- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 3, 2003

Pole position

Democrats may lust after the burgeoning “NASCAR vote,” but it’s President Bush who plays host to the drivers themselves.

Mr. Bush welcomed 2003 Winston Cup Series points champion Matt Kenseth, 10 former winners and other top drivers at the White House on Tuesday, counting Dale Earnhardt Jr., Tony Stewart, Bill Elliott, Bobby Labonte and Terry Labonte among the guests.

Was Mr. Kenseth more nervous meeting with the president, or heading into a turn going three wide at 180 mph?

“At first, meeting with the president,” Mr. Kenseth told a questioner during a White House online forum yesterday afternoon. “I’m used to racing and this was the first time I’ve met the president, so I was a little more nervous. It was very cool.”

The president and his staff, meanwhile, know their dirty air from an aero push.

“I see a lot of bubbas who work in my administration have shown up. I wonder why? I’ve hosted champions from many sports here at the White House,” Mr. Bush told the audience. “This is the first time, however, that we parked stock cars on the South Lawn.”

Republican Sens. John Cornyn of Texas and Jon Kyl of Arizona, plus Reps. Bart Gordon of Tennessee, Chris Chocola of Indiana and Mac Collins of Georgia also attended the event.

“Congressman Mac Collins — I knew he was a race car fan. Good to see you, Mac. You are a bubba,” Mr. Bush said.

Starry eyed

Was a Hollywood gathering informally billed as a “Hate Bush” rally illegal? One group thinks so.

The Democratic strategy soiree at the Beverly Hilton on Tuesday was meant to mobilize liberals and start raising $80 million for the final Democratic presidential nominee through the Media Fund, organized by former Clinton aide Harold Ickes. The event was attended by, among 230 others, actors Rob Reiner and Mike Farrell.

But Americans for a Better Country (ABC) got to wondering.

The Virginia-based conservative watchdog group sent letters yesterday to leading Democratic donors, urging them to ask the Federal Election Commission to clarify the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act, and ensure that their activities are legal.

“As fellow donors and leaders of new ‘soft money’ section 527 committees, we are concerned about the legal gray areas and traps set by the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act for our contemplated activities,” the group noted in its letter, signed by Republican strategists George Terwilliger, Frank Donatelli and Craig Shirley.

They are concerned about the potential legal liability of donors to Section 527 committees of any persuasion, they say.

“The uncertainty surrounding this new law is clear,” the letter continued. “You need look no further than Moveon.org’s forced, last-minute cancellation of a news conference last week with Sen. Jon Corzine to announce MoveOn’s new TV spot because lawyers realized just in time that the conference itself would be evidence of illegal coordination.”

Ghosts of Little Rock

Gennifer Flowers will get her day in court against former Clinton White House advisers George Stephanopoulos — now host of ABC’s “This Week” — and James Carville, a co-host of CNN’s “Crossfire” and a political consultant.

A D.C. federal court judge rejected requests from both yesterday to dismiss a defamation suit brought against them by Mrs. Flowers, who believes the pair “embarked on a smear campaign” against her in Mr. Stephanopoulos’s book “All Too Human,” according to Judicial Watch, which originally filed Mrs. Flowers’ suit.

The judge also ruled that Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, New York Democrat, could be dismissed from the lawsuit, a move that Judicial Watch plans to appeal.

Mrs. Flowers, now a singer in Las Vegas, said she had a long affair with then Arkansas Gov. Bill Clinton. Her suit says that Mr. Stephanopolous and Mr. Carville falsely accused her of lying about her relationship with Mr. Clinton.

The case is expected to go to trial in June.

Bartley kudos

The White House announced yesterday that Robert Bartley, editor emeritus of the Wall Street Journal, has been chosen to receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom — the nation’s highest civilian honor.

Mr. Bartley ran the editorial section of the Journal from 1972 to 2002. He won a Pulitzer Prize in 1980 for editorial writing and penned the column “Thinking Things Over.” He also wrote “The Seven Fat Years: And How to Do It Again,” a book on the Reagan administration’s economic policy.

“As a reporter, author, editorial page editor and columnist, he helped shape the times in which we live,” the award citation notes. “The United States honors him for his contributions to American journalism and to the intellectual and political life of our nation.”

Among other things, Mr. Bartley and his staff consistently championed tax relief, supply-side economics, national defense and a strong sense of traditional American morality. Mr. Bartley also saw to it that the Journal published five volumes of material based on the Clinton impeachment years.

Visualize whirled peas

“Twin Peaks” director David Lynch is coming to town Wednesday to help raise $1 billion for the “University of World Peace,” a spot where about 8,000 students will one day “calm the acute political, ethnic, and religious tensions that fuel the violence in Iraq, Israel, and other global hotspots … through meditation.”

Says Mr. Lynch: “One billion dollars is the price of a wing and a tailfin of a single B-2 bomber. Here is a chance to create permanent peace for a small fraction of the $500 billion the government spends every year on weapons and war.”

Mr. Lynch will be joined by businessman Jeffrey Abramson of the Tower Cos. and Robert Brown, former division chief executive officer with Ziff-Davis Inc., to announce the endowment effort for the future site.

The trio will gather at the Maharishi Peace Palace in North Bethesda. Publicists note that there will be a “photo opportunity” when the group meditates together.

Islamophobia suit

The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) filed a $2 million lawsuit on Tuesday in U.S. District Court against Rep. Cass Ballenger, North Carolina Republican, for remarks the lawmaker made last month about the organization to the Charlotte Observer.

Mr. Ballenger called the group “the fund-raising arm of Hezbollah” and said it had caused the breakup of his marriage because he lived near CAIR headquarters on Capitol Hill.

The congressman said proximity to CAIR had annoyed his wife and that she had objected to women “wearing hoods” — comments CAIR characterizes as “Islamophobic hysteria.”

The lawsuit maintains that Mr. Ballenger’s statements harmed the group’s reputation and were not “protected speech” because he did not make them as a member of the House of Representatives.

Contact Jennifer Harper at jharper@washingtontimes.com or 202/636-3085.

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