- The Washington Times - Friday, May 30, 2003

Fan of the U.N.

A U.S. congressman has no plans to remove the blue-and-white flag of the United Nations he proudly flies above the entrance to his Capitol Hill office.

“It is still flying,” says the chief of staff to Rep. Sam Farr, California Democrat.

“We’ve been getting a lot of calls, and people have a right to express themselves,” Rochelle Dornatt tells Inside the Beltway. “But the congressman values American participation in the United Nations, especially at this time when there is a worldwide effort toward peace.

“I think the congressman would tell you that the only forum toward that end right now is the U.N., and we need to make it work,” she adds. “Failure is not an option. The U.N. holds the key to that.”

The San Francisco Chronicle quoted the 61-year-old lawmaker as saying that his interest in the global body dates to his boyhood, when his parents took him to a U.N. commemoration in his hometown of San Francisco.

“I fell in love with all the flags flying in San Francisco from all the nations,” Mr. Farr said. “We’ve got to do everything in our power to make the U.N. the leadership body it was intended to be. … This president has no respect for the United Nations.”

The Bush administration and many Americans grew increasingly frustrated with the United Nations in the weeks leading up to the war to oust Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein. The U.S.-led military effort drew sharp opposition from U.N. Security Council members France, Germany and Russia.

Mr. Farr’s chief of staff, meanwhile, said yesterday that contrary to popular thinking, the congressman also flies the U.S., California state and U.S. Peace Corps flags in his office.

At home in Nebraska

Fifty-seven years after the fact, as far as the two Nebraska senators are concerned, isn’t too late to recognize the outstanding efforts of the people who volunteered or donated items to the North Platte Canteen during World War II.

So Republican Sen. Chuck Hagel and Democratic Sen. Ben Nelson have introduced a resolution to do just that, referring their proposal to the Judiciary Committee and to President Bush for proclamation. And what an intriguing tale the senators tell.

At the start of World War II, residents of North Platte, Neb., got word that members of the Nebraska National Guard would be traveling through the city on a troop train en route to the West Coast. So they decided to meet the train with food and other gifts when it arrived at the Union Pacific railroad station on Dec. 17, 1941.

But instead of Nebraskans, residents discovered that the train was full of Kansans on their way to fight in the war. Despite the friendly rivalry between the two bordering states, the residents of Nebraska donated the items anyway.

That prompted Rae Wilson, of North Platte, to propose to her community the idea of establishing the North Platte Canteen, so that residents could greet every troop train traveling through the city “with comforts from home.”

On Christmas Day in 1941, the North Platte Canteen began serving meals and other items to U.S. troops traveling east and west across the country before being shipped overseas. They covered the costs through benefit dances, scrap-metal drives, school victory clubs, and the donation of cans to local businesses.

From the first Christmas through April 1, 1946, the canteen greeted and served food to 6 million men and women from every state in the Union.

John vs. Jack

There’s another intriguing presidential race under way in Washington that could have historic results.

If John Cruden is elected D.C. Bar president, it would be a milestone, as he would become the first-ever government lawyer to serve in the prestigious post. A decorated military veteran who came to the Department of Justice in 1991, Mr. Cruden is a career deputy assistant attorney general.

One might argue that his equally qualified opponent, Jack Keeney, a partner in Washington’s largest law firm of Hogan & Hartson, has a huge advantage over his opponent, whose ability to “campaign” is limited because of his government position.

Rather than glossy candidate brochures, the latter’s campaign has relied on word of mouth, which is how this column caught wind of the unique race.

Balloting ends June 11. May the best man win.

General’s ghost

The ghost of Union Gen. George Meade must have read our pair of items yesterday surrounding the Confederate Heritage Celebration at the Arlington National Cemetery on Sunday and is demanding equal press.

Be advised, therefore, that on Monday, June 2, at 6:30 p.m., in Room 1302 of the Longworth House Office Building, the Capitol Hill Civil War Round Table will introduce Andy Waskie, “Meet General Meade,” who will present his “first person” portrayal of Gen. Meade.

We’re told the Yankee will discuss his life and career, and especially his role at Gettysburg, where he commanded the victorious Union army in the biggest battle fought on U.S. soil.

Few realize that the general was born in Cadiz, Spain, but we’ll let him tell you that.

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

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