- The Washington Times - Monday, January 10, 2005

Party animal

It’s not unusual for President Bush to extend an olive branch to disgruntled Democrats, but this is going too far.

Actually, in labeling himself a “Republican democrat” yesterday, Mr. Bush was only being optimistic about upcoming elections in Iraq, predicting January 2005 would be “an extraordinary month.”

GOP conspiracy?

Freshman Rep. John Barrow, a Georgia Democrat who defeated Republican incumbent Max Burns in November, couldn’t wait to arrive on Capitol Hill to cast his first vote.

Oh well, it’s the thought that counts.

“Mr. Speaker,” the newly elected congressman was forced to explain last week, “I was unable to cast my vote on Jan. 3, 2005. The pager provided to me by House administration — to notify me of votes — was defective.

“Consequently, I did not receive the announcement that the vote was taking place in time to cast my vote on the House floor. Had I been present, I would have voted ‘nay.’”

Mr. Barrow, 48, a lawyer from Athens, has deep Georgia roots. His family has farmed, taught, preached and practiced law — from Athens to Savannah — for more than seven generations.

His father, James Barrow, was a Superior Court judge who helped lead Athens through the turbulent civil rights movement, including presiding over a case resulting in the desegregation of Georgia public schools.

The congressman’s high school class of 1973, in fact, became the first to graduate under desegregation, and he’d go on to became one of the youngest members of Harvard Law School, which he entered at age 20.

And how might the Democrat vote now that his pager has been fixed?

As a four-term county commissioner, he consistently voted against property-tax increases, for property-tax relief for homeowners, and for economic development.

“He’ll do the same … in Washington,” his campaign pledged.

Burr

The biggest regret for Republican Richard M. Burr when he was sworn in last week as North Carolina’s junior senator was that his mother, Martha Burr, wasn’t in the audience. Tragically, she died the previous week after a lengthy battle with bone cancer.

But others came to see the former five-term congressman take the oath in the Senate chamber, including former North Carolina Sens. Jesse Helms, Lauch Faircloth and Jim Broyhill, and senior North Carolina Republican Sen. Elizabeth Dole.

In an interview with Inside the Beltway yesterday, Mr. Burr, who defeated President Clinton’s White House Chief of Staff Erskine Bowles in the November election, foresees his first term in the Senate as a productive one, albeit with a constant backdrop.

“Clearly, if we fail in the war on terror, everything else is insignificant,” he explains.

Beyond that constant, as Mr. Burr drove home to voters throughout the campaign, “health care is the No. 1 crisis domestically.”

“And the biggest challenge, whether we’re talking about health care, or Social Security, or taxes, any of these core issues … is whether we are going to fix these things that are broken,” he adds.

“For example, Social Security is not a debate over privatization or a national system,” says the 49-year-old Mr. Burr. “It’s over whether we’re going to begin to pay the price of what we’ve committed incrementally over time or wait until we have one balloon that happens in two-thousand-whenever when suddenly there is no money?”

As for working with the Democratic minority, Mr. Burr says, “I’m optimistic in the Senate. [Nevada Sen.] Harry Reid is a very reasonable minority leader.”

As for the House he left behind, “I think there is clearly fear of political polarization from Congresswoman [House Minority Leader] Nancy Pelosi and the House leadership.”

Out of the closet

Last week, we reported that the Human Rights Campaign — which calls itself “the largest national lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender political organization” — had announced the formation of a search committee to find a new executive director.

But HRC didn’t name the committee members, prompting San Francisco AIDS activist Michael Petrelis to ask if “closet cases” were running the search.

Hours after that column was published, HRC issued a press release naming the committee members. Among them are three officials of HRC’s Washington office: Kevin Layton, general counsel; Cathy Nelson, development director; and Winnie Stachelberg, political director.

Search committee co-chairwoman Gwen Baba said: “We want this process to be as transparent as possible, while preserving the integrity of the search. We are pleased by the broad interest in the search, and we decided to release the committee names.”

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

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