- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 25, 2007

‘The War’

There was barely a dry eye in the house when Veterans Affairs Secretary Jim Nicholson played host this week to a special screening by acclaimed filmmakers Ken Burns and Lynn Novick.

Mr. Burns and his longtime collaborator, best known for their documentaries “The Civil War,” “Baseball” and “Jazz,” have just completed “The War,” a 14-hour documentary on World War II slated to air on PBS in September.

Mr. Nicholson’s invited guests for the 45-minute sneak preview of “The War” included 25 veterans of the “Greatest Generation,” who told Inside the Beltway that they were “thrilled” and “moved to tears” that the filmmakers had chosen World War II as the topic for their latest documentary.

Personal sermon

“Oh yes, things are quieting down,” a somewhat relieved the Rev. Art Smith, pastor of St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Church in Buffalo, N.Y., told Inside the Beltway by telephone yesterday, after New York Rep. Brian Higgins and his family abruptly walked out of Mass there on Sunday.

The Democrat received what was described as a public tongue-lashing from the pulpit by deacon Tom McDonnell because of his support for embryonic stem-cell research.

“Everybody has their own version to the story,” Father Smith told us yesterday, assuring us that he was not trying to downplay the “emotion of the situation.”

The pastor, who more than a decade ago worked in television for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in Washington, has been sharply critical of the deacon’s sermon. Indeed, Father Smith took to the pulpit and apologized to the congregation.

In addition, Buffalo Bishop Edward U. Kmiec has issued a statement critical of Mr. McDonnell’s personal attack, saying no member of the congregation, congressman or otherwise, should be confronted from the holy altar.

Mr. Higgins gave Inside the Beltway the following statement yesterday: “On the incident itself — I never apologized for leaving the church service last Sunday. … Under the circumstances, leaving was the appropriate thing to do.”

Ouch!

As House Republicans continue to draft a new battle plan at their annual legislative retreat on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, they might keep in the back of their minds an observation from Democratic National Committee ChairmanHoward Dean, who commented this week about the November elections and the subsequent shift of power on Capitol Hill: “The Republicans never knew what hit them.”

Spilling to Sidey

First ladyLaura Bush today will hostthe debut of the Hugh S. Sidey Scholarship for Print Journalism at the White House. The legendary Time magazine correspondent was a favorite of the entire Bush family, and nobody could get the family members to reveal their true, inner feelings better than he.

Take the time shortly before his untimely death in November 2005, when Mr. Sidey, who covered the White House for decades, was invited into the Houston living room of former PresidentGeorge Bush and Mrs. Bush to chat about the second presidential term of their son, George W. Bush.

Mr. Bush: “Kitty Kelley. Did you see where somebody handed her her hat the other night, the Washingtonian? [The notorious Washington author’s name was dropped from the magazine’s masthead.] I loved that.”

Mrs. Bush: “Remember when Ann Richards said George Bush was born with a silver foot in his mouth? And then when George beat her in his first run for governor — I must say I felt a certain sense of joy that he finally had kind of taken her down. I could go around saying, ‘We showed her what she could do with that silver foot, where she could stick that now.’ ”

Mr. Bush: “MichaelMoore’s got to be the worst for me. I mean, he’s such a slimeball and so atrocious. But I love the fact now that the Democrats are not embracing him as theirs anymore.”

Mrs. Bush: “[President Bush] knows we’re the only two people in America who are awake at 6 in the morning. He calls from the Oval Office to talk to George, and we put him on speakerphone.”

Mr. Bush: “The thing that was perhaps the most hurtful to me was the theme that the president doesn’t know what he’s doing, that he’s dumb, that he’s some know-nothing cowboy from Texas. And when I sat with him, as I did out at Camp David, at Crawford, and heard him with the intelligence people, talking about the world and asking the appropriate questions — what’s the development in this country or that — I was surprised at how broad the vision and grasp are. But he gets no credit for that.”

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

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