- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 1, 2004

Floor fireworks

Some California Republican lawmakers are upset that the Democrat-controlled state Assembly refused to let them hold a Fourth of July celebration on the Assembly floor to honor a Vietnam veteran and former U.S. senator.

Republican Assemblyman Jay LaSuer of San Diego wanted to honor Adm. Jeremiah Denton on Monday in a Fourth of July ceremony. Adm. Denton was a Navy pilot shot down in Vietnam who spent eight years as a prisoner of war. He later became an Alabama senator.

“Suffice it to say, Jeremiah Denton is unquestionably an American hero,” Republican Assemblyman John Campbell of Irvine wrote in a Wednesday memo on the issue.

Mr. Campbell said the state Assembly holds celebrations on the floor for holidays such as Cinco de Mayo, and Republicans wanted to have one for the Fourth of July.

Democratic leadership refused to let Adm. Denton on the Assembly floor, however, so Republicans couldn’t hold their patriotic celebration there, he said. Mr. Campbell referenced a memo from the Democratic speaker’s office, which said “problems have arisen both with regards to the spirit, content and participation of various individuals with regard to the ceremony.’ ”

Democrats apparently felt Adm. Denton didn’t believe in “separation of church and state” and they didn’t like his policies when he was senator, Mr. Campbell said.

Republican lawmakers ultimately were able to honor Adm. Denton in a celebration in Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s office Monday, but Mr. Campbell had strong words for Democrats’ handling of the situation.

“It’s OK to speak, as long as you speak what liberals want to hear. And even if you have suffered unbelievable sacrifice for this nation … and the right of all of us to speak, you may be denied that right if you don’t agree with the liberal majority,” he said in a phone interview yesterday.

Nick Velasquez, spokesman for Speaker of the Assembly Fabian Nunez, Los Angeles Democrat, said the issue was resolved because the governor agreed to honor Adm. Denton in his office. Mr. Velasquez also said the Assembly honored the holiday by passing a resolution Monday, but didn’t have time for other ceremonies because they were in the midst of budget negotiations and other pressing business.

But Mr. Campbell notes in his memo that on the day Republicans wanted to honor Adm. Denton, the Assembly held a nearly 20-minute ceremony honoring a Los Angeles Times reporter.

Feuding fellows

Democrats seem to be having problems with their convention in Boston at the end of July. Democratic presidential candidate Sen. John Kerry and Boston Mayor Thomas Menino, also a Democrat, have been feuding, according to the Associated Press.

Mr. Menino called Mr. Kerry’s campaign “small-minded and incompetent” when the senator from Massachusetts canceled a speech to mayors meeting in Boston Monday because he didn’t want to cross a police union picket line outside.

Mr. Kerry’s aides also say Mr. Menino hung up on Mr. Kerry when he called to discuss the union fight, the AP reports. Mr. Menino denies this.

A spokesman for Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, Massachusetts Democrat, said Mr. Kennedy “is doing all he can behind the scenes” to smooth things over between Mr. Kerry and Mr. Menino, the AP reports.

Later in the week, the two camps tried to downplay the tiff, with Mr. Menino saying, “There’s no issues that will really stop me for working for John Kerry.” Mr. Kerry’s campaign officials said they understand Mr. Menino has a lot on his plate, between the union dispute and the Democratic convention, which starts July 26.

“We have friends on both sides of the city dispute and we hope that they’re able to work it out to their mutual satisfaction,” Kerry campaign spokesman Michael Meehan was quoted saying in the AP story. “John Kerry’s looking forward to accepting the nomination in his hometown.”

News flash

There’s nothing quite like good, old-fashioned political discourse. But nowadays, political debate apparently includes flashing. One of the anti-Bush protests being planned in New York City when the Republican National Convention comes to town later this summer is a protest by a women’s rights group known as “Axis of Eve,” Agence France-Presse reports. About 100 members plan a “group flashing” on Sept. 1, revealing panties that display political messages such as “weapons of mass seduction.”

Dancing dictator

It is no dance party for former Iraqi dictator turned prisoner Saddam Hussein, who went on trial yesterday in Baghdad. But in Baghdad, toy store shoppers can find a chubby, gun-toting Saddam Hussein doll that wiggles his hips to the “Hippy Hippy Shake,” Reuters reports.

Toy stores around the city are selling the foot-high version of the former president decked out in full insurgent regalia and jiving to cheesy pop music. The Saddam doll wears hand grenades, daggers, a walkie-talkie, binoculars and an AK-47, and starts dancing to the song at the flip of a switch.

Mustapha al-Kadamy, a young father who was buying one of the dolls from a toy store in the Mansoor district, said he thinks it is good “to make fun” of Saddam.

“We need to be able to smile after all the horrible things he’s done to us,” he said.

Pet projects

The House last week passed its fiscal 2005 energy and water spending bill, which funds things such as water infrastructure projects and nuclear waste cleanup, but critics say it funds quite a few pet projects as well. Citizens Against Government Waste earlier this week released a critique of the bill, saying lawmakers added 300 pork-barrel projects totaling $354 million.

“With the federal government swimming in a sea of debt, and gas prices soaring, members of Congress should not be wasting so much energy on creative ways to squander our tax dollars,” CAGW said Monday.

Some examples of pork in the bill are:

• $400,000 for studies on the environmental impact of Asian oysters in the Chesapeake Bay region of Maryland.

• $290,000 for the Lake Worth Inlet Sand Transfer Plant in Palm Beach County, Fla., which is scheduled to begin renovations in 2005.

• $14 million for the Chickamauga Lock in the district of Appropriations Committee member Zach Wamp, Tennessee Republican.

• $11.5 million for projects in the Calumet region in the district of Appropriations Committee member Peter J. Visclosky, Indiana Democrat.

• $4.7 million for environmental projects in the district of Appropriations Committee member Mike Simpson, Idaho Republican.

• $4,567,000 in or around the district of Appropriations Committee member Marion Berry, Arkansas Democrat, for river maintenance projects, including $67,000 for general investigations of Hot Springs.

Amy Fagan can be reached at 202/636-3194 or [email protected]

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