- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 8, 2005

Better halves

Who better for first lady Laura Bush to single out as guest of honor at yesterday’s State Department conference celebrating International Women’s Day than Condoleezza Rice?

“No doubt many young girls are dreaming of becoming secretary of state because of the example they see,” Mrs. Bush observed. “I am proud that President Bush surrounds himself with smart, strong women.”

Media microscope

Speaking of the State Department, James P. Rubin, former assistant secretary of state and chief diplomatic spokesman under President Clinton, was back in town yesterday opining how patriotism, propaganda and public opinion play into the war in Iraq.

Mr. Rubin was one of several high-profile panelists of The Week Opinion Awards and Forum, in partnership with the Aspen Institute. An earlier discussion, moderated by Aspen Institute President Walter Isaacson, addressed the hot-button issue: “Opinion Journalists: Serving What Master?”

(No, radio host Armstrong Williams was not on hand, but Peter Beinert of the New Republic, David Brooks of the New York Times, syndicated columnist Arianna Huffington and Ana Marie Cox of Wonkette.com each weighed in).

Andrew W. Mellon Auditorium was the venue for a dinner capping off the dialogue, albeit George Stephanopoulos, host of ABC’s “This Week,” and Pat Robertson, founder and chairman of the Christian Broadcasting Network, still found time to debate whether the press is out of touch with America.

Worth noting on the dinner guest list: Queen Noor, the queen of Jordan.

Drifting backward

For decades he’s brought home the bacon, but outspoken Democratic Sen. Robert C. Byrd isn’t popular these days with everybody in his beloved West Virginia.

Politics aside, West Virginia Republican Party Treasurer Hiram Lewis IV says it is upsetting to watch Mr. Byrd “destroy his credibility and become the basis of jokes over the national airwaves which, in turn, make West Virginia look like a backwards state.”

He was referring, in part, to recent remarks made by Mr. Byrd (the senator insists his words were taken out of context) that some perceived as comparing Senate Republicans to “Nazis.”

“We, unlike Nazi Germany or Mussolini’s Italy, have never stopped being a nation of laws, not of men,” Mr. Byrd stated. “But witness how men with motives and a majority can manipulate law to cruel and unjust ends.”

He then quoted historian Alan Bullock as saying that Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler “turned the law inside out and made illegality legal.”

“It is sad to see a senator that has contributed so much to this state over the years be reduced to a bumbling fool,” says Mr. Lewis, who adds the 87-year-old Mr. Byrd either must come to grips with the fact that President Bush won re-election in West Virginia by more than 90,000 votes “or retire.”

Planting seeds

Don’t look now, but hemp could have been stashed in your car without your knowledge.

“Because there are at least 1.5 million cars on the road with hemp door panels, tens of millions of dollars spent annually on hemp food and hemp body care, and hemp paper is being made in the U.S., people are asking tough questions” about why Uncle Sam won’t allow industrial hemp farming, says Alexis Baden-Mayer, director of government relations for Vote Hemp.

Regardless, four state legislatures — California, New Hampshire, Oregon and North Dakota — are likely to pass legislation this year allowing farmers to grow cannabis almost 50 years after the centuries-old crop was prohibited.

(Hawaii, Kentucky, Montana and West Virginia already allow hemp farming on a commercial or research basis.)

“Hemp farming has become a lucrative crop for farmers in Europe, Canada and Asia, so farmers here are asking, ‘Why are we being left out?’” says Mrs. Baden-Mayer, pointing out it is legal for U.S. companies to import, process, sell and consume hemp seed and hemp fiber products.

The government’s ban on hemp cultivation stems from marijuana prohibition, although industrial hemp and marijuana come from different varieties of the cannabis plant.

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

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