- The Washington Times - Monday, April 3, 2006

Historic hats

He has homes in Washington and Gettysburg, Pa. He is president and chief executive officer of the Monahan Group, a diversified development and holding company, and vice president of the Monahan Funeral Home, the largest funeral provider in his region of Pennsylvania.

Otherwise, Robert J. Monahan Jr., keeps busy as managing director of Greystone Television and Films in North Hollywood, Calif. An amazing career for a man who was special assistant to the secretary of transportation under President Reagan and later a candidate for the U.S. Senate from Pennsylvania.

Did we mention how he got his start? Mr. Monahan used to deliver the local newspaper to President Eisenhower. That is, when not shagging golf balls for Ike during his sunset years in Gettysburg.

“When I was Ike’s paperboy, he had an office in Gettysburg, and he’d lift up the window and take the paper from me,” Mr. Monahan tells Inside the Beltway. “I remember him as a very kind, very gracious man, somebody of great stature, with a great sense of purpose for what he did.

“Oftentimes he’d walk out the back of the office where he’d hold press conferences, attended by each of the three networks, and I’d sometimes watch those interviews,” he recalls.

On Wednesday, invited guests to the National Archives in Washington will get first peek at Mr. Monahan’s latest business project, the film “Fields of Freedom.” He produced the film, which centers on the Battle of Gettysburg and specifically the diaries of two soldiers who fought in the battle, one for each side.

As a boy, Mr. Monahan regularly rode his bike through Gettysburg National Military Park, and the movie culminates his lifelong passion for the battle.

“My wife and I had been out one evening, and after driving the babysitter home, I drove past Big Round Top and Little Round Top,” he tells us. “It was a moonlit night, and there — at 1 o’clock in the morning — it finally struck me all that had taken place there.

“And I realized if I had never really grasped what had happened on those battlefields, how many others in this country don’t have the knowledge? We wanted to produce a movie that tugged at the heartstrings, to let people see what really happened at Gettysburg.”

Seeking the cure

As he did in advance of the 2004 presidential campaign, Washington political pollster Frank Luntz has just visited Iowa and New Hampshire, taking a serious look at the messages and potential presidential messengers vying for the hearts and minds of Democrat primary voters in 2008.

Any big surprises?

“The ‘Hillary is too negative’ thing was started to score political points, but even Democrat primary voters find it true,” Mr. Luntz tells Inside the Beltway of New York Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton and the potential hurdles she would confront as a candidate for the White House.

“The two candidates that most focused on what they want to do, [former Virginia Gov. Mark] Warner and [New Mexico Gov. Bill] Richardson, ended up scoring best in New Hampshire,” added Mr. Luntz, who says he will be conducting a test of Republican presidential candidates over the next four weeks.

For both he is using the same methodology as in 2003, when, on behalf of Newsweek and MSNBC, he predicted that Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry would win the Democratic nomination, even though the senator had just 2 percent voter support at the time.

In the new study of Democrats, his firm Luntz, Maslansky Strategic Research found voters want somebody who is anti-President Bush, but “they don’t want a Bush-basher.”

“They don’t want a grouchy, accusatory, finger-pointer yeller,” say the findings; rather, voters “want to feel like soldiers in the battle for a better America.”

“They want to be lifted up, inspired to act, and they want a president who will lead them.”

“Democrats don’t want to be told what’s wrong with America,” the study concludes. “They want to be told what you plan to do about it. They’re not looking for the diagnosis … they know what ails them. They want the cure.”

Girls vs. boys

Arlington Bishop Paul S. Loverde has become one of the last Catholic church leaders in the United States to allow girls to be altar servers, although his recent decision does not require individual parishes in Northern Virginia to comply with the change.

Take Alexandria, for example, where the Rev. Dennis Kleinmann, pastor of the 211-year-old St. Mary’s Parish decided not to take advantage of the option, while the Rev. Chuck McCoart and the Rev. John Cregan, pastors of Good Shepherd Parish and Blessed Sacrament Parish, respectively, are welcoming girls to their Alexandria altars.

Then there’s the Rev. Denis Donahue, pastor of St. Rita’s Parish also in Alexandria, who is staying with boys only. His reasoning, as he explained it to Gretchen R. Crowe of the Arlington Catholic Herald:

“The boys and girls are different. The girls tend to be more developed and more advanced, and because of that they participate more, and they tend to dominate. The boys are not as advanced. They tend to drop out, and I don’t want that.”

The pastor said that for the boys, it’s already a “challenge in the classrooms” and he doesn’t want to “have that in the sanctuary.”

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


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