- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 1, 2007

Byrd shot

As far as West Virginia Sen. Robert C. Byrd is concerned, “President Bush must be stopped.”

He writes on behalf of the Democratic Party this week that the president’s proposed “surge” of U.S. troops in Iraq “is a calamitous mistake the likes of which this nation has not seen since Vietnam.”

The U.S.-led invasion of Iraq was “ill-fated from the start,” Mr. Byrd says. “Once escalation in Iraq begins, there is no telling what ruinous consequences await this nation.”

PBR and rednecks

There was a 50th birthday bash for Rep. Greg Walden, Oregon Republican, scheduled for last night at the Capitol Lounge on Pennsylvania Avenue.

The congressman and his celebratory cohorts even lined up the popular local country music band “Billy Clements & the Pick-Ups.” (This columnist’s favorite song on the band’s playlist is the Johnny Russell classic: “Rednecks, White Sox and Blue Ribbon Beer.”

Mr. Walden actually turned 50 on Jan. 10, but his birthday was overshadowed by President Bush’s televised address that evening announcing the deployment of additional U.S. troops to Iraq.

Problem solved

Actress Fran Drescher, who’s been in town with fellow Hollywood types this week in advance of last night’s Creative Coalition Tribute to the 110th Congress, took the opportunity to lay the groundwork for her Cancer Schmancer Foundation.

The cancer survivor spent Tuesday having lunch at the Italian seafood restaurant D’Acqua in Penn Quarter, where chef/owners Francesco Ricchi and Enzo Febbraro both cooked for and served the star. Later that evening, at K Street’s Teatro Goldoni, Miss Drescher saw fit to point out that Jeffrey Lewis, president of Heinz Family Philanthropies, couldn’t make an early-morning breakfast meeting this week, as he had child care issues.

“But I’m ‘The Nanny,’ ” she said, referring to her former TV character.

Knocking Nagin

A black-leadership network is critical of the “whining” testimony this week of New Orleans Mayor C. Ray Nagin about Hurricane Katrina, saying the outspoken mayor is sending up a “smoke screen” to cover his own failings.

“Evidently, Mayor Nagin will never own up to the fact that, with ample time to prepare and get the most vulnerable citizens out of harm’s way before Hurricane Katrina struck, he and Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco failed miserably,” Project 21 member DarrynDutch Martin said.

During testimony before a highly publicized field hearing in New Orleans of the Senate Homeland and Government Affairs Committee, Mr. Nagin complained that President Bush did not mention the Gulf region’s rebuilding efforts during last week’s State of the Union address.

“I look at what we’re doing in Iraq and how we spend money at an unprecedented level there, how we can set up temporary hospitals and designate money to rebuild their economy, and we have this dance going on in New Orleans,” the mayor said.

Project 21, founded in 1992 and declaring itself nonpartisan, pointed out that the federal government has allocated $334 million for repairing the city, but added that state officials controlling the flow of money have released only $145 million, citing a lack of proper budgetary documentation on the part of city leaders.

In addition, the black leaders accused Mr. Nagin of playing a race card for testifying that “it’s more class than anything, but there’s racial issues associated with it also.”

Hill mistress

We see that Nicholas Kolakowski, an editor for the Magazine Group, won the $500 first prize in the National Press Club’s annual fiction-writing contest. His short story, “Q.” is about a brain-damaged man trying to put his life back together.

Second prize and $300 went to Miles David Moore, senior Washington reporter for Crain Communications. His story, “The Valley of the Shadow,” is about a religious woman who almost becomes the victim of a serial killer.

Our favorite short story, however, was written by the $200 third-prize winner, John Joseph Ford, one of the “Golden Owls,” or so the club refers to its aging scribes. Mr. Ford’s tale is titled, “The Congressman’s Mistress,” described by club members as “a portrait of a politician who may not be a nice guy, but who is good at his political craft.”

Hmmm. Here are a few of the story’s more scandalous sentences, culled from the National Press Club Web site, http://npc.press.org/.

“They arranged a Friday lunch at the Democratic Club when there would be no House floor vote and most of the members were out of town.

” ‘So how are you, old boy?’ Henry asked, as they sat down.

“Gerard looked at him to measure the amount of intended sarcasm.

” ‘I’m waiting for the other shoe to drop,’ he said.”

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

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