Monday, January 24, 2005

Star maker

We suggested several years ago that Johnny Carson may have catapulted Bill Clinton into the Oval Office.

Who will ever forget the 1988 Democratic National Convention in Atlanta, when Mr. Clinton droned on and on — for 32 minutes — amidst jeers from delegates more interested in hearing from their presidential nominee, Massachusetts Gov. Michael S. Dukakis.

Mr. Carson, who followed politics more closely than most in Hollywood, was amused by Mr. Clinton’s long-winded speech. So, when the host of “The Tonight Show” invited the relatively unknown Arkansas governor onto his show a short time later, he drew laughter by plopping down an egg timer. The rest is history — eight years’ worth.

Meanwhile,CNN’s Wolf Blitzer yesterday offered his own personal recollection of Mr. Carson, who might have boosted the news correspondent’s popularity as well.

“During the first Gulf war back in 1991, I was CNN’s Pentagon correspondent,” Mr. Blitzer recalled. “I was then relatively new to TV news, had a funny name — still do — and had a beard. Still have that, as well.

“As such, I quickly became good punch-line material for Johnny Carson’s nightly monologue,” he continued. “After the war, he invited me on the show, a night I will always remember.”

Expensive bucks

Who would have thought that President Bush‘s homestate of Texas would be in the forefront of endangering the fine tradition of hunting in the United States?

A bill has been introduced in the Texas House by Rep. Toby Goodman, a Republican from the urban setting of Arlington — about as far away from Crawford as you can get — that would amend the state’s animal-cruelty code to make it a crime to “commit serious bodily injury to an animal” — any animal, wild or otherwise.

“The vague definition will have huge ramifications for sportsmen,” says Tony Celebrezze, field director of the U.S. Sportsmen’s Alliance. “Any act of injury or death to an animal, even hunting … will be construed as animal cruelty.”

All of which would open up the potential of hunters fighting for their innocence in court, he says — to the tune of thousands of dollars.

Existing law, Mr. Celebrezze adds, “sufficiently” defines abuse and cruelty toward animals, while exempting hunting, fishing and trapping as common wildlife-management practices.

Worth recalling

We see that the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) is equating one of our previous columns on questionable federal money transactions to the current flap over the Education Department paying big bucks to conservative commentator Armstrong Williams to hype the No Child Left Behind Act.

“This contract was let according to all the General Service Administration rules, but no matter, the press has met it all with a collective gasp and a cry of ‘off with their heads!’” NAM Senior Vice President Patrick Cleary writes in NAM’s Web site blog,

He points out that “it was not very long ago when the Clinton administration’s Labor Department — OSHA [the Occupational Safety Health Administration], to be precise — paid over 20 witnesses $10,000 each to come testify in favor of its flimsy ergonomics regulation.

“In contrast to what the Department of Education just did, this was not run through any GSA filter, the money was just doled out to allies … of the administration and the rule.”

Mr. Cleary says while NAM “raised a stink at the time,” only the Inside the Beltway column saw fit to give the questionable payoffs any ink.

Fear the batch

The last thing Rep. Jesse L. Jackson Jr., Illinois Democrat, wants is for his Capitol Hill colleagues to intervene in Chicago’s “corrupt and apparently often phony affirmative-action program,” which he fears could affect affirmative-action policy nationwide.

But Mr. Jackson says if Democratic Mayor Richard M. Daley “does not take the bull by the horns and clean up” the city’s controversial program, that’s just what will happen.

“That’s all this current batch of right-wing, ideologically driven, anti-affirmative action, conservative Republicans need to undermine affirmative action is for the most well-known Democratic mayor in the nation to be exposed as someone who is abusing, misusing and manipulating affirmative action to meet some ‘politically correct’ affirmative-action goals,” says Mr. Jackson.

Mr. Daley is under the gun for allegedly allowing friends and supporters to land affirmative-action contracts by portraying themselves as minority- and women-operated enterprises.

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

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