- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 5, 2005

Tom shops Saks

That was former Homeland Security chief Tom Ridge who this columnist spotted in the women’s wardrobe section of Saks Fifth Avenue in Chevy Chase on Monday evening.

OK, Mr. Ridge simply was mingling with Alma Powell, wife of Colin L. Powell, and other Washington VIPs amid colorful racks of summer fashions at Washington Life magazine’s fourth annual Men and Women of Substance and Style Awards.

Among the honored: Jan Verhage, executive director of the Girl Scout Council of the Nation’s Capital, who reveals this intriguing fact: Washington-area residents consume the most Girl Scout cookies — Thin Mints to Peanut Butter Sandwiches — of any city in the United States.

Mantilla option

Members of the White House press corps are reminded by White House memo to pack their suitcases appropriately so as to adhere to a mandatory “dress code” for the funeral Mass in Italy of Pope John Paul II.

“Men must wear a dark business suit and a dark tie; women should wear a dark suit with skirt at knee or below the knee level and may choose to wear the traditional black mantilla, although this is not obligatory,” the memo reads to scribes following President and first lady Laura Bush to Friday’s funeral.

It’s Bubba, stupid

As the world focuses its attention this week on Pope John Paul II, so, too, does the Democratic Party. And for urgent reason.

Jim Gerstein, executive director of Democracy Corps, points out to Inside the Beltway that less than a decade ago, Bill Clinton carried the Catholic vote by seven percentage points, 48 to 41.

Then, in the subsequent two presidential elections and for reasons that until now were not known, there came a 20-point swing by Catholics against Democrats. Al Gore lost the Catholic vote to George W. Bush by 7 points, and John Kerry finished second by a “striking” 13 points — a key factor in the 2004 election story.

Now, led by James Carville, Stanley Greenberg and Bob Shrum, Democracy Corps has just concluded an in-depth survey of Catholics to determine whether Democrats are being marginalized by a new surge of defections — comparable to the pullback of “Reagan Democrats” that shook the party through 1984 — or whether Catholics simply are joining the Republican coalition.

While “considerably more Democratic and moderate” than other white voters, Catholics say they pulled out for a number of reasons, including concerns about security and values, according to a findings report written by Mr. Greenberg and Matt Hogan.

“The dislodged Democratic voters are more socially conservative, less certain about [the] modern course for the church, less positive about Bill Clinton and his legacy, and importantly, much less hostile to the Iraq war and much more favorable on safety and security,” according to the report.

Democrats lose again

Horseshoe sandwiches and a special cheesecake from Eli’s Cheesecake Factory in Chicago, was the edible debt Illinois Democratic Sens. Richard J. Durbin and Barack Obama delivered to North Carolina Republican Sens. Elizabeth Dole and Richard M. Burr, after North Carolina’s thrilling 75-70 victory over Illinois in the NCAA basketball championship Monday night.

Birth of hope?

In life, Pope John Paul II designated the Holy Family Hospital of Bethlehem, Israel, as a special project of charity. Now, after his death, supporters of the hospital are hoping lawmakers on Capitol Hill honor the pope by funding the hospital’s new efforts to help pregnant women.

Since 1990, Holy Family Hospital has been caring for women, children and babies in the war-torn area of the West Bank, regardless of religion, national origin or ability to pay. It’s seeking $3.5 million from Congress to provide better care to poor pregnant women and reduce the number of babies dying at birth.

Sen. Christopher S. Bond, Missouri Republican, is among those said to be supportive of the funding request.

“The Holy Father focused his energies on a culture of life,” says Kerri Houston, vice president of policy for Frontiers of Freedom. “Congress now has a wonderful opportunity to help honor his legacy by supporting this request and funding this hospital in the Holy Land that helps bring new lives into the world.”

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

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