- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 22, 2003

Cuddlier than Dole

Few senators, past or present, have made their presence felt as often as former Democratic Sen. Carol Moseley-Braun, the first black woman ever elected to the Senate who now wants to become the nation's first black and female president.

After one term on Capitol Hill, the 55-year-old Mrs. Moseley-Braun was dethroned amid charges of campaign-finance irregularities and an unsanctioned visit to Africa. (After one door closed for the defeated lawmaker, another soon opened, as President Clinton named her ambassador to New Zealand.)

Now the former senator from Illinois has informed the Democratic National Committee that she intends to return next month to Washington, where Democrats will gather to discuss their slate of candidates challenging President Bush in 2004.

And what an outspoken president this country would have in Mrs. Moseley-Braun.

Months after her arrival in Washington a decade ago, she launched a tirade on the Senate floor in persuading the body not to renew the 100-year-old congressional patent on the insignia for the United Daughters of the Confederacy, which she claimed was out to "preserve slavery."

(Ironically, given the controversy swirling around a statement made at his 100th birthday party last month before he left the Senate, Strom Thurmond, South Carolina Republican whose grandfather fought for the South was one of only three Senate Judiciary Committee members to fight for renewal of the UDC logo, which dated to 1894.)

In addition, Mrs. Moseley-Braun called for J. Edgar Hoover's name to be taken down from FBI headquarters in Washington, and was so liberal in her thinking that she was singled out for voting further to the left than Rep. Bernard Sanders of Vermont, the only self-described socialist in Congress.

On another occasion, while presiding with gavel in hand over Senate proceedings, Mrs. Moseley-Braun violated Senate rules by refusing three times to recognize Sen. Robert C. Smith, New Hampshire Republican, instead calling on Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski, Maryland Democrat, who had not even sought the floor.

After Mrs. Mikulski finished speaking, Mrs. Moseley-Braun called for a quorum, leaving Mr. Smith speechless.

Once, she bragged about riding a motorcycle "every chance I get, and sometimes without a helmet," while offering her support to an amendment to repeal the law invoking penalties on states without mandatory helmet laws.

And the men of the Senate will never forget being scolded by Mrs. Moseley-Braun for having the nerve to debate a bill to ban partial-birth abortions when they "themselves have never been pregnant."

It's "very important that those who cannot be pregnant really should think twice before they talk about this issue," she said. "Quite frankly, having been there, there is nothing more important in my life than my son, Matthew, but I can tell you, I gained 40 pounds, my teeth started to rot, I wound up hospitalized three times."

All of this recalled, Mrs. Moseley-Braun would make for an uncommon president. Still, there's her softer side.

"[I dont] know whether it's being a woman or an approachable, cuddly person, but if I walk up to someone to shake their hand, they will pull me toward them. A hug, a kiss, something physical," she once stated in this Inside the Beltway column.

"How many people want to give Bob Dole a hug and kiss when they see him?" she asked.

'I' for an 'I'

"I'll make you a deal if you tell me where you got the 'I.' from when you quoted me in your piece on HRC [Hillary Rodham Clinton], I'll tell you what it stands for."

So writes Philippe Reines, press secretary to Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, after we'd quoted him middle initial and all, which he's obviously not accustomed to seeing in print.

We came across the full name "Philippe I. Reines" while perusing Senate payroll records published annually by the secretary of the Senate. (Dare we print Mr. Reines' salary?)

Not to worry, Mr. Reines. But now that we've held up our end of the bargain, it's your turn to tell us what the "I." represents. Feel free to e-mail us in care of the address below.

Understanding America

Can't we all just get along?

We're working on it, says the Foundation For Ethnic Understanding, which although based in New York is making its presence known in Washington.

Take the foundation's first "Latino/Jewish Congressional Awards" ceremony and reception, to be held Feb. 5 on Capitol Hill, honoring Democratic Reps. Silvestre Reyes (Hispanic) of Texas and Bob Filner (Jewish) of California.

Last summer, 23 congressional members attended the foundation's fourth annual Black/Jewish Congressional Forum.

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