- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 5, 2007

Taking the Fifth

What do Bill Clinton, Roger Ailes, Sean Hannity and Ruth Bader Ginsberg all have in common?

They’re among a prestigious group of Beltway insiders who have signed a leather-bound, pocket-size U.S. Constitution that ABC Radio executive Chris Berry keeps in his breast pocket as he makes his way through official Washington circles.

“I picked it up in KeithLipert’s Georgetown gallery in the fall of 2005 when [the late ABC News anchor] Peter Jennings was in the midst of his battle with lung cancer,” Mr. Berry explains. “I knew that Peter, who was born a Canadian, used to carry one, and in a solidarity gesture, I bought it.”

He would carry it with him for several months, until one day he was introduced to newly minted Supreme Court Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. “I asked Justice Roberts to sign it, and he graciously said that he would be honored to do so,” he recalls.

That first signature was followed by dozens of others, representing all three branches of government, particularly those with an interest in constitutional issues. For example, Supreme Court Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas are joined in the small book by Senate Judiciary Committee members Sens. Orrin G. Hatch of Utah, Patrick J. Leahy of Vermont and Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania.

“People seem to enjoy adding their name,” says Mr. Berry, and most will even take the time to find a pertinent article of the Constitution to autograph.

“Bill Clinton signed Article II, which outlines the duties of the president,” he notes. “And when I asked Henry Kissinger to sign it, he said, ‘Do you want me to sign where it says I can’t be president?’ And then he put his distinctive signature on the line that reads, ‘No person except a natural born citizen … shall be eligible to the office of president.’ ”

Mr. Berry is particularly pleased with signatures from his colleagues in the Fourth Estate.

Rush Limbaugh signed the First Amendment, and G. Gordon Liddy made sure he added his name on the Fifth Amendment, saying ‘I’ve taken the Fifth enough!’ ”

Others signing include Ben Bradlee of The Washington Post, NBC News anchor Brian Williams, ABC newsman Bob Woodruff and syndicated radio broadcaster Paul Harvey.

Mr. Berry insists he’s no star-struck autograph collector, but rather his career has allowed him access to hundreds of household names over the years. The Constitution, he says, “resonates with Washington power-brokers, all of whom gladly add their names to the pages of this document of freedom.”

With the annual White House Correspondents’ Association dinner coming up in a few weeks, we asked Mr. Berry if he had his pen and Constitution ready for the target-rich environment?

“Just like my American Express card,” he said. “I don’t leave home without it.”

God Bless Amerigo

Did you know that “America” will celebrate its 500th anniversary on April 25?

That is, the coining of the name “America.”

“On April 25, 1507, cartographer Martin Waldseemuller … changed the way Europeans perceived the world by first depicting the Western Hemisphere in his 1507 world map,” notes Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney, New York Democrat, in doing so honoring Amerigo Vespucci “by labeling this land with the Italian navigator’s Christian name.”

Rep. Alcee L. Hastings, Florida Democrat, says that Vespucci, born in 1454, traveled across the Atlantic Ocean four times between 1497 and 1504, and during his second voyage “he realized the land initially discovered by Christopher Columbus was not India, but in fact a whole new continent.”

Eight years later, Waldseemuller designed a map naming the new continent “America.”

“Incidentally, the only remaining copy of this map is housed in the Library of Congress,” Mr. Hastings points out.

Pass the napkins

“My apologies for not being more skeptical,” writes Marc Morano, communications director for the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee’s staff of ranking member Sen. James M. Inhofe, Oklahoma Republican, who had forwarded to numerous Washington media outlets a story that “tricked multiple news services.”

Indeed, Inside the Beltway yesterday had cited those legitimate European news agencies as reporting that Belgium was to impose a tax on barbecuing to fight global warming.

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

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