- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 2, 2006

Matter of fact

During yesterday’s Senate Judiciary Committee debate on immigration, senators found themselves detailing their own heritage.

That prompted the following exchange by first-generation American Sen. Arlen Specter, Pennsylvania Republican, and Sen. Jeff Sessions, Alabama Republican, whose ancestors all arrived by 1850.

Mr. Specter: “Did they miss the Civil War?”

Mr. Sessions: “No, Abraham Lincoln killed one of them.”

Troubled youth

Inside the Beltway thought it would be fun to have former House Speaker Newt Gingrich autograph a pair of old black-and-white photographs that landed on our desk however many years ago — one of Mr. Gingrich the collegian, sporting long sideburns that stretch practically to his Adam’s apple; the other of young “Newtie” at age 7, posing atop a tamed pony and wearing a cowboy hat and bandanna.

“Do NOT publish these! Your friend, Newt Gingrich,” he signed the pictures, while doing so recalling a story about the latter photograph that still irks him today.

In January 1995, the New York Times was pointing out childhood similarities between Mr. Gingrich and President Clinton, the pair growing up during an era “when postwar American horizons stretched forever, [and] a boy could grow up to be anything he wanted — President of the United States, even. Or if he could think really big, Speaker of the House.

“But first he wanted to be a cowboy,” said the newspaper, reproducing side by side in its Sunday edition childhood photos of Mr. Clinton and Mr. Gingrich, both dressed up as cowboys.

“As their futures unfold,” said the newspaper, “the similarities of their pasts may fall away and their differences become more sharply defined. But if one searches these early portraits for clues, at least one difference is evident already: Newt has a gun.”

“Can you believe that?” asked Mr. Gingrich, the observation from 11 years ago still fresh in his mind. “They actually saw fit to point out that I’m the one — not Bill Clinton — holding a gun.”

Kerry your gun

“For Sale: A piece of authentic political memorabilia that played a role in deciding the outcome of the 2004 presidential campaign!”

Fans of the Second Amendment have one week left to visit EBay and bid on a large National Rifle Association banner — displayed at rallies and gun shows as it crisscrossed battleground states in the final, frantic month of the campaign — warning Americans that Democratic candidate John Kerry would take away your guns.

“While bumper stickers and pins are good ways to show support for a candidate, races for president do not hinge upon messages as simple as Vote for Bush,” reads the ad. “In the closely fought 2004 presidential contest every vote counted, especially in swing states such as Ohio and West Virginia.”

In the seller’s mind, the nylon banner, measuring 8 feet by 4 feet, “is a valuable piece of history.” If desired, the high bidder can have the banner autographed by the NRA’s top lobbyist and chairman of its Political Victory Fund, Chris W. Cox.

Mowing grass roots

Activists groups and think tanks are none too happy about provisions in congressional lobby-reform bills that take aim at grass-roots lobbying and citizen activists.

This week, a grass-roots group called the LobbySense Coalition, headed by Kerri Houston of Frontiers of Freedom, released a scathing statement opposing provisions in two lobby bills proposed by Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona and Democratic Sens. Harry Reid of Nevada and Barack Obama of Illinois.

These bills, considered a reaction to the Jack Abramoff lobby scandal, add onerous reporting restrictions, take aim at the ability of grass-roots groups to mobilize quickly, and remove current privacy protections for contributors, critics charge.

“This is like arresting the neighbors, instead of the burglar,” says Ms. Houston. “Grass-roots activism is an integral part of the American fabric of freedom, and no one in the grass-roots community had a part in the Abramoff mess, so why is Congress picking on us?”

The statement is signed by more than 50 national and state groups, including Grover Norquist of Americans for Tax Reform, Tom Schatz of the Council for Citizens Against Government Waste, Gary Bauer of American Values and Ann Stone of Republicans for Choice.

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

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