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Inside the Beltway

- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Backing Barack

Playwright and television journalist Janet Langhart Cohen, wife of former Defense Secretary William S. Cohen, confirms that she is endorsing Sen. Barack Obama for president.

As for Mr. Cohen, a former moderate Republican senator from Maine who was appointed by Democratic President Clinton to head the Pentagon, Inside the Beltway is told that he "remains neutral."

Timely forum

Speaking of William S. Cohen and Janet Langhart Cohen, the interracial couple will host their third Dialogue on Race and Reconciliation in the District in July.

The first such forum on race, religion and tolerance was held in Israel in January, bringing together Israeli and Arab college students, and the second took place last month in Boston after the American premiere of Mrs. Cohen's one-act play, "Anne and Emmett."

The performance consists of a fictional conversation between Anne Frank and Emmett Till, teenagers who were murdered, one because she was Jewish, and the other because he was black.

Mrs. Cohen says given the current national political scene, the upcoming forum is both timely and necessary.

"We want to heighten awareness and focus attention on tolerance and reconciliation," she said. "We as Americans can become the world's teacher on pluralism, diversity, tolerance and inclusion."

Dating himself

That was Chris Matthews delivering the recent commencement address to graduates of Old Dominion University in Norfolk, saying, "I'm not dumb enough to try" to predict who will win the 2008 presidential election.

However, the host of MSNBC's "Hardball" spoke highly of all three leading presidential contenders, calling Sen. Hillary RodhamClinton "one of the gutsiest politicians I have ever seen."

"Life is different than school," Mr. Matthews concluded. "Here's my big advice, and it comes from experience. It comes down to a single word — a single action word — 'ask.' A-S-K, exclamation point.

"If you want something, you've got to go out and ask for it," he explained. "It's about getting where you want to get ... It's sort of like dating. Isn't it? You 'hook up' now, right? Nobody dates anymore."

Kaine poll

While we're handing out diplomas, Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine was the commencement speaker Sunday at Christopher Newport University in Newport News, Va., and if audience response was any indication when Mr. Kaine brought up Sens. John McCain, Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama, the latter is the preferred candidate.

"Measuring response on a scale of 1 to 10, Senator Clinton scored about 0.02," attendee Steve A. Brown of Springfield writes to Inside the Beltway. "Senator McCain scored about a 0.5 and ... Mr. Obama scored the highest with about a 4.0."

Groucho was wrong

Some legal heavyweights appear in the 30th anniversary issue (May 19) of the Legal Times, which crowns the 90 greatest Washington lawyers of the past 30 years.

"These thirty lawyers have upheld their profession's core values of public duty and client service, building pro bono practices, acting as bar presidents, taking on community causes, holding public service positions, and fighting to expand liberties and protect civil rights," the publication notes.

Inside the Beltway reached one such worthy counsel, D.C. malpractice lawyer Jack Olender, for his reaction: "I have one major disagreement with my all-time favorite quip-master, Groucho Marx. You'll recall he said, 'I refuse to join any club that would have me as a member.' "

The lawyer stressed that he is "thrilled" to receive the honors "with my personal heroes like Bob Bennett, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Ken Mundy, Robert Strauss, Joe Rauh Jr., Judge Patricia Wald and Edward Bennett Williams."

Oh, and he also adds: "I'm particularly happy to be in the 'Visionaries' category who are alive and kicking, versus the 'Pioneers in Law' with those who have passed on to the big courtroom in the sky."

John McCaslin can be reached at 202/636-3284 or jmccaslin@ washingtontimes.com.