- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 25, 2006

Get the message?

Top Democrats crowded into the Sulgrave Club on Massachusetts Avenue on Wednesday evening to celebrate the first political tome of Ben Barnes, the powerhouse lobbyist and one-time Texas lieutenant governor who former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle once dubbed the “51st Democratic senator.”

It was Mr. Barnes who came forward to say that in 1968 he pulled strings to get young George W. Bush into the National Guard and out of possible harm’s way.

Picking up personal copies of “Barn Burning Barn Building: Tales of a Political Life, From LBJ to George W. Bush and Beyond,” were Mr. Daschle, former White House Chief of Staff Mac McLarty, Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, former Democratic Party leader Terry McAuliffe, former Virginia Sen. Chuck Robb and one-time Democratic Party Chairman and Ambassador to the Soviet Union Robert S. Strauss, whose wife, Helen, died a few weeks ago.

“To have Bob Strauss there saying kind words about me made for a sentimental evening,” Mr. Barnes told Inside the Beltway afterward. As for the future of the Democratic Party?

“I am optimistic … if the party message is reasons to vote for Democrats as opposed to reasons to vote against Republicans,” he told us. “If they come up with that message, then there is a good chance we can win back the House, and win Senate seats, and retake the White House.”

Show me the money

Want a high-paying government job? Become an air traffic controller.

While the average union-backed controller compensation already totals $166,000 per year, Congress has until June 5 to decide whether salaries will rise to the $187,000 level the Federal Aviation Administration has offered to pay, or perhaps as much as the $200,000-plus the controllers have been demanding.

All of which has led to an impasse in negotiations that began eight months ago and shifted the matter to Congress to decide, as law requires.

“Taxpayers will save $600 million if Congress allows the FAA’s contract to take effect,” according to Heritage Foundation fellow Ronald D. Utt. “Incredibly, a bipartisan majority in the House … is siding with the controllers in their effort to force the taxpayers to provide them with one of the most generous pay and benefit packages available to any group of American workers.”

That effort is being led by Reps. Steven C. LaTourette, Ohio Republican, and Jerry F. Costello, Illinois Democrat.

The FAA, at the same time, points out that the base pay for the estimated 14,500 controllers already has soared 75 percent over seven years, rising from $64,877 in 1998 to $113,615 last year. But when benefits are included, total compensation averaged $166,000 last year, according to Mr. Utt.

In addition, about 1,300 senior-level controllers made more than $200,000 last year with overtime and other benefits included.

One source close to the negotiations tells Inside the Beltway the controllers “cannot reasonably expect to replicate the lavish deal they were given [in 1998] by the Clinton administration — these are very different times for the aviation industry and the federal budget.”

“That 1998 contract has proven to cost the U.S. taxpayer billions of dollars more than the administration had estimated at that time. This new proposal will cost taxpayers a $2.6 billion in additional costs.”

Almighty power

Democrats had better not mess with Pat Robertson. One kick in the you-know-where, and who knows how far they’d travel.

The Christian Broadcasting Network is touting the fact that through “rigorous” training, its founder, a former Republican presidential candidate, recently leg-pressed a whopping 2,000 pounds — an entire ton, ladies and gentlemen, or about the weight of a compact car.

“Pat Robertson worked out at the gym on an incline leg press machine with weights up to 570 pounds,” according to the CBN Web site (www.cbn.com). “Working with his physician, who was an amazing strength trainer, he worked up to 800 pounds, then 1,000 pounds.

“Then one day he was able to leg press 1,500 pounds one time. Then over the succeeding months, he trained with multiple reps of 1,200 pounds, 1,300 pounds and 1,400 pounds. One Saturday morning, his physician said, ‘I’ll get you bragging rights. Let’s go to 2,000 pounds.’

“When 2,000 pounds was put on the machine, two men got on either side and helped push the load up, and then let it down on Mr. Robertson, who pushed it up one rep and let it go back down again.”

The TV preacher says one of his secrets is consuming a high-protein shake with energy-producing nutrients.

We’ll be the first to report when Mr. Robertson walks on water.

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

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