- The Washington Times - Friday, April 5, 2002

Hollywood party

Florida Democrats are shelling out more money $125 per person to hear from actor and Democratic activist Alec Baldwin than they are to listen to former Vice President Al Gore, who attracts only $50 a head.

Mr. Baldwin is a keynote dinner speaker on Saturday for the 2002 Florida Democratic Party State Conference, to be held April 12-14, while Mr. Gore is the featured luncheon speaker on the day.

"What's up with charging $125 for Alec Baldwin and $50 for Gore?" one conference attendee questions fellow Florida Democrats in writing. "Sheesh, is Mr. Baldwin running for office now? They could have made it more affordable or at least convinced me of which politicians will be there. That's more important to me than meeting a movie star."

Florida Democratic Party Chairman Bob Poe says that owing to an incredible response from Florida Democrats, all the special events at the state conference, including Mr. Baldwin's address, are sold out. More than 2,000 Democrats are preparing to attend, and not just from Florida, a state that helped decide the 2000 presidential election.

Mr. Baldwin pledged to leave the country if George W. Bush were to become president of the United States. So much for promises.

Among the Democrat attendees: 2000 vice presidential candidate Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman of Connecticut; former Gore-Lieberman campaign manager Donna Brazile; leading 2004 presidential aspirants Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina, John Kerry of Massachusetts and Christopher J. Dodd of Connecticut; and Democratic National Committee Chairman Terry McAuliffe.

Democrat in disguise

What's the leader of the Democratic Party to do when a Republican president, barely six months before the mid-term election, continues to enjoy the highest public-approval ratings of practically any president in history?

Say the president stole a page from the Democrats.

"Bush pollsters know that Americans support the positions of Democrats, that is why the pollsters tell Bush to talk like a Democrat," insists Democratic National Committee Chairman Terry McAuliffe. "This is another example of the White House telling America one thing, but doing another."

Why carry cash?

Approximately 80 percent of the repatriation loans extended by the State Department to destitute American travelers abroad are not repaid, Inside the Beltway has learned.

State Department responsibilities include assisting American citizens overseas who are in financial or medical distress, through the use of funds transfers or loans. But a just-concluded investigation by the department's office of inspector general (OIG) finds that only 20 percent of the 800 loans made on average to Americans each year are repaid.

The law requires that a borrower provide the department with a verifiable address and Social Security number, as well as a written loan agreement and repayment schedule. But U.S. foreign-service posts, the OIG concludes in the report, don't always collect the mandatory information.

Over the past five years, the annual amount loaned under the Repatriation Loan Program has averaged $688,000.

Evening of Camelot

We're told a capacity crowd of 700 Washington elite will be treated to recreated menus of Jacqueline Kennedy's favorite dishes and strolling string musicians, reminiscent of the Camelot years in the White House, during a private reception Tuesday at the Corcoran Gallery of Art.

Borrowing selections from the John F. Kennedy Library and Museum, the Corcoran, in conjunction with L'Oreal, will open an exhibition that reflects Mrs. Kennedy's global influence on style and elegance while marking the 40th anniversary of her emergence as America's First Lady.

All told, more than 70 original gowns, dresses and suits and accessories, including many pieces Mrs. Kennedy wore during her historic visit to Paris in 1961 with President Kennedy, will be on display.

Members of Congress and the Bush administration, French Ambassador Francois Bujon de l'Estang, and L'Oreal President and CEO Jean-Paul Agon are among just a few of the Kennedy admirers who will be on hand.


The Conventional Strike Weapons Program Manager for Evolving Resources Inc., Faye Hawes, writes: "Yesterday, I was visiting the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, Calif., where I ran across the following quote, which hit me as very timely with recent events. Maybe President Bush, his Cabinet and our elected representatives in Congress should think about this quote as well:

"'If history teaches us anything, it teaches that simple-minded appeasement or wishful thinking about our adversaries is folly. It means the betrayal of our past, the squandering of our freedom.'"

President Reagan delivered those words in Orlando, Fla., on March 3, 1983.

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