- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Right-wing props

“I have alerted the talent scouts at Comedy Central.”

Kerri Houston, vice president of policy for Frontiers of Freedom, telling Inside the Beltway about tonight’s cast of performers — Vice President Dick Cheney and conservative activist Grover Norquist, among others — for the group’s annual gala at the Mayflower Hotel, during which Mr. Cheney will present the Ronald Reagan Award to retired Wyoming Sen. Malcolm Wallop, the Frontiers of Freedom founder.

We’re melting

Concerned about the findings of a new survey on race relations in America, the chairmen of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, Congressional Black Caucus and Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus — Reps. Grace F. Napolitano of California, Melvin Watt of North Carolina and Michael M. Honda of California, respectively — will huddle on Capitol Hill this morning.

The national survey on changing ethnic demographics by the Global Strategy Group, which was released yesterday, asks black, Hispanic and Jewish Americans for their opinions, experiences and attitudes toward other races, and the poll revealed extensive polarization, among other concerns.

“The results of this survey are disturbing, to say the least,” says a joint statement issued by Russell Simmons and Rabbi Marc Schneier, chairman and president of the Foundation for Ethnic Understanding.

For example, when asked “how would you rate the state of race relations in the United States,” 40 percent of respondents said bad or very bad.

Washington ways

“It doesn’t get any better than this.” Or so Kevin McCauley, editor of Odwyer’s Public Relations News (odwyerpr.com), which keeps tabs on the PR world from its Madison Avenue office, tells this column.

“This one has all the elements: dirt-poor Bangladesh hires ex-Congresswoman Susan Molinari for big bucks to dispel notions of Islamic militancy, corruption and human rights abuses, plus outreach to Wal-Mart, and plans for address before a joint session of Congress,” he says.

Bangladesh, Mr. McCauley reveals, has handed the Washington Group, a division of the Ketchum public relations firm, a six-month, $330,000 contract to improve its image. Mrs. Molinari, a former Republican lawmaker from New York, will lead the group’s Bangladesh team working to “dispel misconceptions about alleged human rights abuses, corrupt government practices and Islamist militancy,” according to the contract between the parties.

The firm also will try to “open doors at the senior levels of major U.S. corporations such as Bechtel, General Electric, Lockheed Martin and Wal-Mart to interest them in projects of importance to the People’s Republic of Bangladesh,” according to the pact.

Finally, Mrs. Molinari will enlist the help of her Washington contacts in hopes of arranging an official visit to the U.S. by Bangladeshi Prime Minister Khaleda Zia. Preparations include trying to have the prime minister address a joint session of Congress, “a rare honor, which in turn would stimulate high-visibility media opportunities.”

CityZen honors

Eric Ziebold has done it again.

The 33-year-old chef who made the French Laundry in Napa, Calif., arguably the nation’s top restaurant, has now brought similar recognition to CityZen at the Mandarin Oriental hotel overlooking the Jefferson Memorial.

John Mariani, renowned food and wine critic for Esquire, has named CityZen, where Mr. Ziebold prepares three-, five- and seven-course menus, among the nation’s top restaurants.

“You’d think after 22 years of reporting on America’s best new restaurants, I’d be jaded. True,” writes Mr. Mariani, who was in Washington on Monday night to host a reception in honor of the talented chef. “I’ve seen the coming and going of nouvelle cuisine, New American cuisine, Nuevo Latino, tablecloths and tapas. I’ve sampled food stacked high in towers, $50 hamburgers and $1,000 California cult wines that tasted like Vicks cough syrup.

“And yet I can’t wait to go out to eat tonight,” he says, having discovered “a second generation of immensely talented chefs” from the banks of the Potomac River to the Pacific Ocean.

Asked why he traded his celebrated stove in the lush vineyards of Northern California for a hotel restaurant some 3,000 miles away, Mr. Ziebold sang praise of a new “vibrancy” in Washington, spreading from the Tidal Basin to U Street.

“And at age 33, after so many years of the tranquility and relative obscurity of Napa, I was in need of some excitement,” he tells Inside the Beltway.

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

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