Wednesday, November 10, 2004

The larger loser

“‘Dude, here’s our country!’ That is what real Americans told Michael Moore, the hygienically challenged human hamburger whose Pravda-style propaganda has earned him more fans in Cannes than in all 50 states of the Union.”

Gerald Warner, columnist for “Scotland on Sunday,” his European opinion piece titled, “God Bless America for Dropping the Dead Donkey.”

Taxing sermons

A Republican congressman became “enraged” less than one week before the presidential election when the Internal Revenue Service warned that churches would risk their tax-exempt status if they prayed for the election of either President Bush or Sen. John Kerry.

According to the IRS, prayer in favor of either the Republican or Democratic candidate — or any other national politicians, for that matter — would be viewed as a violation of the tax code and place in jeopardy the church’s tax-exempt status.

“This is a complete infringement on the right to free exercise of religion,” said North Carolina Republican Rep. Walter B. Jones, a Catholic and longtime advocate of free speech for religious leaders. “The government should never be in the business of telling religious institutions how to pray.”

Kristen Quigley, the congressman’s spokeswoman, told Inside the Beltway yesterday that Mr. Jones will soon reintroduce H.R. 235, legislation that would change the tax code so clergy of all faiths could address the moral and political issues of the day without fear of being attacked by the tax collector.

Specter of betrayal

Follow through now, triumphant elector:

You prevailed as the unborn’s protector,

But the victory you’ve won

May be cruelly undone

By the sinister Senator Specter!

— F.R. Duplantier

Why read?

Don’t fear, Brian Lamb, one of the more popular and trusted faces in Washington television, isn’t leaving C-SPAN. He’s just resting his eyes.

“When you add it all up, I’ve committed about 1.8 years of my life to reading books for the series,” says the founder and CEO of C-SPAN, who after almost 16 years of conducting one-on-one interviews with nonfiction authors — 800 in all, requiring 20 hours of book reading per week — will bring his long-running “Booknotes” series to a conclusion Dec. 5.

“The last interview is with Mark Edmundson, a professor at the University of Virginia,” Mr. Lamb tells Inside the Beltway. “And he’s a perfect author to end with, as his book is titled, ‘Why Read?’”

(Mr. Lamb will expand on that very question during his final program, recalling some of his more memorable interviews over the years.)

As for his first “Booknotes” interview, it aired April 2, 1989 and featured President Carter‘s national security adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski on his book “Grand Failure.” After Mr. Brzezinski came former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev, former President George Bush, former President Richard Nixon, former President Bill Clinton, former German Chancellor Helmut Schmidt, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon — and yes, Mr. Carter.

Just last month, this columnist was honored to be among Mr. Lamb’s last “Booknotes” interviews, mine like others conducted in an all-black studio consisting of two armchairs and a famous “bargain-store coffee table.”

The serious-minded host, the cable network notes, enjoyed quizzing authors about their writing habits, and Mr. Lamb couldn’t help but chuckle when renowned historian Forrest McDonald revealed that he wrote in the nude in his Alabama country house.

And while “Booknotes” is retiring, Mr. Lamb isn’t. On Dec. 12, the cable network will debut in the same time slot a new Lamb interview program, tentatively titled “Q & A.” Featured subjects will come from many fields — politics and science, history and medicine.

“We’ll look for different, but topical issues and people that aren’t being seen and heard elsewhere on TV,” Mr. Lamb says.

And book lovers take note: C-SPAN2 will soon begin airing on Sunday evenings a program similar to Booknotes, except a guest interviewer each week will greet the new authors.

“So we’re not giving this idea up,” Mr. Lamb stresses. “More than anything else, I’m just looking to get some of my own time back.”

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

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