- The Washington Times - Monday, July 17, 2006

Change of plans

Bowing to criticism from Democratic and Republican House leaders, a congressionally chartered historical society yesterday dropped plans to include imprisoned former Rep. Randy “Duke” Cunningham in a tribute to retiring members of Congress.

But despite complaints from Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, California Democrat, the U.S. Capitol Historical Society is keeping former Majority Leader Tom DeLay on the program for tomorrow’s annual event, the Associated Press reports.

So despite the group’s about-face on Cunningham, Mrs. Pelosi still won’t attend the event or let her name be used as a co-host, her spokesman said.

“DeLay left Congress under indictment,” said spokesman Brendan Daly. “The ethics committee said they would have investigated him if he weren’t leaving.”

Ronald A. Sarasin, president and chief executive of the historical society, said Mr. DeLay is “entitled to the presumption of innocence” as he awaits trial in a Texas campaign-finance case.

But in a letter yesterday to Mrs. Pelosi, Mr. Sarasin said he was wrong to have included Cunningham’s name on the list for the Tribute to Retiring Members of the 109th Congress being held in the Capitol’s Statuary Hall.

Mr. Cunningham, California Republican, was sentenced in March to more than eight years in prison after pleading guilty to taking $2.4 million in bribes. Mr. Sarasin initially had defended the decision to include him and Mr. DeLay in the program, saying it wasn’t up to the Capitol Historical Society to “pretend they never existed.”

“The critics are right, and I was wrong,” Mr. Sarasin wrote yesterday.

Bloomberg’s future

“Democrats and Republicans [in New York City] are taking seriously talk that Mayor Michael Bloomberg will run as an independent for president in 2008,” John Fund writes at www.OpinionJournal.com.

“One source close to Mr. Bloomberg predicts he will dispose of his multibillion-dollar business holdings next year, give much of it away to charity, and use some of the remainder for a high-stakes presidential campaign,” Mr. Fund said.

“At a dinner party I attended last month, much of the talk was about whether the mayor might run. Sen. Charles E. Schumer, a Democrat, noted that the people around Mr. Bloomberg were clearly making noises about the possibility. Another leading Democrat, who is close to Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, opined that a Bloomberg candidacy would wind up hurting her general-election chances. A Republican broke in to disagree, noting that should the GOP nominate a highly conservative candidate in 2008, Mr. Bloomberg could snap up votes from middle-of-the-roaders in both parties attracted to his technocratic style.

“But could a Bloomberg candidacy actually succeed? Certainly, dissatisfaction with both major parties is high, with large numbers of Americans viewing Republicans as unprincipled and less-than-competent and Democrats as feckless and unserious. Similar conditions gave rise to Ross Perot in 1992, and for a while the diminutive Texas billionaire was running first in the polls. He eventually won 19 percent of the national vote and helped Bill Clinton defeat the first President Bush.

“Bloomberg boosters say their man has far more advantages than Mr. Perot did. Most obviously, Mr. Bloomberg has actually won two elections, whereas Mr. Perot never held elective office.”

Tubes or pipes?

Sen. Ted Stevens is enduring no end of ridicule in the blogosphere for his explanation, in a Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee debate, of how the Internet works, Liz Ruskin of McClatchy Newspapers reports.

“The Internet is not something you just dump something on. It’s not a truck. It’s a series of tubes,” the Alaska Republican said during a June 28 committee session.

“And if you don’t understand, those tubes can be filled. And if they are filled, when you put your message in, it gets in line and it’s going to be delayed by anyone that puts into that tube enormous amounts of material, enormous amounts of material.”

Internet pundits greeted his explanations with a nonstop sniggerfest, with extra helpings of derision, on sites such as BoingBoing, Daily Kos, Fark, MySpace and YouTube.

“Ted Stevens, unfrozen caveman senator,” was the pronouncement on Wonkette.

Snorting loudest are bloggers who say Mr. Stevens’ speech shows he is not the right person to chair the committee pushing to rewrite of the nation’s fundamental communications act.

Communications lobbyists say Mr. Stevens is getting a bad rap. They say he was employing an analogy in the tubes statement.

Mr. Stevens’ staff director on the committee, Lisa Sutherland, said the bloggers were making fun of Mr. Stevens for a minor mistake: Saying “tubes” rather than “pipes.” The latter is common slang in the telecommunications industry.

The ‘dictator’

“When, on ‘The McLaughlin Group’ over the weekend, Newsweek’s Eleanor Clift charged that President Bush is ‘a dictator who’s ineffective,’ an incensed Chrystia Freeland, a Canadian native who is the managing editor in the U.S. of London’s Financial Times, scolded Clift for using the dictator label ‘so loosely’ and inaccurately,” the Media Research Center’s Brent Baker writes at www.mrc.org.

“Clift opined that of those attending the G-8 summit, Russian President Vladimir Putin is ‘the only one of those leaders who goes in there with a commanding popularity among his own people because he is perceived to be an effective dictator. What we have in this country is a dictator who’s ineffective.’

“Freeland, shouting over panelists who were trying to move on to other points, retorted: ‘But he’s not a dictator. I mean we can’t use, no, we can’t use these terms so loosely.’ Clift backtracked a bit: ‘Well, we have an authoritarian president who is ineffective.’ But Freeland stood her ground, pointing out: ‘You guys can elect your presidents, and there can be a free choice. That’s not the case in Russia.’ ”

Sour singer

Dan Quayle took time out from participating in the American Century Celebrity Golf Championship in Stateline, Nev., on Friday to attend pop singer John Mellencamp’s concert, only to run into a political statement, according to the San Jose Mercury News in California.

Mr. Quayle then made a statement of his own by walking out during Mr. Mellencamp’s rendition of “Walk Tall.” Before beginning the song, Mr. Mellencamp told the Harveys Casino crowd that it was dedicated to everyone hurt by policies of the current Bush administration.

Mr. Quayle, who served as vice president for President Bush’s father from 1989 to 1993, walked out of the venue before Mr. Mellencamp finished the song.

Mr. Quayle said through a publicist: “Well, I think Mellencamp’s performance was not very good to begin with, and the comment put it over the top.”

Greg Pierce can be reached at 202/636-3285 or [email protected]washingtontimes.com.

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