- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 31, 2006


A Republican congressman from North Carolina is questioning the voting process that crowned Taylor Hicks the new “American Idol,” going so far as to compare it to controversy surrounding the crowning of GeorgeW. Bush as president in 2000.

Rep. Howard Coble, an 11-term congressman, says the much-touted “American Idol” contest, during which an outrageous 63.4 million votes were cast (more than the 62 million votes President Bush received in 2004), was “the biggest electoral debate since the Bush-[Al] Gore presidential election in Florida in 2000.”

But the winner, he says, should have been Chris Daughtry of McLeansville, N.C., which would have made it the second time a town in Mr. Coble’s congressional district produced an “American Idol.” The previous winner, Fantasia, is from High Point, N.C.

The congressman says that while he is not a good judge of the pop music scene, he draws attention to “online polls, fan blogs, numerous Web sites and general talk about town,” all hailing Mr. Daughtry as the favorite.

“But I do know politics, and … while I will not call for Congress to investigate this ‘Idol’ election process, those of us who reside in the Sixth District of North Carolina will always be convinced that our guy really won — sort of like fans of Al Gore in 2000.”

Ted’s hideaway

We have it on good authority that Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, Massachusetts Democrat, will reveal his “personal hideaway space” when C-SPAN over three nights this week takes viewers on an unprecedented tour of the U.S. Capitol.

“The three-part series is a first in many ways,” C-SPAN’s Jennifer Moire tells Inside the Beltway. “It’s the first time C-SPAN has produced a high-definition series; it’s the first time viewers will see many of these images on TV; and we’re showing areas not accessible to the public — from the crypts and the old Senate baths in the basement to an up-close tour of the Capitol dome.”

But what will really make scandal-minded Inside the Beltway subscribers tune in to the series?

“And for you … we have Senator Kennedy presenting his personal hideaway space, rarely seen on TV or accessible to the public,” she says, obviously a good judge of our readers.

C-SPAN’s special presentation of “The Capitol” will air at 8 tonight through Friday. Each segment is about three hours long, and network CEO Brian Lamb is quoted as saying it is “the most extensive look at the history … of the Capitol ever seen on television.”

Otter utter

Rep. C.L. “ButchOtter, Idaho Republican, agrees there has been an awful lot of talk the last few days about the FBI’s 18-hour-long raid on the offices of embattled Rep. William J. Jefferson, Louisiana Democrat.

Still, he says, “it’s tough for me to get too excited about the howls of protest from members of Congress.” Not the least being House Judiciary Committee Chairman Rep. F.James Sensenbrenner Jr., who vowed yesterday to call Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales and FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III before his panel to explain the unprecedented raid of a lawmaker’s office.

“Where were these voices of outrage and righteous indignation when we learned the executive branch was monitoring the telephone conversations of ordinary Americans?” Mr. Otter asks, referring to National Security Agency eavesdropping.

“At least we know there was a legitimate warrant issued by a judge for the search of the congressman’s office,” he points out.

Washington’s reef

Those aren’t ordinary aquariums at the Reef Restaurant in Adams Morgan. All of the multicolored fish, coral and algae in the large saltwater tanks are captive-raised and grown by hand, including by proprietor Brian Harrison.

Furthermore, the restaurant on 18th Street Northwest doesn’t serve the standard seafood: it’s all sustainably fished.

Both feats have not only landed the Reef and its owner in the book, “50 Ways to Save the Ocean,” by David Helvarg, but the trendy establishment has been chosen to kick off Capitol Hill Oceans Week 2006. Rep. Sam Farr, California Democrat, who sits on the House Oceans Caucus, and underwater explorer Philippe Cousteau, who wrote the foreword to “50 Ways,” are among the special guests.

The June 8 event coincides with annual meetings between lawmakers, lobbyists and environmental stewards on Capitol Hill, including the three-day Marine Fish Conservation Network meeting and the Conference on Ocean Literacy. The book, meanwhile, is being sent to all 535 senators and representatives.

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

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