- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 8, 2006

Heavy hitter

Inside the Beltway is told that President Bush will attend a private fundraising reception for Virginia Sen. George Allen on Aug. 23, at the home of Republican political operatives Ed and Cathy Gillespie.

Cost to pose with the president for a picture: $5,000. Otherwise, $1,500 will get you in the door of this campaign fundraiser. (Hey, why not just snap a picture with your cell phone?)

Mr. Allen finds a formidable challenger in one-time Reagan appointee and former Secretary of Navy James H. Webb Jr., now a full-fledged, albeit centrist, Democrat. Still, Mr. Allen, son of the late Washington Redskins coach of the same name, holds a sizeable lead (as many as 16 points in a recent poll) over the Democrat.

Mr. Gillespie is former chairman of the Republican National Committee, selected by Mr. Bush to serve from 2003 to 2005.

Shades of purple

Why are Democrats and Republicans alike in Washington so fascinated by the race for a local board president in Cook County, Illinois?

Because a Republican candidate, Tony Peraica, actually is leading in a county where Democrats outnumber Republicans almost 3-to-1.

A survey last month by the Tarrance Group put Mr. Peraica ahead of Democrat Todd Stroger by a margin of four percentage points — 42 percent to 38 percent. Helping propel the Republican, no doubt, is the fact that Mr. Stroger arrived late on the ballot — stepping in for his father, incumbent board President John Stroger, after he suffered a stroke.

“With 5.5 million residents, Cook County is the second-largest county in the entire nation,” Chicago-based political campaign operative Bill Pascoe informs Inside the Beltway. “In Illinois politics, roughly 6 in 10 voters in the entire state live right here in this one county.”

And, he adds, the last time a Republican won the presidency of the Cook County Board of Commissioners was 1966.

“His name was Dick Ogilvie. His next job was governor,” says Mr. Pascoe. “If Republicans can build a coalition with independents and reform-minded Democrats to win in Cook County in 2006, then Illinois’ dark-blue tint automatically turns purple in terms of 2008 at the presidential and U.S. Senate level.”

Which could mean?

“Illinois would be vaulted back into the ranks of major battleground states in the presidential race, second in size only to Florida among the swing states,” he says.

Frank Franks

Move over, Barney. Make room for another outspoken congressman, Rep. Trent Franks.

The Arizona Republican, founder of the Congressional Israel Allies Conference, has sharply rebuked Democratic Rep. John D. Dingell, Michigan Democrat, for asserting during an interview: “I don’t take sides for or against Hezbollah or for or against Israel.”

In a statement, Mr. Franks says: “Hezbollah’s ideology and practice is decapitating humanitarians with hacksaws on television while they scream for mercy, cowardly hiding behind women and children while launching rockets deliberately targeting innocent civilians, continually breaking treaties of peace and forcing children to blow themselves to pieces to effect the murder of other innocents.”

He says if freedom in the world is to survive, people like Mr. Dingell “must throw off this nearly invincible ignorance and moral cowardice and face terrorism for the evil that it is.”

Fear the right

While rockets continue to rain down on Israel and Lebanon, causing widespread bloodshed on both sides of the border, WorldPride, a weeklong international gathering of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community, is actually going ahead as planned this week in Israel.

Thousands of activists from around the globe are expected in Jerusalem for a week of “discussion, camaraderie and community.”

Organizers suggest threats against their group come not from munitions, but “Christian, Jewish and Muslim religious conservatives.”

Senador Joe’

“WASHINGTON ? El SenadorJoe Lieberman (D-CT), demcrata de mas alto rango del comit de seguridad interna y asuntos gubernamentales (Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs en ingls), elogi la aprobacin por este mismo comit de un proyecto de ley que asegurar servicios de traduccin para victimas de grandes desastres.”

Or so reads a news release issued of late to Spanish-speaking constituents of Sen. Joe Lieberman, Connecticut Democrat, who will need all the votes he can get in today’s primary voting for his re-election.

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

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