- The Washington Times - Monday, December 1, 2003

Rights to the bill

It took some “modern-day political negotiations,” concedes Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr., Delaware Democrat, but after 213 years his state’s historic original copy of the Bill of Rights — ratified in 1790 — is coming home.

While history has taught us that Delaware holds the distinction as the first state to ratify the Constitution, it happens to have been the sixth state to ratify the Bill of Rights.

“The two signers of this historic document were Jehu Davis and George Mitchell,” Mr. Biden educates. “And they were quite efficient. Instead of drafting a separate letter, as most states did, to notify Congress of Delaware’s ratification of the Bill of Rights they simply penned their signatures on the Bill of Rights document and returned it whole cloth to Congress.

“And back in those days there wasn’t a carbon copy.

“Thus, Delaware had no copy of what Davis and Mitchell signed,” Mr. Biden notes.

Which isn’t to say the original got lost in the mail. The caring souls at the National Archives conserved Delaware’s original Bill of Rights for more than two centuries, and today it is considered in “pristine condition.”

Two years ago, Mr. Biden continues, the state of Delaware asked that he and other Delaware lawmakers on Capitol Hill (there are only two others, Democrat Sen. Thomas R. Carper and Republican Rep. Michael N. Castle) help negotiate the return of the document so it could be displayed in Delaware — “not stored in the basement of the National Archives in Washington, D.C.”

Not a simple request, considering that the National Archives preserved the original for so long.

“The National Archives is, justifiably, quite protective of its documents,” Mr. Biden agrees. “Suffice to say that it took 10 months of negotiations, meetings, letters and conference calls to come to terms on an agreement that returns this document to Delaware, while retaining the National Archives legal and preservation rights to it.”

So, as of this Sunday, December 7, which happens to be the 216th birthday of Delaware, the Bill of Rights will go on display in the capital city of Dover. And don’t anybody spill any coffee on it, or it’s going back down into the basement.

Independent minded

No wonder a Committee for a Unified Independent Party exists.

The Reform Party is gone. The Greens are at the margins. Ross Perot is writing a book. Jesse Ventura is piloting a TV show. Ralph Nader is back to lobbying. And Pat Buchanan is back on the McLaughlin Group, notes the committee’s Sarah Lyons.

Does this mean the independents (35 percent of Americans identify as independent) are no more?

“Independent voters — without an independent candidate or party — are finding a way to be part of the presidential process,” says Miss Lyons, confirming that veteran leaders of the independent political movement will convene a national conference of independents to strategize about the role of the independent voter in the 2004 presidential race.

Better yet, the conference will convene in Bedford, New Hampshire, and all the presidential candidates have been invited to attend.

And while the independents have no candidate or even party for this presidential election season, the committee is encouraging them to support one of four Democratic candidates who have “initiated connection to the independent voter” for attempting to reshape American politics. The four are former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean, the Northern populist; Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina, the Southern populist; the firebrand Rep. Dennis J. Kucinich of Ohio; and the black insurgent, the Rev. Al Sharpton.

Sinatra haunt

“Sinatra returns to the Madison” — or so reads the invitation to celebrate the $40 million restoration and reopening of the famed Madison Hotel at 15th and M streets in Washington on Thursday.

In that the Madison was Frank Sinatra’s haunt for 30 years — the invitation shows him escorting first lady Jacqueline Kennedy up one of hotel’s staircases — the theme for this week’s celebration is “a night of dinner and dancing,” featuring the 13-piece Sinatra orchestra Swingtown.

And since Ol’ Blue Eyes is now performing elsewhere, the Madison will welcome back 84-year-old Hollywood icon Lee Solters, Sinatra’s longtime publicist and travel companion through 1998.

Mr. Solters, who continues to work a 50-hour week in Beverly Hills, is never in need of speaking material. After all, he’s represented Cary Grant, Judy Garland, Lucille Ball, Sammy Davis Jr., Gregory Peck, Barbra Streisand, Jay Leno — heck, even the embattled Michael Jackson.

The reopening celebration, co-chaired by Washingtonian John Arundel, will benefit the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.

John McCaslin, a nationally syndicated columnist, can be reached at 202/636-3284 or jmccaslinatwashingtontimes.com.

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