- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Gold digging

During a recent interview with a New Orleans radio station, this columnist was asked about the new “toothpick rule,” part of the sweeping ethics reforms approved on Capitol Hill.

In theory, the law bars lawmakers and their staffs from accepting any meals from lobbyists that can’t be picked up with a toothpick. Hors d’oeuvres are OK, obviously. Just don’t pick your tongue.

Listening to the interview while sipping beers with his friends after a round of golf was Keith Dufour of New Orleans. He asked one of the group, a Louisiana lawyer and political operative, how the new “toothpick law” would change the lobbying industry in Washington.

“He answered, ‘No big deal, they’ll find a thousand ways to get around it,’ ” says Mr. Dufour, who then asked the lawyer what would he do as a lobbyist.

“He said, ‘Simply, I would get some real gold toothpicks.’ ”

Back to school

We see where the State Department this 2007 fall semester will pack up and send its somewhat controversial Middle East analyst, Alberto Miguel Fernandez, several blocks north to George Washington University’s campus, where he’ll become the new Public Diplomacy Fellow.

Mr. Fernandez, who heads pubic diplomacy at the Bureau of Near East Affairs, generated enormous controversy recently when reportedly telling Al Jazeera television that the United States has shown “arrogance” and “stupidity” in Iraq.

“We tried to do our best, but I think there is much room for criticism because, undoubtedly, there was arrogance and there was stupidity from the United States in Iraq,” or so the transcript reads.

The State Department has agreed to each year assign a career diplomat to GW’s Public Diplomacy Institute, where they will teach and write. Mr. Fernandez becomes the second such fellow.

In a statement issued through the university, Mr. Fernandez said he’s “delighted” to be chosen and looks forward to contributing to a “deeper understanding of this crucial government endeavor” in Iraq and the Middle East.

“Communicating effectively with the Arab and Muslim world, with real credibility and humility, is an essential skill in the ongoing struggle of our time,” said Mr. Fernandez.

Abe to McCain

An interesting list has been compiled of the greatest Republican speeches to shape history, culled from presidential scholar and speechwriter Wynton C. Hall’s new book, “The Right Words.”

They are Abraham Lincoln (“Gettysburg Address,” “Second Inaugural”); Theodore Roosevelt (“The Strenuous Life,” “The Man with the Muck-Rake”); William F. Buckley Jr. (“Yale Alumni Day Speech”); Dwight D. Eisenhower (“Atoms for Peace,” “Little Rock”); Everett Dirksen (“The [Civil Rights] Time has Come”); Barry Goldwater (“Extremism in the Defense of Liberty Is No Vice”).

Also included are Richard M. Nixon (“Checkers”); Gerald R. Ford (“Oath of the U.S. Presidency” [“Our long national nightmare is over.”] ); Ronald Reagan (“The Evil Empire,” “Challenger,” “Mr. Gorbachev, Tear Down This Wall”); Newt Gingrich (“The Contract with America”); George W. Bush (“Justice Will Be Done”); and John McCain (“A Disingenuous Filmmaker” [the 1994 Republican National Convention speech critical of “Fahrenheit 9/11” director and John Kerry backer Michael Moore]).

Border experience

The Immigration Reform Caucus (IRC) has lined up a new chairman who actually grew up on the U.S.-Mexican border, Rep. Brian Bilbray of California.

He will replace outspoken Colorado Rep. Tom Tancredo, who hopes to become the next Republican president.

“Congressman Bilbray was asked to lead the IRC because of his pragmatic approach to the illegal-immigration issue,” Mr. Tancredo states. “Brian has held the line against amnesty, fought for border security and will be a terrific leader.”

For his part, Mr. Bilbray says he will keep the 91-member IRC embroiled in the immigration-policy debate, and seek to expand the caucus to include more lawmakers from both parties.

Latest buzz

Word from the North Dakota Agriculture Department is that it has issued the first-ever industrial hemp production licenses in the state, going to farmers Wayne Hauge and Dave Monson, the latter also a state representative when not planting seeds.

“The two farmers still have some hoops to jump through before they can actually grow industrial hemp, which can be used to make everything from paper to lotion,” reports KXMA-TV in Dickinson, which means obtaining permission to grow the weed from the Drug Enforcement Administration, since hemp is a distant cousin of marijuana. Then the farmers will have to pay a $2,300 federal registration fee.

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

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