- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 7, 2002

Jesse meets Fidel?

Minnesota Gov. Jesse Ventura has some noteworthy travel plans.

He's heading to Cuba in late September to attend the U.S. Food and Agribusiness Exhibition a showcase for American edibles and implements, among other things. The group will pay his travel expenses and has asked him to join a ribbon-cutting ceremony.

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According to a news release, Mr. Ventura will promote Minnesota-produced food and agricultural goodies, joining 150 U.S. companies anxious to peddle their wares in Havana.

For the first time since 1959, more than $100 million in food products including Minnesota corn were exported to Cuba last December under a new federal law that created exceptions to the ban on Cuban trade.

Mr. Ventura told a radio audience Monday that he was going to Cuba to "learn about it firsthand" and called the old trade embargo against the country a failure.

"Cuba is no threat to the United States anymore," he noted.

Ann vs. Paul

CNN's "Crossfire" pitted Ann Coulter against Paul Begala Monday night, and a good time was had by all.

After describing Vanity Fair magazine as "the official publication of the Democratic National Committee," Miss Coulter had a recreational suggestion for her co-host.

"How about a new game show called 'Battle Begala?' Contestants would pick any obscure bad thing that happened anywhere in the world, and Paul would have 10 seconds to explain why it is President Bush's fault," she told him.

"That would be great," Mr. Begala replied. "No, there's a lot I like about Bush, like he's a fisherman and he's going on vacation. I'm pro-vacation, pro-fishing. God bless our president. Have a good vacation, Mr. President."

Time out

"Want to know why books that scream about liberal media bias sell hundreds of thousands of copies? You need look no farther than the cover of this week's Time," observed John Podhoretz in the New York Post yesterday.

"The magazine has turned over massive amounts of its precious space for what can only be described as an effort to erase the truth about the recent past to serve the interests of the Democratic Party."

The Time cover story this week sets forth the idea that the Bush administration ignored warnings and a battle plan against terrorism previously put in place by the Clinton administration.

It's all preposterous, Mr. Podhoretz wrote.

"Bill Clinton is not to blame for September 11, just as George Bush is not responsible. Extremist Islamic terrorism was and is to blame for the death and destruction here and in the Middle East. We have to remember that, and keep it at the forefront of the national discussion, lest we truly dissolve into the kind of partisan recrimination that will make it almost impossible to wage the continuing fight against the mortal threat to this country."

Cozy and political

Americans are annoyed with their press for a variety of reason, according to a Pew Research poll released earlier this week. But the poll found a few curious nuances: We also like our news cozy and tinged with politics.

Among those surveyed, 44 percent said that news correspondents who once were political advisers are a good thing. Half said that cable news hosts with strong political opinions were also a positive. And a whopping 76 percent said they preferred news anchors to "deliver their news in a more friendly, informal way."

Meanwhile, the poll also charted the credibility of several politicians.

Secretary of State Colin L. Powell placed first with 37 percent saying he was very believable, followed by President Bush (cited by 30 percent), Vice President Richard B. Cheney (17 percent), Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan (17 percent), Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld (12 percent), Al Gore (12 percent), Bill Clinton (12 percent) and Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle of South Dakota (6 percent).

Cozy politics, Part 2

A vigorous dialogue ensued Monday night between MSNBC's new talkmeister Phil Donahue and Robert Zimmerman, once the New York state chairman of Al Gore's 2000 presidential campaign.

"Is Al Gore going to run in 2004?" Mr. Donahue wanted to know.

Mr. Zimmerman certainly hoped he would.

"And you're going to be right there behind him if he does," the host observed.

"And we're going to work on bringing you on board, too, because the future of this country comes first," Mr. Zimmerman proclaimed.

The prospect of working on a new Gore campaign perhaps gave Mr. Donahue pause. But no dice.

"Well, I'm flattered by your invitation," he said. "My hope is that I'll be well employed in 2004 at this here cable channel."

A Yankee marquis

His full name was Marie Joseph Paul Yves Roch Gilbert du Motier. Now, the Marquis de Lafayette has become an honorary U.S. citizen.

President Bush bestowed honorary citizenship yesterday on Lafayette 226 years after the French aristocrat arrived on these shores. Lafayette, who was made a major general by the Continental Congress, fought alongside George Washington at Valley Forge and was later wounded at Brandywine.

The new legislation hails Lafayette as "forever a symbol of freedom." He is the sixth to be granted such an honor.

Congress has bestowed honorary citizenship to Pennsylvania founder William Penn and his wife, Hannah; Winston Churchill; Mother Teresa; and Raoul Wallenberg, a Swedish diplomat who rescued thousands of Jews from Nazi death camps during World War II.

Theological thoughts

Michigan recently approved a bill that promotes the use of the phrase "In God We Trust" in state buildings. The bill became law with just one "nay" vote, from state Rep. Chris Kolb, a Democrat from Ann Arbor.

"Many people find it very appropriate, but they are definitely not listening to others who worship a different god or gods, or don't recognize or worship any god," Mr. Kolb said." I just wish we would have a larger conversation on diversity in our country and the type of message this sends."

Other Democrats had their own angst, according to the Michigan State University news service.

"While I do trust in God, I worry that it may be a little bit exclusive," said Rep. Virg Bernero of Lansing. "I've done a lot of soul-searching on that one. Is it sending out a message of religious intolerance?"

Rep. John Stewart, a Republican from Plymouth, called the motto a symbol of America's religious freedom. "I support the idea of looking to divine guidance," he said. "It's a good guide. We are all humbled knowing we are under God."

A different procession

It could be a pretty luxurious ride. In a nonpartisan, get-out-the-vote effort, the National Funeral Directors and Morticians Association plans to drive up to 500,000 Americans to the polls this year using funeral limousines.

"It's a way to use the limousine at a positive time, instead of a sad one," Baltimore funeral director Hari P. Close II told the Associated Press yesterday.

The program started six years ago in Maryland as a partnership between the association's 2,300 members, the Urban League and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

Last year, about 376,000 people in 45 states got rides from participating funeral homes. This year, organizers will offer the service for primary elections in August and September and for the Nov. 5 general election.

For a lift, voters need only call their nearest Urban League or NAACP office or a participating funeral home.

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