Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Tom in the middle

Former Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle is scheduled to surface tomorrow evening in New York City, reflecting on the disappointing 2004 election as well as his party’s — and no doubt President Bush’s — “progressive” agenda in 2005.

“One year in one hour with … Sen. Tom Daschle,” is how the event is being touted by the Drum Major Institute for Public Policy, a nonpartisan bunch “dedicated to challenging the tired orthodoxies of both the right and the left.”

Conservative huddle

Tired orthodoxy or not, Rep. Mike Pence of Indiana, chairman of the House Republican Study Committee, will convene his caucus of 100 House conservatives at a two-day retreat scheduled for Feb. 3-5 in Baltimore.

Among those attending: former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, former House Majority Leader Dick Armey of Texas and former Sen. Phil Gramm of Texas.

“The Conservative Members Retreat brings the best minds in the conservative movement in America together with conservative leaders in Congress,” says Mr. Pence. “The number of members making it a priority shows that freshman and veteran conservatives alike understand this retreat will be the number one conservative strategy huddle all year.”

Scaife gift

Richard Scaife, the billionaire owner of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, whom former House Speaker Newt Gingrich credits for laying the foundation — monetarily speaking — of modern conservatism, has donated $1 million to the Catholic Relief Services’ efforts in tsunami-ravaged South Asia.

We’re told that Mr. Scaife and his wife, Ritchie, were at their “Wit’s End” home in Pebble Beach last week when a family aide presented the gift to Pittsburgh Catholic Bishop Donald W. Wuerl.

The couple had been scheduled to fly in their personal DC-9 jet to Washington on Saturday for the annual Alfalfa Club dinner of political and business leaders, but the pilot grounded the flight because of the snowy weather in the nation’s capital.

As he does every year, Mr. Scaife was to attend the dinner with former Ambassador David Abshire, while his wife made reservations to dine at the Four Seasons Hotel, as she does every year, with longtime friend Patricia Carlson (wife of former Ambassador Dick Carlson), who was maid of honor at the Scaife wedding years ago.

Lost and found

National Geographic fellow and archaeologist Fredrik T. Hiebert will report to the society’s Washington headquarters next month on the recovery of the “lost” treasures from Afghanistan’s Kabul Museum.

Or perhaps we should say “feared lost” during the country’s political and military upheaval.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai surprised the world in 2003 by announcing that the museum’s 20,000-piece “Bactrian Gold” collection — dating from the Silk Road era — was discovered intact.

Mr. Hiebert recently was invited by the Afghan government to conduct a full assessment of the collection, and in doing so, National Geographic reports, discovered artifacts from other collections previously thought lost.

Turkeys and cowards

It was on this winter day of Jan. 26, 1784, that Benjamin Franklin, while visiting France, penned a rather humorous letter to his daughter about why the turkey — not the eagle — should symbolize America.

“For my own part I wish the bald eagle had not been chosen the representative of our country,” Franklin began. “He is a bird of bad moral character. He does not get his living honestly. You may have seen him perched on some dead tree near the river, where, too lazy to fish for himself, he watches the labor of the fishing hawk; and when that diligent bird has at length taken a fish, and is bearing it to his nest for the support of his mate and young ones, the bald eagle pursues him and takes it from him. …

“Besides he is a rank coward: The little king bird not bigger than a sparrow attacks him boldly and drives him out of the district. He is therefore by no means a proper emblem for the brave and honest Cincinnati of America who have driven all the king birds from our country.”

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

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