Wednesday, December 17, 2003

Strom’s warning

Truth has a biological advantage, observes conservative black commentator Armstrong Williams.

“It doesn’t need the artifice of man to survive,” he says. “It lives and breathes freely on its own.”

The well-known Washington pundit is referring to 78-year-old Essie Mae Washington-Williams, who confirmed yesterday one of the oldest rumors of Southern political folklore: She is the mixed-race daughter of the late Sen. Strom Thurmond, South Carolina Republican.

As we’ve all read this week, Mrs. Williams’ mother worked as a maid in the Thurmond family home — although Mr. Thurmond’s family and his staff, up until now, had denied it.

“Through my long working relationship with the senator, I know otherwise,” Mr. Williams now writes. “There was a conversation that occurred at a 1996 Washington Urban League ceremony honoring myself and Senator Strom Thurmond for the growing bonds between black and white Americans. Back stage, Senator Thurmond leaned over and said, ‘You know, I have deep roots in the black community … deep roots.’

“His voice softened into a raspy whisper, ‘You’ve heard the rumors.’

” ‘Are they just rumors, Senator?’ I asked.

” ‘I’ve had a fulfilling life,’ cackled Thurmond, winking salaciously.”

Mr. Williams says the subject came up again while he and the senator were attending a South Carolina State football game in Orangeburg.

“He mentioned how he had arranged for Williams to attend S.C. State College while he was governor. ‘When a man brings a child in the world, he should take care of that child,’ said Thurmond, who then added: ‘She’ll never say anything and neither will you … not while I’m alive.’ ”

Another flake

Should Americans pay tribute to Johnny Appleseed?

Not if a lone congressman has his way.

Continuing his call for senators to reject the omnibus appropriations bill for 2004 and force congressional appropriators to cut thousands of pork-barrel projects, Rep. Jeff Flake, Arizona Republican, draws attention to this week’s $450,000 earmark for the Johnny Appleseed Heritage Center in Ashland County, Ohio.

Johnny Appleseed, born John Chapman in 1774, was by some definitions the equivalent of a modern-day drifter. He traversed the backcountry, often in his barefeet, clearing land and planting apple seeds — millions of apple seeds.

Mr. Flake, for one, doesn’t believe an odd fellow like Appleseed should be revered, particularly at taxpayers’ expense.

“If an apple a day keeps the doctor away, then congressional appropriators won’t need a check-up for quite a while,” Mr. Flake notes.

Unicorn divorce

Rep. Steve King, Iowa Republican, is not pleased with Sioux City Judge Jeffrey Neary’s decision to approve lesbian “divorce.”

“This situation paints a clear picture of why we need to rein in renegade judges legislating from the bench,” says Mr. King. “By granting this homosexual couple a divorce, Judge Neary has pretended their marriage was valid in the state of Iowa. Unless I’m mistaken, it was in Vermont, not Iowa, that Howard ‘the Coward’ Dean slyly signed midnight legislation making same-sex unions legal.”

The Defense of Marriage Act tells states they do not have to recognize unions granted in other states. And Iowans in his district, says Mr. King, stand strongly behind the “sacred institution of marriage … between one man and one woman.”

“God’s intentions,” he calls it.

“Unicorns, leprechauns, gay ‘marriages’ in Iowa — these are all things you will never find because they just don’t exist,” the congressman says.

Hollywood mess

Washington trial lawyer Jack Olender has issued his annual Top Ten Legal Predictions for 2004, which include his thoughts on dealing with prisoner Saddam Hussein, peace and stability in the world, and the outcome of the 2004 presidential election (“impossible to predict,” he says).

Our favorite prediction is his last: “Celebrities will continue to ruin their lives by exposing themselves to criminal prosecution and civil lawsuits for apparent erratic, sensational or illegal behavior. Some of them need 24-7 legal advisors to monitor every activity. But they never learn. There will be plenty of legal business cleaning up the mess.”

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

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