- The Washington Times - Friday, March 15, 2002

Department of Wedlock

Here's a switch for Washington: marriages that last.

Marriage expert Bill Coffin has just been hired as "special assistant for marriage education," a new position created within the Department of Health and Human Services' Administration for Children and Families (ACF).

Mr. Coffin, a former marriage specialist with both the Catholic Church and the Navy's Family Advocacy Program, is charged by Uncle Sam with strengthening marriage, reducing unwed births and increasing responsible fatherhood.

One marriage-movement insider informs us that several ACF staffers have already taped a marriage mission statement to their desks: "We're going to support activities that help couples who choose marriage for themselves develop the skills and knowledge necessary to form and sustain a healthy marriage."

Wars and such

A letter-writing battle is currently being waged on Capitol Hill between the Republicans' assistant majority whip and the Democrats' at-large whip.

The former, Rep. Bob Barr of Georgia, got things started when, in a "Dear Colleague" letter dated March 6, he called "on all of my colleagues to set aside personal ambitions or the ambitions of their political parties and stand vocally behind the president as our commander in chief in the war on terrorism."

Seldom do congressmen respond to a "Dear Colleague" letter with a "Dear Colleague" letter. But Rep. Thomas H. Allen, Maine Democrat, got out his typewriter on Tuesday and wrote that "this principled stand is a new one for Mr. Barr."

The Democrat cited instances in which his Republican colleague did not fully support President Clinton's numerous military skirmishes, quoting Mr. Barr as saying back in 1995 that "every once in a while there is a policy that is so misguided, so ill-conceived, so poorly planned and so deceptively presented to the American people that drastic measures are called for."

So, Mr. Barr, what do you have to say for yourself now?

In a "Dear Colleague" letter dated yesterday, Mr. Barr counters that "President Clinton's last demonstration of 'force' coincided with House consideration of his impeachment."

And before that?

"President Clinton's only attempt to strike at Osama bin Laden, who had been connected to both the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center and the 1998 attacks on U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, was to launch cruise missiles at a suspected al Qaeda camp in Afghanistan," says the Republican.

"The moved timed precisely with Monica Lewinsky's second appearance before a grand jury in the Paula Jones lawsuit."

We'll bring you Mr. Allen's response, if he still feels like writing.

Washington mixer

By gosh, that was Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld taking a break from the war on terrorism to help Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, Massachusetts Democrat, extend his 70th birthday celebration, the two dining this week at the chef's table of the Acela Club at MCI Center.

Our source says Mr. Rumsfeld shared some "very politically correct birthday cake" with the senator.

Leisurely Gore

Former Vice President Al Gore continues to showcase the bearded look, making a rare Washington appearance at Bobby Van's Steakhouse this week to demonstrate his support for Rep. Richard E. Neal, a Massachusetts Democrat seeking his eighth term in office.

"Gore sported a more casual appearance than seen during his years with the Clinton administration," one of the 100 on hand for the private fund-raiser remarked of Mr. Gore's leisure-wear wardrobe.

Luck o' the Irish

For his annual St. Patrick's Day party held last night, Rep. Jack Kingston, Georgia Republican, ordered an assortment of Irish-made party favors (this columnist took home some nifty green suspenders) from an Irish gift shop outside Boston.

But hours before the party started, the items still had not arrived on Capitol Hill.

So a Kingston staffer frantically set out to track the order, but instead of faxing the inquiry to the Massachusetts area code of 508, he mistakenly punched in 506 reaching a group home for physically challenged adults in St. John, New Brunswick, Canada, luckily dubbed "the most Irish city in the East."

Rather than disposing of the errant fax, residents of the group home put on their thinking caps, forwarding the inquiry to the House of Tara, an Irish shop in St. John. Wouldn't you know the owner of the Canadian shop knew the owner of the Boston shop, and in the nick of time, Mr. Kingston was seeing green on Capitol Hill.

Later, a fax arrived in the congressman's office. It was from the group home, thanking Mr. Kingston for making their day and passing along an Irish Toast: "May you be poor in misfortune, rich in blessings, slow to make enemies and quick to make friends. And may you know nothing but happiness from this day forward."


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