- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 6, 2004

Another first

So many congressmen and senators have followed President Bush’s lead and visited Iraq in recent weeks that the political novelty of such risky journeys has worn off.

So what are we to make of this week’s Iraqi sojourn by Rep. Trent Franks, Arizona Republican, and a handful of other members, if not history?

They are among the first lawmakers to “slumber in Baghdad,” touts the National Republican Congressional Committee.

Once they awaken, the delegation is scheduled to peek inside Saddam Hussein’s spider hole.

Hunk rerun

The man who hopes to dethrone Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle by winning his South Dakota seat is no stranger to Capitol Hill.

Republican John Thune, who this week hired as his campaign manager GOP operative Dick Wadhams, is a former South Dakota congressman whom we quoted after Sen. James M. Jeffords of Vermont abandoned the Republican Party and catapulted Mr. Daschle into the majority leader’s chair.

“Many people in South Dakota think Daschle is back in D.C. mowing Jim Jeffords’ lawn,” he quipped.

Another time we disclosed that Mr. Thune topped a list of 12 congressmen voted by lady lawmakers as the “manliest” men on Capitol Hill. The dozen “hunks” were later pinup boys for a congressional calendar. (Sorry ladies, Mr. Thune, who turns 43 today, is married.)

Mr. Thune was unsuccessful in a 2002 bid against incumbent Democratic Sen. Tim Johnson.

Rangel’s revelation

Quite a personal disclosure this week from Rep. Charles B. Rangel, New York Democrat, when asked by Fox News Channel host Cal Thomas to comment on Strom Thurmond, the late senator from South Carolina, having fathered a mulatto child.

“I am so fascinated with this Strom Thurmond story,” Mr. Thomas remarked on his “After Hours” show. “Is there anything in your family that you can personally identify with [along] this line?”

“Oh my God, yes,” Mr. Rangel replied. “My family roots come from a town called Accomac, Virginia, where my great-great-grandfather was a slave and my great-grandfather was the son of a slave and his father was a white guy named Weiss, who was very wealthy and as a result of it his son, Frazier Wharton, inherited land, but never inherited his name. He inherited his mother’s slave name.

“And he had 17 children, and if you look at them all some are black, some are dark, some have straight hair, some have curly hair, some have blue eyes. And when I used to go down there the rainbow that existed in Accomac, Virginia, is absolutely unbelievable. And some of my cousins, one of course is Clifton Wharton [Jr.] who was deputy secretary of state, his father [Clifton Reginald Wharton Sr.] was the first black ambassador that the United States ever had.

“But, I dare say, he was just as fair as you are,” the black congressman told Mr. Thomas.

Head count

National security will be “enhanced” by President Bush’s expected proposal today to changes in U.S. immigration policy that would grant amnesty to millions of immigrants living illegally in the United States.

So argues Cato Institute immigration analyst Daniel T. Griswold, who labels the current immigration system “dysfunctional.”

National security would be enhanced, he says, because Mr. Bush’s proposal “would begin to drain the swamp of smuggling and document fraud that facilitates illegal immigration, and would encourage millions of currently undocumented workers to make themselves known to authorities.”

Nonpartisan issue

The Catholic Church, specifically its Priests for Life organization, is launching “National Christian Voter Registration Sundays” in advance of the November presidential election.

The effort at Catholic parishes nationwide (registration dates are the Sundays of Jan. 18, March 7, May 2, July 4 and Sept. 5) is part of the church’s antiabortion strategy for this election year. As for supporting a particular party or candidate?

“All our activities are totally nonpartisan,” answers the Rev. Frank Pavone. “But nonpartisan doesn’t mean timid or halfhearted.”

Priests for Life has a multimillion-dollar budget and staff of 40.

Pen and paper

A teleconference on new Homeland Security Department technology went terribly wrong yesterday because of, well, bad technology.

One unidentified reporter’s “tap-tap-tapping” on the typewriter effectively blocked out the sound of Border Transportation Security Undersecretary Asa Hutchison’s entire opening statement and prompted this exchange between the reporter and a half-dozen angry scribes, in near unison.

“Stop typing.”

“What am I supposed to do?”


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

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