- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 19, 2004

Bush intolerance

It’s getting ugly out there.

With less than two weeks before Election Day, Willa Untiedt, a grandmother who lives in Northern Virginia, was in Hancock Fabrics in downtown Vienna to pick up a pattern to make her 5-year-old grandson a red velvet vest.

“Here I am buying thread,” observes Mrs. Untiedt, “and there is this woman next to me looking at trim who is wearing a button. Now I wear bifocals, so I had to move forward to see this button, and … then I stepped back very quickly. I have learned to keep away from people like that.”

The button read “Kill Bush.”

“She was in my age range,” says the widowed Mrs. Untiedt, daughter of the late John Kelso, Washington correspondent for the old Boston Post newspaper.

So what did Mrs. Untiedt do next?

She felt it her civic duty to contact the Secret Service, which frowns upon such expressions of presidential demise, regardless of party or campaign season. The president’s bodyguards went so far as to patch the loving grandmother into Uncle Sam’s new terrorist hot line.

While this material was unfolding, just across the Potomac River in Washington’s fashionable — and open-minded — Dupont Circle, Teri Galvez agreed to open her elegant four-story home to the Dupont Circle House Tour.

“This is the second time I have been asked to do it,” Mrs. Galvez tells us. “My house has been on HGTV twice, so it is always a draw for folks who want to see the renovation of a historical property.

“Anyway, I took the tour myself to see everyone else’s home. I saw many Kerry signs and quite a few nasty Bush signs, such as ‘Re-defeat Bush,’ etcetera.”

Then again, what more culturally sensitive neighborhood than trendy Dupont Circle to celebrate tolerance of thy neighbor?

“Well,” Mrs. Galvez says, “one house monitor thought my five Bush signs might be offensive to those in Dupont Circle, and he took them down.”

Are you serious?

“I came back to my house to pick up my dog and saw that they had been removed,” she says.

So what happened next?

“I put [the Bush signs] back at 3:30 p.m. when the tour was almost over and threatened to shut my house down if they were removed again. What do you think about that?”

Grab your shovels

So, former President Bill Clinton, what’s your prediction going into the final two weeks of the 2004 presidential mudslinging?

“This race truly is too close to call. The outcome in state after state will be determined by whether our side can respond to the last-minute avalanche of mud we fully expect to come our way.”

Kerry a church

Here’s a twist: The conservative Family Research Council is looking to team up (sort of) with Sen. John Kerry on the issues of free speech and church and state.

In a letter to the Democratic presidential nominee, council Vice President Connie Mackey is formally requesting that Mr. Kerry — “upon his return to Congress” — sponsor a Senate companion bill to the House side’s Houses of Worship Political Speech Protection Act.

The unusual request comes in the wake of Mr. Kerry’s presence of late as guest speaker during Sunday services at several houses of worship nationwide. Earlier this month, for example, Mr. Kerry joined preachers — the Rev. Jesse Jackson and the Rev. Al Sharpton — for services at Friendship Missionary Baptist Church in Miami. During the service, the senator was endorsed from the pulpit by the church’s pastor.

In her letter, Ms. Mackey suggests legislation Mr. Kerry might propose could “restore freedom of speech to our country’s churches, mosques and synagogues,” and “is an important defense to the basic right of free speech,” which the council considers a top priority.

“[B]y the use of the tax code, churches and other houses of worship are scared into silence on matters of public morality because of sensitivity to political restrictions,” she states.

The proper interpretation of “separation of church and state,” the council notes, has been debated by both political parties in reference to endorsements by members of the clergy.

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

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