- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 30, 2009

Cao now

Louisiana Rep. Anh “Joseph” Cao (pronounced “gow,” rhymes with “pow”) has a lot on his plate. The freshman Republican who represents the heavily-Democratic district of New Orleans is laser-focused on getting his Hurricane Katrina-battered city the recovery help it still needs, convincing his voters that Republican ideas can revamp their economy and managing his rock-star status in the Vietnamese community.

Mr. Cao was never expected to beat Democratic Rep. William J. Jefferson in 2008, but late-breaking revelations in a federal bribery scandal involving Mr. Jefferson helped usher Mr. Cao into office and become the first Vietnam-born American elected to Congress.

Mr. Cao’s biography is riveting; he escaped to America at age 8 after the communists imprisoned his father, an officer with the South Vietnamese army. He went on to study physics and considered becoming a priest before becoming a lawyer for Boat People SOS, a group dedicated to assisting Vietnamese refugees and immigrants.

In an interview with The Washington Times in his Capitol Hill office, he said he wants to use his platform to advance issues important to the Vietnamese community, like religious freedom and human-rights causes. “The Vietnamese will be a powerful voting bloc when they have a leader to provide them with a unified voice,” he said.

But to make that happen, he has to stay in office.

“There is always a certain level of skepticism from my constituents who are Democrats in believing a Republican would make a decision based on the needs of a district,” he said, citing his vote against President Obama’s stimulus bill. His critics accused him of taking a party-line vote without any serious thought. Mr. Cao said he studied the formula the White House was using to disburse the funds and discovered his district would receive very little money. He also opposes cap-and-trade legislation, saying it would “devastate the oil and gas industry” in New Orleans.

“I see myself as problem-solver,” he said. “We need recovery; I will not support bills that have the opposite effect.”

Many election watchers had already written Mr. Cao off as a one-termer - until they saw his second-quarter fundraising numbers. He netted $365,000, making him the top Republican fundraiser for the period thanks, in part, to support from the Vietnamese community.

The Rev. Vien Nguyen, Mr. Cao’s pastor at Mary, Queen of Vietnam Church in New Orleans, said Mr. Cao’s election represents a turning point for Vietnamese Americans.

“There’s a tremendous feeling of having a voice and representation now in the sense that we were in many ways invisible in the past and now we are on the political scene and being seen,” he said. “I recall one family talking about it and they said in the past they would encourage their children to become doctors or pharmacists and now there is something new: politics.”

Kristol’s retort

Weekly Standard Editor Bill Kristol had a zippy retort to MoveOn.org after it used his name in an appeal to members to lobby their senators to pass health care legislation before the August recess.

A Tuesday e-mail from MoveOn.org said: “Let’s be clear: Republicans aren’t trying to make health care better - they’re trying to delay it until it dies. Some, like right-wing pundit Bill Kristol, even admit it: ‘This is not time to pull punches. Go for the kill.’ ” It asked supporters to phone the offices of their senators and included a link to report who they called and how Senate staffers responded to their efforts.

When asked for comment, Mr. Kristol suggested they call someone else, with a different set of talking points.

“They should call President Obama and suggest he stop insulting cops and docs,” he told The Washington Times said via e-mail.

Malkin on attack

Conservative author and columnist Michelle Malkin didn’t pull any punches on the “Today” show while promoting her new book about the Obama administration, a “Culture of Corruption.”

NBC host Matt Lauer asked her to discuss President Obama’s remarks about the Cambridge police who “acted stupidly” by arresting Harvard black studies professor Henry Louis Gates Jr., which she was quick to answer.

“I think he’s a racial opportunist and he should learn that he shouldn’t shoot his mouth off when he explicitly admits he didn’t know what happened,” Mrs. Malkin said. “He used a health care conference that was a debacle basically and took this story which is really a local, parochial law enforcement story to try and ensure some sort of moment of his racial authenticity. And it backfired because he was wrong.”

Mrs. Malkin’s book is currently the No. 1 best-seller on Amazon.com’s book list.

Amanda Carpenter can be reached at [email protected] ingtontimes.com

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