- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 9, 2003

Restoring Liberia

Just a short walk from the National Cathedral in Washington sits the Liberian ambassador’s residence on Fulton Street NW, albeit nobody’s been home for several years.

In fact, the residence has sat empty for so long that neighborhood residents and even a church have tried to purchase the vacant but valuable piece of property. But even without an ambassador to the United States, the Liberian government has refused to sell.

Now, at the strangest of times, amid all the turmoil in the civil war-torn country, as President Bush is demanding that Liberian President Charles Taylor relinquish power, life is coming back to the Liberian residence.

“We have been very busy,” Liberian Embassy spokeswoman Florence Kamara tells Inside the Beltway, confirming that restoration of the residence is under way.

So you’re optimistic then about the future of Liberia?

“Of course I am,” Miss Kamara answers, echoing thousands of Liberians who rushed a convoy of U.S. officials in the capital of Monrovia this week and insisted that U.S. assistance will help restore peace to the embattled nation.

Liberia does have a charge d’affaires assigned to Washington, Aaron B. Kollie, and given the international spotlight aimed on his country he’s been busier than most ambassadors here.

“We’ve been getting lots of phone calls,” Miss Kamara said. “Our office is open.”

Spellbound

Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and Gen. Tommy Franks, former commander of the U.S. Central Command, just concluded testimony yesterday on operations in Iraq before the Senate Armed Services Committee adjourned into closed session.

Leaving the hearing room, Sen. Carl Levin of Michigan, the committee’s ranking Democrat, and Sen. Robert C. Byrd of West Virginia got into an elevator.

Certainly the two senior Democrats would have something to say about the just-concluded testimony and the inability of U.S. forces to pinpoint the whereabouts of ousted Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein. Sure enough, Mr. Levin turned to Mr. Byrd.

“You’ve got to see ‘Spellbound,’” he said.

Mr. Byrd said nothing.

“It’s a takeoff on the [national] spelling bee,” Mr. Levin continued. “It’s one of the funniest films I’ve seen in a long time. You’ve got to see it.”

Mr. Byrd remained stoic, unmoved by what he was hearing.

“Senator Byrd doesn’t watch films,” Mr. Levin turned to tell another passenger. “But I’m telling him he’s got to see this one.”

Total silence in the elevator.

Finally, the West Virginian’s curiosity got the best of him.

“What’s it called again?” he asked.

“‘Spellbound,’” Mr. Levin was delighted to repeat.

For those who haven’t seen the documentary, it showcases eight kids who are vying for the American Spelling Bee championship.

Self-portraits

Michael Deaver, one of President Reagan’s chiefs of staff, is writing a book to be published by William Morrow titled “Why I Am a Conservative.”

“For the book I am asking well-known people, from all walks of life, who hold conservative viewpoints, to express in their own words why they are a conservative,” Mr. Deaver has written to one journalist in Washington.

“Your response can be expressed in a paragraph, a page, or more. You may also include a drawing or sketch if you wish.”

Bobbing heads

No sooner did we write that National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice may try to muscle out fellow Republican Arnold Schwarzenegger in a bid for California’s top political seat — dethroning embattled Gov. Gray Davis — and “Rice for Governor” campaign buttons have hit the streets.

The GOP Shoppe (www.gopshoppe.com), official vendor for the 2000 Republican National Convention and the 2001 presidential inaugural, started peddling the Rice buttons this week for $3 each — half of which goes to the Boys and Girls Clubs of America.

“The Leadership California Needs,” the buttons say beneath Miss Rice’s name, although she and Mr. Schwarzenegger have only expressed an interest in the California post.

Meanwhile, CNN talking head Tucker Carlson displayed an “Arnold for Governor” button on TV this week, then surprised former Bill Clinton adviser James Carville with a personalized button that read: “James Carville supports Bush/Cheney ‘04.”

What else is big in political paraphernalia this non-election year?

“The Bush Bobblehead Lapel Pin,” replies Brian Harlin, president of the GOP Shoppe. “That’s right, a lapel pin with a Bush bobbing head. It’s the new thing and very popular.”

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


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