- The Washington Times - Monday, August 18, 2008

Go figure

What a difference a year makes: “We understand that the next year will be decisive in terms of stabilizing the situation in that country. We want to do everything possible to help the Iraqi people and coalition partners bring stability, peace and freedom to Iraq.”

So declared Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili one year ago, announcing that his former Soviet republic was raising the number of its soldiers in Iraq to more than 2,000, behind only the U.S. and Great Britain in terms of troop strength.

Now, suddenly, Mr. Saakashvili is trying to deal with Russian invaders in his own country, who don’t seem in any hurry to leave.

Charlie’s back

Who better to discuss the current situation in the Middle East than the former Texas congressman whose covert dealings to funnel state-of-the-art weapons to Afghan rebels fighting the Soviet Union became the plot for the 2007 Hollywood blockbuster “Charlie Wilson‘s War?”

“An Evening with Charlie Wilson: A Conversation on U.S. Foreign Policy in Iraq, Afghanistan and the Middle East,” is title of a Sept. 24 town-hall meeting hosted by Virginia Rep. James P. Moran on the Alexandria campus of Northern Virginia Community College.

Mr. Wilson will take the stage from 7 to 9 p.m., no doubt discussing, among other threats, Russia’s military attack on Georgia.

More wind

Republican National Convention organizers in Minneapolis-St. Paul have jumped on the same green bandwagon that rolled earlier into Denver, site of the Democratic National Convention.

“One detail we are extremely proud of is our greening initiative,” says RNC president and CEO Maria Cino, who wishes to highlight the party’s “eco-conscious efforts, which include the use of General Motors hybrid vehicles and plans to power the Xcel Energy Center with wind and solar energy.”

Barack bucks

We’re not sure whether it signals an upcoming political shift in this country, or maybe it has something to do with the ailing economy, but for whatever reason, the Democratic National Committee for the first time in four years outraised the Republican National Committee in a one-month period bringing in $28 million during the month of July 2008.

Meanwhile, the Federal Election Commission announced Friday that the $409 million the Republican Party raised from January 2007 through the close of June 2008 reflected a 12 percent decline in contributions when compared with the same time period leading up to the 2004 presidential campaign.

Democratic fundraising committees, at the same time, had fewer receipts than Republicans — $351 million during the same reporting period. However, that figure is still 26 percent higher than in 2004, according to the FEC.

DNC spokeswoman Karen Finney says the strong fundraising numbers in July “are a testament to Barack Obama‘s message of change and hope and his vision for America’s future.”

Nightly affair

Democrats in the crowd had better have a sense of humor when the Democratic National Convention convenes later this month.

Former Capitol Step Ken Rynne says his popular Washington-based musical satire act, Planet Washington, will take the stage nightly during the convention at Denver’s Bovine Metropolis Theatre.

On the night that the John Edwards sex scandal broke, Mr. Rynne’s two-person comedy troupe opened its gig with such parodies as “My Girlfriend’s Back/There Goes My Reputation” and “Yes Sir, That’s My Baby.” Still, he stresses that the acts are truly bipartisan — “we tweak everybody, burn nobody.”

No need, actually, given the politicians do a good enough job of burning themselves.

Birthday week

Congress is letting it be known that it was 50 years ago this Friday — Aug. 22, 1958 — that newlyweds Virginia and Ben Ali opened what has become a “culinary landmark” in Washington.

Ben’s Chili Bowl is one of the longest-operating black-owned businesses in America, the Congressional Record observes. Today, the restaurant’s famous bowls of chili and spicy half-smokes are served up by Kamal and Nizam Ali, the founding couple’s sons.

John McCaslin can be reached at 202/636-3284 or jmccaslin@washingtontimes.com

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