Citronelle in Georgetown on Tuesday night with Pennsylvania Sen. Arlen Specter, his wife Joan, and Florida Rep. Katherine Harris.

Miss Drescher, a cancer survivor, was in town to testify yesterday before the Senate Appropriations Committee on the Gynecologic Cancer Education and Awareness Act of 2003. Miss Drescher wrote a personal account of her battle with the disease, “Cancer Schmancer,” in 2002.

Mr. Specter, 75, was diagnosed earlier this year with Hodgkin’s disease, although his doctor says he has an excellent chance of being completely cured.

“I have beaten a brain tumor, bypass heart surgery and many tough political opponents, and I’m going to beat this, too,” Mr. Specter said after his diagnosis.

Last evening, meanwhile, Chloe restaurant and lounge in Adams Morgan was to be the venue for Mr. Specter’s and Iowa Sen. Tom Harkin’s tribute to Miss Drescher for her helping to craft legislation and raise awareness of women’s cancer issues.

The actress, who starred in “The Nanny” and is producing and appearing in the WB network series “Living with Fran,” is the recipient of the Albert Einstein College of Medicine 2005 Spirit of Achievement Award.

Daddy dearest

Democratic activist/Hollywood producer Lawrence O’Donnell is serious about public education — especially at his daughter’s elite school — as Dennis Miller and CNBC viewers recently learned.

Mr. O’Donnell was a guest on Mr. Miller’s cable-TV talk show last week, discussing the political feud between California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and the state’s teachers unions.

Mr. O’Donnell, producer of NBC’s “West Wing,” said Mr. Schwarzenegger’s poll numbers were sagging “because of public school parents like me.”

“Every single teacher my daughter has had has been a great teacher,” he said.

“You’re delusional,” retorted Catherine Seipp, a California resident and National Review contributor, who also was a guest on the show.

At that, Mr. O’Donnell’s temper flared and he began shouting at Ms. Seipp, who was seated next to him. “I’ve met them all. I know my daughter’s teachers. Don’t you tell me that they’re not great. They’re great.”

Mr. Miller joked: “Listen, if a teacher raised their voice against your kid in a California public school like you just did with Cathy, you’d protest, right?” Mr. O’Donnell responded with more ranting: “She’s never met my kid’s teachers. … For her to tell me about the teachers at the Canyon Charter School without ever having met them, that they’re not great …

“Every one of them, yes. From kindergarten to fifth grade. Every single one of them. They’re better than you will ever imagine.”

Canyon Charter School is in Santa Monica, Calif. (ZIP code 90402), where the Census Bureau reports that the median family income is $174,183 (more than three times the national average), the median home value is more than $1 million and less than 1 percent of the population is black.

While Mr. O’Donnell shouted the virtues of Canyon Charter teachers, his “neck veins really began throbbing, the eyes began bulging and the teeth, like an offended dog’s, actually seemed to increase in number and size,” Ms. Seipp writes on her blog (cathyseipp.journalspace.com).

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

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