- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 25, 2003

Premier prankster

For three decades, Don Novello (aka Father Guido Sarducci) — writing letters as a “concerned citizen” under the fictional name Lazlo Toth — has fooled everybody from President Richard M. Nixon to Spanish Gen. Francisco Franco, both of whom wrote back and ended up in the 1977 bestseller “The Lazlo Letters.”

Now a new third book by Mr. Novello, “From Bush to Bush: The Lazlo Toth Letters,” picks up with the first President Bush and covers everything through to Dubya.

“Dear General Myers,” Lazlo writes to Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Richard B. Myers. “My new dentist went to dental school in Kabul, and still has relatives living in Afghanistan, and they wrote him that one thing that has changed since the war started, is that meat is much more plentiful.

“But his Aunt is a little worried, and I told him I’d write to you to try to help him answer her question: Is it safe to eat goats, or other animals, that were killed in air strikes? Does it make any difference if they were killed by a bomb or by a missile?”

On his personal stationery, Gen. Myers wrote back, “Dear Mr. Toth: Thank you for the letter regarding conditions in Afghanistan. It is good to know that the situation has improved somewhat. Since the first of the year, food distribution has resumed and more and more people have been returning to their homes. Please pardon the delay in answering … Best wishes, Richard B. Myers.” The general skirted the query on ordnance-killed goats.

As soon as Al Gore accepted a top position with MetWest Financial, Lazlo wrote to request that the former vice president handle his 401(k). MetWest wrote back and said they’d be happy to oblige. The fictional character even wrote to George W. Bush, offering his opinion on pressing issues. Dubya responded with a thank-you note and a set of Bush-Cheney campaign buttons.

But our favorite of all is when Lazlo writes to warn North Korea’s “Great Leader” Kim Jong-il that former Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright “has a crush on you.”

Leading by example

A friendly reminder to D.C. Council member David A. Catania, at-large Republican, that the official license plates on his green BMW expired in June 2003. We’d hate to see him get ticketed like the rest of us.

Bloody money

Two years after war was declared on terrorism, terrorist networks are not only still operating, they’re busy plotting their next atrocious acts.

“For the terrorists, it is still business as usual,” warns Middle East expert Rachel Ehrenfeld, director of the American Center for Democracy and a consultant to the Pentagon on terrorism.

In her new book, “Funding Evil: How Terrorism is Financed — and How to Stop It,” Miss Ehrenfeld notes terrorists need money to pay for recruitment, travel, training camps, weapons, bribes, propaganda, housing, food and day-to-day maintenance expenses.

“The U.S. and other democracies are losing the war due to misdirected efforts,” she says. “We have not been effective in shutting down their access to funding.”

She provides a road map illustrating the funding of terrorist organizations, particularly Islamic fundamentalists. She places some blame on “political corruption,” but says illegal drugs are the major source of funding for terrorism.

Miss Ehrenfeld has most recently been consulting with the Defense Department’s Threat Reduction Agency.

Call Ted

Owing to “breaking news” in Washington this week, former White House political director and McGuire-Woods Vice President Frank Donatelli — a frequently sought-after commentator — found himself bumped from interviews with MSNBC, CNBC and Fox.

“I think I’ve been canceled more often than the Smothers Brothers,” he was overheard to remark.

But we’re also reminded this week that when offering an opinion on television, insist that you appear live. That way people will hear you. Case in point:

The TV-Asahi Network in Japan requested an interview this week with Rick Reed, a Republican media strategist in Washington and ad maker with Stevens, Reed, Curcio & Potholm. They wanted his viewpoints on President Bush’s popularity, or lack thereof, with the American public.

Wasn’t Mr. Reed surprised later when a network correspondent called to say that he didn’t express the point of view they “were looking for.”

He was “too conservative.”

We suggest the Japanese interview Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, Massachusetts Democrat.

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

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