- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Where’s the beef?

Don’t tell us that Rep. Harold E. FordJr.’s past relationship with a local college coed is the most Republicans can muster in diverting attention from the Mark Foley congressional page scandal.

“More Details of Ford’s Fancy Fling” — or so blares the National Republican Senatorial Committee’s headline about the personal life of the Tennessee Democrat, who is in a tight race for his state’s open Senate seat.

The so-called “fling” was several years ago, when the unmarried Mr. Ford was celebrating his 31st birthday at Georgetown’s Paolo’s restaurant and laid eyes on Julia Baugher, then a sophomore at Georgetown University (after graduation, she penned a column in New York about dating. In fact, she wrote about the couple’s otherwise ordinary relationship for Cosmopolitan.)

As the Memphis Flyer quotes Miss Baugher, “Other than a fabulous weekend ski vacation and a few fancy dinners, all Harold gave me was the certainty that dating a [politician] is overrated.”

Cut and dry

“Two members of Congress were to join him, Rep. Ed Whitfield [Kentucky Republican] and Rep. Marsha Blackburn [Tennessee Republican], but both canceled this morning, citing foul weather.”

White House pool report from Vice President DickCheney’s trip this week to Fort Campbell, Ky., where during a cold, steady rain he spoke to a crowd of about 4,000 soldiers.

Randy rerun

“It seems that someone in the Air Force Material Command is totally apolitical, or is given to pushing the Republican Party as the ‘party of corruption,’ or is not a consumer of news,” observes Inside the Beltway reader Steve A. Brown of Springfield.

“Saturday, I visited the Air Force Material Command tent set up at the Pentagon as part of the dedication of the Air Force Memorial. On a table in the tent was a demonstration of an automated technique to detect corrosion in the skin of aircrafts. Short video clips featured officials talking about the technique and one of the talkers was none other than disgraced former congressman Randy Cunningham.”

A Top Gun graduate and highly decorated Navy F-4 Phantom fighter pilot during the Vietnam War, Cunningham resigned his House seat last November after pleading guilty to accepting bribes, mail fraud, wire fraud and tax evasion. The California Republican has been sentenced to more than eight years in prison.

Hold the rocks

Doing a double-take when reading our column item about the National Archives welcoming its “millionth” visitor (a young lad named Nate Wolters of Concord, Calif.) was Kevin Bryant of Fishers, Ind.

“They say he was the 1 millionth visitor to view the Constitution and Declaration of Independence?” Mr. Bryant notes. “Perhaps the Archives can borrow some planes or a moon rock from the Air & Space Museum to get some more foot traffic in?”

Rest assured, it should have been clarified that the magic million mark is for fiscal 2006 — an attendance milestone that far surpassed initial projections, given that the National Archives was closed because of flooding during peak tourism weeks in late June and early July.

Furthermore, we learned yesterday that Hollywood, for once, gets credit for helping draw in the crowds to view the nation’s historical documents.

“Interestingly, the opening of our permanent Public Vaults interactive exhibit in November 2004 dovetailed perfectly with the release of Disney’s ‘National Treasure’ movie, in which Nicolas Cage steals the Declaration of Independence and finds a treasure map on the backside, increasing our draw and ‘coolness quotient’ amongst the teenage and young adult set,” Archives spokeswoman Miriam Kleiman told Inside the Beltway yesterday.

“Not only are more people of all ages visiting, they are staying longer. A 1990s survey found that only 13 percent of visitors stayed more than an hour. By 2005, that figure jumped to nearly 50 percent of visitors reporting a visit of more than an hour.”

Here’s some fun local trivia about “National Treasure,” supplied by the IMDb movie database:

• The film suggests that something is written on the back of the Declaration of Independence. Sure enough, there is writing on the back of the large parchment document: “Original Declaration of Independence dated 4th July 1776,” appearing at the bottom, upside down. It’s likely that early in its life the document was rolled up for storage, and the notation was added simply as a label.

• Yes, the water seen in the reflecting pool in front of the Lincoln Memorial was digitally added because the actual water had been drained for maintenance at the time of the filming.

John McCaslin, whose column is nationally syndicated, can be reached at 202/636-3284 or [email protected]

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