- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 3, 2003

Iraqi strings

The Iraq National Symphony Orchestra is coming to Washington.

The orchestra will perform at the Kennedy Center Concert Hall at 6 p.m. Tuesday. Its appearance will be co-hosted by Secretary of State Colin L. Powell and Michael Kaiser, president of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.

The National Symphony Orchestra (NSO) will perform side by side with the Iraqi orchestra, which means Leonard Slatkin, the NSO’s conductor, will be side by side with Mohammed Amin Ezzat, the Iraqi conductor.

Patricia Harrison, assistant secretary of state for educational and cultural affairs, CultureConnect Director Brian Sexton and Mr. Kaiser set up initial arrangements for the concert during a trip to Baghdad in September.

Woman of Valor

U.S. Army Spc. Shoshana Johnson was a surprise guest (for security reasons, her appearance was kept a secret) at the Olender Foundation’s 18th Annual Awards yesterday at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center.

Spc. Johnson, who was shot and taken prisoner in Iraq, became the first black female prisoner of war in U.S. history. She received the foundation’s first Woman of Valor Award.

Another first

We knew presidential primaries were a New Hampshire first, but political conventions?

Historical evidence has come to light that the founder of the modern political convention system was none other than the man who gave us the perforated postage stamp and central heating in the White House — Franklin Pierce.

In a New Hampshire Public Radio report this week, political correspondent John Milne reveals that America’s 14th president brought electing a president out of the backrooms in 1832, when he was 27 and the youngest-ever speaker of the New Hampshire House of Representatives.

New Hampshire Secretary of State Bill Gardner discovered documents showing that Pierce not only engineered the first political nominating convention in New Hampshire, but pressed the rest of the nation to adopt the system.

“New Hampshire has long been considered the state with the first-in-the-nation primary,” Mr. Milne noted. “Gardner’s discovery gives New Hampshire a claim on organizing the first-in-the-nation political convention.”

Before 1832, presidential nominees were selected by congressional party caucuses. Mr. Milne said incumbent President Andrew Jackson was a personal hero of Pierce’s, and Pierce happened to be Jackson’s man in New Hampshire. Jackson sought a second term just as he had broken with Congress over his choice of Martin Van Buren to replace the powerful John C. Calhoun as vice president.

So Pierce organized the first convention, across the street from the New Hampshire Statehouse in Concord’s Eagle Hotel. He then pressed the other 23 states to hold a national nominating convention. Pierce got his way, and Jackson got re-elected with Van Buren as his new vice president.

As Mr. Gardner informed Mr. Milne: “That convention was followed four years later, and eight years later, and 12 years later, by successive conventions in Baltimore. And in 1852 — 20 years later — our own Franklin Pierce was nominated in Baltimore at a convention that was similar to the convention 20 years earlier that had been organized by New Hampshire and by Franklin Pierce.”

Worst nightmare

The new talking Ann Coulter doll is outselling all talking presidential action figures made by toy maker Talking Presidents, the company’s John Warnock tells Inside the Beltway.

And pick up some extra batteries for the Coulter doll, because when you press her button she speaks — in no uncertain terms — 14 different phrases.

“At least when right-wingers rant there’s a point,” she begins.

A conservative blond lawyer, this doll with a brain and backbone frequently sends the staunchest liberals running for the hills.

“Why not go to war just for oil?” she asks.

The Cornell grad is the author of three best-selling books, decrying everything from liberal press to the high crimes and misdemeanors of Bill Clinton. And she now has the honor of being the first female action figure produced by Talking Presidents (www.talkingpresidents.com).

Our green-eyed Coulter doll is clad in a single-piece black mini-dress, black high heels and gold earrings.

“What are you liberals afraid of? Let me talk.”

John McCaslin, a nationally syndicated columnist, can be reached at 202/636-3284 or [email protected].

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