- The Washington Times - Friday, May 6, 2005

Jon Stewart still safe

Out for a quiet lunch this week, communications lawyers Bob Thompson and Arthur Belendiuk, of Smithwick & Belendiuk in Washington, were surprised to see first lady Laura Bush and her party of five seated a few tables away at Black Salt on MacArthur Boulevard.

The legal pair were even more delighted when Mrs. Bush paused to chat on her way out of the popular restaurant, both congratulating her for stealing the show at the recent White House Correspondents’ Association dinner.

“That was some performance on Saturday night,” Mr. Thompson noted. “Has Comedy Central offered you a show yet?”

With a broad smile, Mrs. Bush replied: “Oh, they can do much better than me.”

Impeachment reunion

The massive U.N. oil-for-food scandal is proving a magnet for veterans of the legal team that helped Bill Clinton beat the rap when he was impeached over the Monica Lewinsky scandal in 1998.

That was Washington superlawyer Robert S. Bennett, Mr. Clinton’s attorney, furiously passing notes up to the witness table at a House committee hearing on the scandal last week.

Mr. Bennett’s client, French bank BNP Paribas, held the accounts for the U.N. program and has had to fend off charges it aided and abetted Saddam Hussein’s scheme to steal oil-for-food funds to bribe his way out of international sanctions.

U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, accused of mismanaging the program and failing to take seriously charges that his son was scamming the world body, is getting pro bono legal wisdom from Gregory B. Craig, White House legal counsel during the Clinton impeachment fight.

Mr. Craig, who says he is helping out Mr. Annan as an old friend, has mounted an aggressive campaign on the secretary-general’s behalf in the face of congressional Republicans demanding that Mr. Annan step down. (Sound familiar?)

Mr. Bennett and Mr. Craig may soon be crossing swords with another impeachment alumnus.

Lanny Davis, who stoutly defended Mr. Clinton on every talk show that would book him, is representing another oil-for-food figure, Robert Parton. Mr. Parton, whom congressional investigators are keen to interview, recently quit the U.N.-appointed investigation of the oil-for-food fiasco, reportedly because the panel had gone too easy on Mr. Annan.

Colonial times

Monday, Dec. 16, 1799, was a slow news day for the Alexandria Times & Advertiser. The front page of the Colonial daily offered a $5 reward for the finder of a stray coach horse.

Then there was published notice from the newspaper itself to one of its own readers to appear at the Alexandria Courthouse — the same one that two weeks ago tried terrorist Zacarias Moussaoui — because he had fallen two months behind on his $6-per-year subscription.

There was urgent correspondence from the U.S. Senate to President John Adams about citizen rebellions in Pennsylvania, with a response from Adams on the need to call in the militia.

Finally, on Page 3, buried beside the rules and regulations of the Alexandria Coffee House (Starbucks today), there was sad word that George Washington had passed away Saturday evening at nearby Mount Vernon. Obviously, the rest of the pages had gone to press, given Washington, apart from being the father of the country, was both a subscriber and advertiser of the Alexandria newspaper.

Now, a group of local businessmen is resurrecting the Alexandria Times, published from 1797 to 1802 as the Alexandria Times & Advertiser. “Until last week, we had no earthly idea the newspaper even existed,” says editor and publisher John Arundel. “But in its day, it was one of the most important papers in America.”

The new weekly plans to drop the name “Advertiser” from its flag because “we won’t be featuring ads on the front page … for lost coach horses,” says Mr. Arundel, who follows a long tradition of publishers in his family.

His father, Arthur W. Arundel, pioneered the first all-news radio station in the United States, WAVA, in 1961, and his brother Peter Arundel is publisher of Times Community Newspapers in Northern Virginia, which includes the McLean Times, the Fairfax Times and the Loudoun Times-Mirror, which Mr. Arundel gleefully points out was started in 1798. “Although this paper took a 200-year nap, we’re a year older than my family’s oldest paper,” he says.

Mr. Arundel started his first neighborhood newspaper, John’s Times, in McLean at age 9, which he delivered monthly to, among others, Sens. Lawton Chiles and Fred Harris, along with fresh eggs from his family’s chicken house. By age 13, he was writing for his family’s weeklies, and after college wrote for the Miami Herald, the New York Times and The Washington Post.

The local paper will have a free circulation of 25,000.

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

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