- The Washington Times - Monday, September 13, 2004

Storm relief

With Florida being battered by one of the worst hurricane seasons in memory, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC) is appealing for help — but it is not in need of batteries and bottled water.

“Two major hurricanes in Florida and possibly a third one on the way have made running a political campaign difficult and have seriously hampered fund-raising efforts at a critical time,” reveals Sen. Jon Corzine of New Jersey, chairman of the DSCC.

Politicians, in other words, can’t appeal to voters who are continuously boarding up their homes and even being evacuated in advance of approaching storms.

Mr. Corzine says the weather is the biggest obstacle for Betty Castor, who won the Aug. 31 Democratic primary and is running neck and neck with Republican opponent Mel Martinez.

Veteran Valenti

A well-deserved rest for Jack Valenti, who has just retired after 38 years at the helm of the Motion Picture Association of America.

Before landing at the MPAA just one block from the White House, Mr. Valenti was in charge of herding reporters during President Kennedy’s fateful trip to Dallas — riding just six cars behind the president in the motorcade.

One hour later, the Texas native was aboard Air Force One with a somber and newly sworn President Johnson, at that instant becoming the president’s special assistant.

What readers might not know is that Mr. Valenti has a distinguished military career. During World War II, he was pilot-commander of a B-25 attack bomber, flying 51 combat missions with the 12th Air Force. He was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross, the Air Medal with four clusters, the Distinguished Unit Citation with one cluster and the European Theater Ribbon with four battle stars.

Spirited reporter

Viewers of the Fox News Channel will recognize Kelly Wright — who, let’s just say, is not your typical Washington reporter. He was headlining the Cotton Club before Capitol Hill.

The Emmy Award-winning reporter began his journalism career in 1977 while serving in the U.S. Army.

“I anchored, wrote and produced a daily five-minute newscast about the 24th Infantry Division/Fort Stewart, Georgia,” he says, before becoming a reporter for the Patriot, an Army newspaper.

“When I was assigned to overseas duty in Mainz, Germany, I continued working as a journalist for Army newspapers,” he says. “One moment I fondly recall is the papal visit to Germany. I remember standing ankle-deep in mud on a rain-soaked field near Mainz reporting on Pope John Paul’s historic visit. … It was worth every sneeze I made afterwards.”

Leaving the Army, Mr. Wright worked for several news outlets, reporting on topics ranging from presidential politics to the trans-Atlantic slave trade.

But he has a much deeper love than reporting: gospel music.

“I’ve been singing since I was 13,” he reveals, adding that he performed first in churches, then nightclubs.

“My breakthrough in music happened in New York City,” Mr. Wright says. “While working as a reporter … I also headlined at the legendary Cotton Club in Harlem performing jazz, R&B; and gospel. After leaving New York, I continued singing but concentrated on gospel. For me, there’s no better form of music. It literally lifts your spirit and makes every burden lighter.”

Buckeye bungle?

Polls indicate that President Bush has opened a wide lead over Sen. John Kerry in Ohio. Not that the Democrat hasn’t campaigned heavily in the state.

In fact, maybe the senator from Massachusetts needs to read a road map. Press accounts suggest that he has wasted precious time campaigning in heavily Republican regions of Ohio, where, because of the low number of undecided voters, he won’t win much support.

For example, Mr. Kerry’s bus tour made two recent appearances in Licking County, where Mr. Bush captured about 60 percent of the vote in 2000.

En route to events in Akron and Steubenville, the Kerry caravan “took the back roads instead of the interstate,” Copley News Service reported, “creating mini-campaign events in small cities like Utica, Mount Vernon and Mansfield. Most of the small gatherings included a sizable share of Bush-Cheney supporters.”

And small wonder: Mount Vernon is in Knox County, where Mr. Bush walloped Democrat Al Gore 63 percent to 34 percent four years ago.

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

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