- The Washington Times - Monday, August 9, 2004

Life of the party

Democrats are calling Louisiana Rep. Rodney Alexander a “coward” for abandoning the party Friday in favor of the Republicans.

But it was an election-year switch that should not have surprised Democrats, since Mr. Alexander was more in step with the Republican Party than his 2002 Republican opponent.

In a Dec. 7, 2002, run-off election pitting Mr. Alexander against Republican Lee Fletcher, the pro-life movement for once supported the Democrat.

Yes, both candidates opposed abortion. But Mr. Fletcher would allow abortions in the case of rape or incest — a position that not only turned pro-life activists against the Republican candidate, but led former Republican Rep. Clyde Holloway, a staunch pro-lifer himself, to refuse to endorse his party’s candidate.

All of which breathed unexpected life into the campaign of Mr. Alexander, who won by 974 votes.

Bush on the ball

The Bush family’s golf game was a surprise subject of yesterday’s sermon at St. Ann’s Episcopal Church in Kennebunkport, Maine.

Seated in pews adjacent to President Bush and first lady Laura Bush were his parents, former President George Bush and former first lady Barbara Bush; the president’s sister, Dorothy, and his three brothers Neil, Marvin and Florida Gov. Jeb Bush.

Behind the first family were an estimated 350 parishioners, many of whom stood to hear the sermon delivered by the Rev. M.L. Agnew Jr., visiting pastor from St. Mark’s Cathedral in Shreveport, La.

At one point, says the White House pool report, Mr. Agnew reached out and tapped Mr. Bush on his left shoulder, saying “Fear not … for I am with you.”

Then the pastor picked up a golf club (an iron) and told an amusing tale of the senior Mr. Bush missing a golf ball on repeated swings. Having driven long to the right, Mr. Agnew said, Mr. Bush made a “mighty swing” at the ball, now resting atop an anthill, and missed, killing “about 346 ants.”

He swung again and missed, the minister said. This swing killed “641 ants.”

Then, he swung repeatedly and wildly, Mr. Agnew said. “And finally one little ant said to another little ant, ‘If we’re going to live, we better get on the ball.’”

“The moral of the sermon: ‘What God is reminding us to do is to get on the ball.’”

Sit and reflect

Rounds of golf — not rounds of fire — are being organized by the joint military chiefs for the Pentagon Memorial Fund charity golf tournament Sept. 3 at Andrews Air Force Base.

The first-of-its-kind tournament will benefit a memorial park for those killed at the Pentagon and aboard American Airlines Flight 77 on September 11, 2001.

Catalyst for the outing is Petty Officer First Class Thomas Hicks, a devoted golfer.

“We felt compelled to do something to help the fund, since we have worked in the Pentagon every day since the attack,” he says. “I arrived shortly after the attack and the Pentagon was still recovering from the shock. As military members, we understand the pain associated with the loss of loved ones and we have lost some of our brothers and sisters in uniform.”

The fund needs $27.5 million to build and maintain the memorial, consisting of 184 individual benches — each inscribed with a victim’s name — rising above a lighted pool of water, with paper bark maple trees placed throughout the park.

To be erected on the Pentagon grounds near the point of Flight 77’s impact, the benches will be arranged in a timeline of the victims’ ages: 3-year-old Dana Falkenburg to 71-year-old John D. Yamnicky.

Members of the fund’s executive committee include, among others, former Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Henry H. Shelton and American Airlines Chairman Edward Brennan.

Green Bush

George W. Bush the “conservation” president?

That’s what representatives from the nation’s leading conservation groups say after Mr. Bush last week revealed plans for new initiatives developed to help protect wildlife, water and land resources.

“The Conservation Reserve Program has increased enrollment by 2.6 million acres since the president signed the 2002 Farm Bill,” said Wisconsin resident Craig Johnson, treasurer of the U.S. Sportsmen’s Alliance, following last week’s meeting between Mr. Bush, conservationists and farmers in Le Sueur, Minn.

A total of 34.8 million acres of “environmentally sensitive” lands have been protected since Mr. Bush signed the bill, he said.

The president last week also announced an additional 800,000 acres under federal protection and directed Agriculture Secretary Ann M. Veneman to offer early re-enrollment and contract extensions to secure land-conservation benefits.

• Fans of this column will enjoy John McCaslin’s new book, “Inside the Beltway: Offbeat Stories, Scoops and Shenanigans From Around the Nation’s Capital.”

You can purchase it through BarnesandNoble.com.

John McCaslin, whose column is nationally syndicated, can be reached at 202/636-3284 or jmccaslin@washingtontimes.com.

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