- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 29, 2004

Memories of Paar

My first memory of Jack Paar was when he had just gotten out of the Army and appeared on his idol’s radio program: the “Jack Benny Show.” My fondest memory of Mr. Paar, however, goes back to 1954, before he became host of NBC’s “The Tonight Show” (“Pioneer talker Jack Paar dies,” Life, Wednesday).

Sitting at a piano bar in Manhattan, a man next to me asked what I was doing the next morning. He told me that Mr. Paar had a new radio show and that he was helping round up an audience. I learned when I showed up at the studio that this man was Jose Mellis, an old Army buddy of Jack’s and musical director of Mr. Paar’s budding CBS “Morning Show,” a replacement for “Arthur Godfrey Time.”

Besides myself, there were about a dozen others in the audience. I recall that Edie Adams, Ernie Kovac’s widow, and Rosemary Clooney’s sister, Betty Clooney, sang that morning. After the show, Jack, wearing his usual blue blazer, shook hands and thanked me profusely for being there. This was a rare opportunity that I’ll always remember — as Jack would say — I kid you not.


Palm Desert, Calif.

On heroes and role models

Your Tuesday news story “FEC penalizes Sharpton for tardy financial reports” (Nation) points to a character flaw in the most flamboyant and humorous Democratic presidential aspirant. As such, it invites further scrutiny of this remarkably articulate man.

In a recent interview with Chris Matthews on MSNBC, for example, the Rev. Al Sharpton said his favorite philosopher was Paul Tillich and the book that influenced him most was “Moral Man and Immoral Society” by Reinhold Niebuhr. Does this Pentecostal preacher, ordained at age 9, have the slightest idea what these two influential neo-orthodox theologians had to say about God, man, politics?

Mr. Sharpton was on firmer ground when, in the same interview, he said with enthusiasm that when he was a youth, his hero was the late Harlem preacher and Democratic Rep. Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Mr. Powell was a heady mixture of this-worldly politics and otherworldly assurance. In 1944, Mr. Powell was elected to Congress as a Democrat, serving simultaneously as pastor and politician.

Mr. Powell gloried in a lavish lifestyle that included blondes, bourbon and Bimini. He often was out of town when crucial rights bills came up in the House. Finally, in 1967, by a 307-116 vote, Mr. Powell was expelled from Congress for misuse of House funds, contempt of New York court orders concerning a 1963 libel judgment against him and conduct unbecoming a member. Undeterred, his loyal Harlem constituents re-elected him twice. He died in the Bahamas in 1972.

Indeed, Mr. Sharpton is much like Mr. Powell — ambitious, brash and easy with the truth.


Chevy Chase

Close the borders

When are politicians going to give American citizens what they want: secure borders and enforcement of immigration laws? I am tired of our leaders wanting to help citizens of other countries (“Democrats offer plan on aliens,” Page 1, yesterday). In California, illegal immigration has eroded middle-class blue-collar jobs (for example, warehousing, trucking and construction) to where they pay just slightly more than the minimum wage. Instead of being concerned about the Mexican middle class, politicians should be worried about the American middle class.


Adelanto, Calif.

Democrats and Republicans are competing with each other to be the party of foreign nations and illegal aliens. President Bush offers virtual amnesty and open borders to illegal aliens, and the Democrats offer even more, if that is possible.

We need a new political party in this country, one for our nation and citizens.


Littleton, Colo.

Slippery streets

The recent spate of winter storms (“Ice storm expected to pound D.C. area,” Page 1, Tuesday) gives occasion to ponder the power and, yes, the beauty of nature — and also the misplaced priorities of the D.C. government when it comes to snow removal.

Major “commuter” arteries, the ones used mostly by Virginians and Marylanders who contribute nothing to the city they use, are given priority and are largely clear within a day.

Yet the secondary roads and neighborhood streets, the ones most used by taxpaying Washington residents to get to the store or take their children to school, are left largely untouched.

Even worse, the same city government that mandates that homeowners and businesses clear the sidewalks in front of their properties cannot live up to its own obligation to make things safe and passable for pedestrians. None of the city’s bridge sidewalks are cleared in a timely manner. Ever. It took me three calls and 20 minutes to get the city finally to clear the ice off the sidewalks ofDumbartonBridgein Georgetown after the last storm. No one clears the snowbanks at crosswalk intersections or at bus stops. We slip and fall, while suburban motorists race past us in their sport utility vehicles.

Things are better with snow removal than they were in previous years, but only if you live in the suburbs and drive to work.



Israel: withdraw from the West Bank and Gaza

I disagree with the opinion that Ambassador Daniel Ayalon expressed in yesterday’s Op-Ed column, “Finding direction.” Peace depends on Israel’s getting out of the West Bank and Gaza. It couldn’t be any simpler. The occupation, which violates many U.N. resolutions and is responsible for the poisonous feelings against Israel, must end. The settlers must vacate Arab land. Then, and only then, will peace be possible.

The ambassador has the nerve to criticize the Palestinian mother who was a suicide bomber by saying she hates Jews more than she loves her children. Would he say the same thing about the courageous Jewish mothers who lost their lives standing up to the Nazis during World War II? It seems that Israelis and many American Jews cannot see how barbarous, inhumane and vicious the occupation is, especially having lasted more than 36 years. As long as they have those blinders on, peace will never be possible in the Middle East.

The ambassador also talks about ending terror, but he is not talking about the terror of living under occupation, about the inhumane living conditions the Palestinians suffer on a daily basis at the hands of the Israelis. I do not believe only Israelis are sane and rational and the Palestinians are mindless idiots who are bombing to drive Israelis into the sea.

I believe the despair of living in the Israeli-occupied West Bank and Gaza is so overwhelming, coupled with the lack of other, more conventional ways of fighting the occupation, that suicide bombs are the only recourse. Maybe we should give the Palestinians the same weapons we have given Israel and the same yearly financial aid. They wouldn’t need suicide bombers. Then they could fight it out in a more conventional manner.

Israel must stop the occupation and dismantle the settlements. Then a road map to peaceful coexistence can be drawn up between the two peoples.



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