Wednesday, August 2, 2006

Hail Harry

Only in America can a person be honored on Capitol Hill after labeling the sitting U.S. president the “greatest terrorist in the world.”

But as Rep. Charles B. Rangel, New York Democrat, insisted during his laudatory speech on the House floor, entertainer Harry Belafonte, while “unacceptable to some,” is worthy of a congressional salute for the primary reason “he shows little concern over the reaction to his words because he sees the need to speak the truth as he sees it.”

Which includes, more recently, blasting U.S. policy on everything from the war in Iraq to the embargo on Cuba, Mr. Bush’s refusing aid from Venezuela and Cuba following Hurricane Katrina, the president’s “spying” on U.S. citizens as sanctioned by the USA Patriot Act, and most recently calling Mr. Bush the world’s leading terrorist.

We’ll let you know if and when Mr. Rangel honors the Dixie Chicks.

Still scarred

Washington power couple and one-time Clinton insiders Jaci and Morris Reid attracted 500 guests and raised more than $300,000 for public school music programs in hosting the 4th Annual VH1 Save the Music Hamptons benefit concert Friday night, featuring artists Ciara and Lyfe Jennings.

Making his first public appearance since being yanked from “Oprah’s Book Club” was embattled author James Frey. Our source says the “A Million Little Pieces” author has been in seclusion in Europe and the Hamptons, but he showed up at the Reids’ vacation home to “save the music.”

One guest says when Mr. Frey spotted Oprah Winfrey best bud Gayle King, he went in the opposite direction.

We hardly knew ye

Israeli Ambassador to the United Nations Dan Gillerman doesn’t like former President Jimmy Carter meddling in Israeli affairs.

Asked on C-SPAN’s Washington Journal program to comment on Mr. Carter’s opinion column in yesterday’s Washington Post calling on Israel to withdraw from Lebanese territory and release its prisoners, the ambassador replied:

“I think that President Carter’s appearances, op-eds, and speeches are an embarrassment. I think that they are an embarrassment to the great institution of the presidency. I mean, President Carter wasn’t that great of a president to start with … I really don’t know what has happened to him over the last few years.”


We’re told the St. Regis Hotel at 16th and K streets Northwest, two blocks from the White House, will close Sept. 1 for a 10-month renovation — 80 years after President Calvin Coolidge cut the ribbon at the hotel’s grand opening in 1926.

The hotel’s rooms, lobby and dining areas will be redesigned by Sills Huniford, the New York City interior designers who recently recreated the interior of the St. Regis Hotel in New York. Estimated cost of renovation per guest room here: $150,000-plus.

‘Social experiment’

Consider these eye-opening FBI and Metropolitan Police Department statistics: Since 1976, when the District of Columbia imposed its ban on guns, the city’s murder rate, which had been declining, started to increase; between 1976 and 1991 it rose 200 percent, while the U.S. murder rate rose just 9 percent.

“The legislation is long overdue,” said the National Rifle Association, referring this week to the “District of Columbia Personal Protection Act,” introduced in each house by Rep. Mark Souder, Indiana Republican, and Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, Texas Republican.

If passed, the legislation in each House would restore the 14th Amendment’s guarantee of “equal protection of the laws” by ending the city’s unique prohibition on allowing guns for self-defense in one’s home, while retaining stiff penalties for illegal gun possession and gun crimes.

As far as the NRA is concerned, the 1976 vote by the D.C. Council was “a social experiment of its own design against the city’s law-abiding residents,” not to mention a “thumbing its nose” at Congress and the rest of the United States.

• John McCaslin, whose column is nationally syndicated, can be reached at 202/636-3284 or

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