- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 8, 2006

Advice taken

Given the irony surrounding this week’s U.S. air strike in Iraq that killed terrorist leader Abu Musab Zarqawi, one thing is certain: henceforth, Rep. Ray LaHood of Illinois will have President Bush’s ear whenever he desires.

“I was shocked, I really was. I had no idea this air strike was going on over there,” the six-term Republican from Peoria told Inside the Beltway yesterday.

The congressman was among several invited into the White House on Wednesday afternoon to brief Mr. Bush on congressional fact-finding missions in Iraq.

“I told him what my impressions were, and I went on to say that the most we as a nation could do for the new leaders of Iraq, and for the military, is if we could get al-Zarqawi. I told him it would be a huge boost, like when we captured Saddam Hussein.”

Unbeknownst to Mr. LaHood, at the same time that Mr. Bush was huddling with the lawmakers, the president was receiving secret updates surrounding a successful air strike of a safe house where Zarqawi was hiding.

“The president was nice enough to call me this morning,” Mr. LaHood told this column. “He said, ‘LaHood, you will go down in history for making a prediction that this would happen. ‘ ”

Playing politics

As if Baltimore Orioles team owner Peter Angelos hasn’t angered enough Washingtonians, given his dislike for the new Washington Nationals baseball franchise.

Now, Mr. Angelos is playing politics — way out in left field — by inviting wealthy guests to join him in hosting Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean “for an evening of fun at the ballpark.”

Or, more specifically, a party in the owner’s box at Camden Yards. Price: $25,000 to be an event chairman, $5,000 to be a host and $1,000 per guest.

The invitation is for June 27, when the Orioles face the Philadelphia Phillies.

One invitee, Georgetown resident Joseph C. Goulden, tells Inside the Beltway that “2006 marks my 50th year as an Orioles fan.”

“I’ve stuck with those Birds through thick and thin. … Now, even Angelos has gone the proverbial step too far — using the Birds as a political vehicle for Howard Dean.

“Ballparks are where many of us go to forget about politics for a few happy hours.”

Pair of albatrosses

Democratic National Committee spokesman Damien LaVera is trying to make hay over “mysterious cancellations” of a pair of Republican Party fundraisers scheduled for this Monday featuring Vice President Dick Cheney.

Even though the office of Rep. Don Sherwood, Pennsylvania Republican, said it was Mr. Cheney who had to cancel fundraisers for both Mr. Sherwood and Rep. Scott Garrett, New Jersey Republican, the DNC says the “cancellations come as Republicans across the country are ducking the president and vice president this election year.”

The DNC singles out Pennsylvania Republicans Sen. Rick Santorum and Rep. Curt Weldon for “refusing to stand” with President Bush at a May 24 fundraiser in Philadelphia, while New Jersey Senate candidate Tom Kean, a Republican, preferred “to get stuck in traffic” instead of joining Mr. Cheney at a Newark fundraiser.

“Republicans … across the country are realizing that President Bush and Vice President Cheney are an albatross around their political necks,” Mr. LaVera says.

Stick with Joe

Talk about dancing around a question.

After Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr., Delaware Democrat, said on MSNBC’s “Hardball” this week that Democrats are banking on the support of voters disenchanted with the war in Iraq, host Chris Matthews asked whether Democratic primary voters in Connecticut shouldn’t similarly oppose Sen. Joe Lieberman, a Democrat, “because he pushed the war and still does.”

“Well, I don’t — well, I — that’s a judgment — I think not. I think you look at the totality of what Joe has said. Joe wasn’t —”

“But you said it’s good to vote against [the wars supporters],” Mr. Matthews interrupted. “Why shouldn’t people who don’t like the war vote against Senator Lieberman, who supports the war?”

“But there’s a different circumstance,” Mr. Biden said. “Joe Lieberman is — what Joe has said, and people are angry about, is they backed the president. He’s backed the president because the president has 130,000 troops there.”

In other words?

“Joe’s made the judgment that there’s no alternative, but Joe has — I believe if Joe had been president, I don’t believe Joe would have taken us into war the way the president did.”

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

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