Thursday, January 11, 2007

Sticking by Scooter

A fundraising appeal by Mary Matalin on behalf of embattled I. LewisScooterLibby Jr., former chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney, steered us in the direction of the Libby Legal Defense Trust and its advisory committee, which reads like a Republican Who’s Who.

There one finds Steve Forbes, Edwin Meese III, William J. Bennett, Donald L. Nickles, Spencer Abraham, Jack F. Kemp Jr., Fred Malek, Dick Carlson, L. William Paxon, Alan J. Simpson, Fred D. Thompson and R. James Woolsey, to name a few. Mel Sembler, who served as U.S. ambassador to Italy under President Bush from 2001 of 2005, heads the committee.

Mr. Libby’s case finally goes to trial this month. The former top Cheney aide was indicted by a special prosecutor probing the leak of a CIA officer’s identity. Mr. Libby is accused of perjury, making false statements and obstruction of justice. Mrs. Matalin calls the case “a hyped-up version of the politics of personal destruction.”

The purported “crime,” which she says was blown out of proportion by left-wing activists and liberal members of the press, “essentially amounts to having a different recollection of conversations with reporters than reporters have.”

Some of those reporters, we now learn, may be called to testify in the trial.

Meanwhile, the Wall Street Journal this week published its most scathing editorial yet about the pending court proceedings, noting that prosecutor Patrick J. Fitzgerald‘s trial is set to begin, “assuming anyone can still remember what this case is all about.

“Oh, yes, Mr. Fitzgerald is prosecuting Mr. Libby for lying in order to … well, we’re still waiting to hear a motive for this alleged perjury to cover up a leak that wasn’t a crime. But perhaps the prosecutor will come up with something.”

Long farewell

For 32 years he served in the House and was popular on both sides of the aisle. So it takes numerous calendar days, sponsors and venues to sufficiently honor the many accomplishments of newly retired Rep. Henry J. Hyde, Illinois Republican and longtime chairman of the International Relations Committee.

For the latest fete this week, Barbour Griffith & Rogers (BGR) International, a Washington government affairs and consulting firm, invited guests to Union Station to salute passage of the Henry J. Hyde United States-India Peaceful Atomic Energy Cooperation Act of 2006.

Those toasting Mr. Hyde included R. Nicholas Burns, undersecretary of state for political affairs; Ronen Sen, India’s ambassador to the United States; Rep. Tom Lantos, California Democrat and chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee (Mr. Hyde’s committee was renamed by the new Democrat majority); Florida Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, ranking Republican on Foreign Affairs; and Indiana Sen. Richard G. Lugar, ranking Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

“We wanted to take the opportunity to recognize the most significant legislation in the history of U.S.-India relations, and to honor the career of its sponsor, Chairman Henry Hyde,” BGR President Robert D. Blackwill, who served under President Bush as ambassador to India, told Inside the Beltway.

Refugee to anchor

The Smithsonian’s first Vietnamese American historical exhibit, “Exit Saigon, Enter Little Saigon,” opens next week and tells the story of Vietnamese Americans from their significant influx as refugees in 1975 through today.

The exhibit showcases the adjustment and adaptation of Vietnamese to American life, as well as the myriad contributions the ethnic community has made in the past 30 years. Among those featured in the exhibit is CNN weekend anchor Betty Nguyen, who told Inside the Beltway yesterday that she was an infant when her mother and now-deceased father, a U.S. serviceman, carried her aboard “one of the last cargo planes coming out of Vietnam.”

“We were packed in like sardines, leaving in the middle of the night. It was very frightening,” Miss Nguyen said. “My mom remembers very distinctly how scared everybody was, leaving for a life so unknown. But the communists had taken over Saigon. …

“We went to three different refugee camps before we settled in Texas,” she continued. “Mom now looks back and sees my dad as our savior.”

Miss Nguyen mostly spoke of how proud she is, personally, of her fellow Vietnamese Americans:

“So many started with nothing, with only what was in their suitcases, and yet they made a life in America. They endured struggles and sacrifices and have achieved the American dream. Ask any one of them today and they will tell you how thankful they are to be Americans.”

Miss Nguyen said being featured in the exhibit as the first Vietnamese American to rise to national news anchor is a “wonderful tribute.”

The exhibit at the Concourse Gallery, Smithsonian S. Dillon Ripley Center, 1100 Jefferson Drive SW, opens Jan. 19 and runs through March 31. Then it will travel the country for three years.

• John McCaslin, whose column is nationally syndicated, can be reached at 202/636-3284 or

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