- The Washington Times - Monday, May 10, 2004

Photo plague

A U.S. senator who once lived among the Muslim population in Libya says photos of U.S. military personnel abusing Iraqi prisoners will come back to haunt the United States.

“In their culture, there is nothing more profoundly humiliating than that, and humiliation breeds anger, and anger breeds terrorism,” warns Sen. Kent Conrad, North Dakota Democrat. “We have created a recruiting poster for al Qaeda that will plague us for years.”

Mr. Conrad, who graduated from high school in Tripoli, Libya, says: “I lived for two years in the Arab culture among Muslims. I know if one were to try to design something that would completely and totally enrage people raised in that culture, one could not have designed a scenario worse than what has happened.

“To have an American female in a prison where Iraqi men were naked, forced into homosexual positions, you could not design a circumstance that would more gravely enrage Muslim sensibilities than that.”

Viewer’s pick

Stephen Bassett, executive director of Washington’s Paradigm Research Group, is in contention to become one of 12 contestants for the reality-TV series “American Candidate.”

Scheduled to air on the Showtime pay-cable channel from August through October, the series supposedly will present a range of controversial issues that President Bush and Sen. John Kerry wouldn’t dare touch.

The dozen contestants will conduct “reality” campaigns for president, with one candidate eliminated in each program. The final two contestants will vie to become the all-American candidate.

And yes, should you prefer the reality candidate over Mr. Bush, Mr. Kerry or any of the fringe-party candidates, the American Candidate will have the option of mounting a write-in candidacy during the final weeks of the 2004 presidential-election campaign.

Find this “reality” hard to believe?

It so happens that the “American Candidate” advisory board includes former Sen. Bob Kerrey, Nebraska Democrat; former Sen. Alan Simpson, Wyoming Republican; Kay Maxwell, president of the League of Woman Voters; and Ron Nessen, press secretary to President Ford.

‘Grandpa’ Ted

We’ve written more than once about Jim Martin, president of the 60 Plus Association, being mistaken for media baron and billionaire philanthropist Ted Turner.

The two men, the first of whom gave President Bush his first political job back in 1967, bear a striking resemblance. Take the time a leading Capitol Hill newspaper wrote after Mr. Martin emerged from a Republican session in Congress:

“Media mogul Ted Turner also exited from the meeting sporting a ‘compassionate conservative’ button, and said the Bush message to the House GOP was ‘excellent’ and ‘right on track.’”

Now, it is Mr. Martin doing the gloating, given Mr. Turner has been mistaken for him.

At Washington’s Occidental restaurant, an unidentified reporter (not from this newspaper) walked up to the real Ted Turner and politely asked him if he represented a seniors’ association group.

At which point Mr. Turner’s blond companion piped up: “Yeah, he thinks you look like the lobbyist for the 60 Plus seniors’ group, Grandpa!”

Alley of elms

Of his much-anticipated plans to resurrect the 1600 block of Pennsylvania Avenue, renowned landscape architect Michael Van Valkenburgh pledges in the June issue of Architectural Digest: “I want to bring dignity and civic appropriateness back to the front of the White House.”

As a Dumbarton Oaks landscape-architecture fellow living in Washington more than three decades ago, Mr. Van Valkenburgh recalls being “stunned” by the beauty of the avenue showcasing the White House.

“The place was so grand, so elegant, so presidential,” he tells the magazine.

Then came the Oklahoma City bombing, leaving President Clinton little choice but to close “the nation’s main street” between 15th and 17th streets, making it a “militarized zone,” writes Christopher Petkanas.

Soon, large granite blocks and heavy steel bollards will deny vehicular access to the architect’s restored avenue, its surface transformed into a pedestrian-friendly aggregate pavement, the entire stretch shadowed by “a simple alley of American elms, a break in the trees preserving the famous perspective of the White House.”

John McCaslin, whose column is nationally syndicated, can be reached at 202/636-3284 or [email protected]

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