- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Sign of the times

“American owners.”

Sign with big letters posted in front of the Grape & Grain liquor store in Bridgeville, Del.

Heard enough

Days after the national anthem was translated loosely into Spanish on a widely released album, we see where Rep. Jim Ryun, Kansas Republican, is seeking co-sponsors to legislation affirming that the musical composition be sung only in English.

As far as the congressman is concerned, there are a “few things specific to our nation that should not be recited or sung in another language.”

Her turn

Mary Cheney’s new memoir, “Now It’s My Turn,” was officially released yesterday, one highlight being that when she first told her dad, Vice President Dick Cheney, about her homosexuality, he calmly replied: “You’re my daughter, and I love you, and I just want you to be happy.”

We assume both Mr. Cheney and his wife, Lynne Cheney, will be on hand at The Palm on May 19 when a book party will be held in Miss Cheney’s honor.

Oil tycoon?

What with the price of gasoline, one might as well laugh right along with Rep. Corrine Brown, Florida Democrat and vice chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus.

President Bush has a lot of wacky ideas for dealing with the high gas prices he created,” she says. “But what more do you expect when you put J.R. Ewing in the White House?”

Mrs. Brown suggests Americans will soon be paying $4 per gallon of gasoline, and who are we to argue with her?

Left camp

That was Rep. Sherrod Brown, Ohio Democrat and candidate for the U.S. Senate, leading the Democratic charge while a guest of Air America radio’s Janeane Garofalo.

Reaction from the opposing camp?

“The only folks more far-out than Sherrod Brown are Sherrod Brown’s friends,” says Dan Ronayne, National Republican Senatorial Committee spokesman. “Between Hollywood liberals, ultra-liberal bloggers and his pals at the Nation [a left-wing magazine], it’s no wonder Brown thinks he’s in the mainstream. These folks would be to the left of just about anyone.”

Dangerous citizens

Have the much-touted “town hall” debates of recent presidential elections lost their town hall appeal?

As a candidate in 1992, Bill Clinton successfully orchestrated the first town hall debates, created to incorporate voters’ voices and concerns into the dialogue. The new format was widely regarded as a rejuvenation of public involvement, and the Commission of Presidential Debates rushed to reserve more town hall venues for the 1996, 2000 and 2004 elections.

Now, a University of Missouri-Columbia researcher, Mitchell McKinney, says close scrutiny of the “evolution” of these folksy formats “suggests that our presidential candidates have maneuvered to gain nearly complete control over the town hall exchange since the debate was first introduced.”

A “devolution” of the town hall debate as a public sphere has occurred, is how he puts it, “whereby every four years citizens’ freedoms to participate in their debate as they see fit have been seriously restricted.”

Thus, the first town hall debate in 1992 between Mr. Clinton, then-President Bush, and H. Ross Perot, gave way in 2004 to a “strict code of conduct” agreed to beforehand by President Bush and his opponent, Sen. John Kerry, where audience questions were screened and selected in advance.

“Once the political candidates and their handlers realized the dangers of allowing citizens to actually participate freely in their debate, we end up … with a debate dialogue that has very little relationship to the public’s agenda,” Mr. McKinney says.

Here ye!

Jordan’s Queen Rania Al-Abdullah has been visiting Washington this week, her four-day working trip to further promote cross-cultural understanding and acceptance.

Last evening, she and first lady Laura Bush attended the ninth annual Mosaic Gala Dinner, chaired by Mrs. Bush. The foundation was established in 1998 by the wives of 17 Arab ambassadors to promote understanding of Arab culture and history.

The queen will travel to Chicago today, where among other appearances she will participate in an after-school program with Chicago Mayor Richard Daley and his wife, Maggie.

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

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