The American Spectator took a break Wednesday from whacking Democrats. It let Democrat Zell Miller do the honors.
The Georgia senator, whose book “A National Party No More: The Conscience of a Conservative Democrat” is the buzz about town, served up a spirited keynote address at the Washington Club Dinner at the Willard InterContinental. The event was sponsored by the American Alternative Foundation, which is affiliated with the magazine.
“The quarterback is calling the wrong signals,” Mr. Miller said of his party. He compared the current crop of nine Democratic presidential candidates to polkas. “They all sound the same; they’ve just got different names,” he said. (Evidently, there is not a large Polish vote in Georgia.)
His party’s vision for peace at any price and higher taxes, he said, would prove a “double feature” certain to bomb at the box office in 2004.
Emcee Ben Stein, sometime character actor and the magazine’s dry and witty diarist, ribbed nearly everyone with jokes between speeches, but the most memorable moment came when Solicitor General Theodore Olson was called to the podium to talk about his late wife, Barbara, for whom the foundation’s award for excellence and independence in journalism is named. She was killed when her plane was crashed into the Pentagon on September 11.
Barbara, he said, “loved everything you stood for, being involved, speaking your mind and doing it with enthusiasm and zest.” He recalled how she walked to the end of their block each morning to pick up The Washington Times and scan it for Wesley Pruden’s column.
The foundation honored Mr. Pruden with the 2003 Barbara Olson Award. He shared his award with his staff. “We wear the mark of the politically incorrect as a badge of honor,” Mr. Pruden said. He recalled how the newspaper spent years talking to conservatives when no one else would. “Now they’re running the country.”
He recalled that he had sat next to Barbara Olson at a Spectator luncheon only a few days before she died. “She was so full of the life and times of Washington, excited about her book about Hillary Clinton. We were so engrossed in our conversation, giggling and telling stories, that I was afraid Bob Tyrrell was about to call us down for raucous behavior.”
John R. Bolton, undersecretary of state for arms control and international security, spoke with renewed urgency of the dangers posed by rogue nations.
“It’s a peril that can’t be ignored or wished away,” he said of countries such as Iraq, Iran, North Korea and Syria that possess or seek weapons of mass destruction.
R. Emmett Tyrrell Jr., the American Spectator’s founder and editor in chief, playfully grumbled about Mr. Pruden’s style and usage rules. “He won’t ever allow us to use an exclamation point,” Mr. Tyrrell, a frequent Times contributor, said with a grin. “I think it’s because he writes in a declaratory fashion.”
Wayne LaPierre, executive vice president and CEO of the National Rifle Association, applauded the piquant Pruden prose.
“That’s journalism,” Mr. LaPierre said, punching the air with his fist for emphasis. “You can’t put it down when you start reading it. He lays it right on the line.”