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Campaign Controversies, Dinosaur Media and More

The latest tidbits from inside of the Washington circles.

Donkey trunk?

“Looks like the official John McCain campaign store replaced their vendor after your story about Vietnam merchandise,” writes a high-profile Republican source, who actually points out: “They have since inked a new contract with the same company that handles Barack Obama’s campaign store.

“That’s right, the company that makes its money bashing Republicans is making money off our Republican.”

Inside the Beltway reported in February that the official vendor for the presumptive Republican nominee, Cincinnati-based PC Signs, was forced to apologize to Mr. McCain after sending one of the Arizona senator’s sons a McCain for President fleece stamped “Made in Vietnam.”

As for Mr. McCain’s now turning, perhaps unknowingly, to Mr. Obama’s official campaign manufacturer and supplier — political buttons, T-shirts, bumper stickers and the like — the political blog Pajamas Media reports that it “certainly appears” the Republican’s official store is now being run surreptitiously by Ohio-based Tigereye Design, a company that has a long track record of helping Democrats win.

The site has just posted an in-depth story by Steve Gill, a Tennessee attorney, talk show host and political analyst, who says whereas Tigereye CEO Tony Baltes denies any connection to the Web site goptrunk.com — which the McCain campaign now designates as its supplier — “there appear to be a remarkable number of connections between the operators of the ‘official Obama store’ and the ‘official McCain store.” “

Consider, Mr. Gill points out:

• “Shipping labels …on McCain campaign materials ordered from goptrunk.com show a return address in tiny Greenville, Ohio — the same small town where Tigereye conducts its own manufacturing operations. Is it just a coincidence that the location of two major ‘official’ presidential campaign paraphernalia operations is in a town of just 14,000 people?”

• “Tigereye is the only company that produces presidential campaign t-shirts with campaign logos that are heat-pressed rather than silk-screened. Goptrunk.com is producing McCain shirts that are heat-pressed.”

• “Campaign buttons sold by Tigereye Design on the ‘official’ Obama Web site utilize an identical ‘button platform,’ or blank, as those sold by goptrunk.com as the ‘official’ McCain products.”

• “The exact same week that the McCain campaign designated goptrunk.com as their ‘official store,’ Tigereye announced that they were adding 50 new employees to meet the expected demands of their presidential campaign merchandising.”

• “The webmaster for Democrat-oriented Tigereye, Chad Groff, owns the cell phone number that was listed under the registration of goptrunk.com.”

Spring chickens

The head of one of the country’s leading senior citizens’ organizations is calling on Rep. John P. Murtha, Pennsylvania Democrat, to apologize to older Americans for his “thoughtless” remarks of recent days that Republican John McCain is “too old to be president.”

“Ageism is one of the last remaining prejudices that parades openly in our society and it is discouraging to hear a sitting U.S. representative, a senior himself at 75, state that age is an indicator of performance or ability,” says James L. Martin, president of the 60 Plus Association.

“Has he never heard of Charles De Gaulle … or the inimitable Winston Churchill who left office the last time at 81? Who can listen without a surge of pride and gratitude to Churchill’s stirring remarks in the dark days of World War II when he, and he alone, rallied Great Britain and the rest of the world against Hitler?

“Churchill was then only 71, McCain’s age, ultimately retiring from office 10 years later.”

Mr. Martin wonders why Mr. Murtha isn’t speaking about 90-year-old Democratic Sen. Robert C. Byrd of West Virginia who “is third in line to be president … and if Byrd steps aside, who is third in line … none other than Sen. Ted Kennedy, age 76 …

“Sens. Frank Lautenberg of New Jersey, 84, Daniel Inouye, 83, Daniel Akaka, 83 … “

49 Smiths

Finally, something of significance — record-breaking, in fact — has being accomplished by the 110th Congress, all thanks to the Republican minority. And the Democrats are none too pleased.

As Sen. Richard J. Durbin, Illinois Democrat, points out, a filibuster is a way to stop the Senate from acting — or as he specifically phrases it “an effort to make sure the Senate does nothing.”

“You saw the movie with Jimmy Stewart, ‘Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.’ He took to the floor as a freshman senator and stood there speaking in a filibuster until he collapsed in physical exhaustion,” Mr. Durbin notes. “Well, it does not quite happen that way anymore. What happens, of course, is someone says: I am going to stop the Senate, and you are going to have to come up with 60 votes to stop me.”

Now, consider that the Democrats have 51 votes in this current Senate, while the Republicans have 49. As a result, “any time we want to move forward with a piece of legislation to which a Republican senator objects, we need their help to stop a filibuster. They know that,” the senator continues.

In the entire history of the U.S. Congress, the minority party has initiated no more than 57 filibusters during any two-year period. “That is the record, 57 in two years,” Mr. Durbin confirms.

Until now.

Barely a few months into the second year of the current Congress, he reports that the Republicans have thus far “initiated 65 filibusters, and we are still counting.”

8,800 punches left

Good news from the architect of the Capitol’s office, which says the long-awaited $621 million underground U.S. Capitol Visitor Center remains on target for a November opening.

Terrell G. Dorn, director of physical infrastructure issues for the office, has just informed the House Appropriations subcommittee on the legislative branch all that remains is an “extensive punch list, which now includes 8,800 tasks.”

Otherwise, he says, the project is “99 percent complete.”

Ink pays

If you plan on being one of the tens of thousands of Americans who will be attending any number of Republican or Democratic presidential campaign rallies this summer and fall, try to get one of the candidates — John McCain, obviously, or Barack Obama or Hillary Rodham Clinton, or both if this tug-of-war keeps up — to autograph whatever you might be holding in your hands.

Consider that a first-edition copy of Mr. Obama’s 2006 best-selling book, “The Audacity of Hope,” costs about $5 these days, given it’s no longer a new release. But be entrepreneurial enough to have the Illinois senator sign the book — perhaps when he’s working the rope line, as somebody at Jackson State University in Mississippi did during Mr. Obama’s March 10 “Stand for Change Rally” — and you can earn a hefty amount of money for the effort.

In recent days, a signed copy of Mr. Obama’s book was up for sale on the eBay auction block, generating 15 bids with the highest being $191.49.

Meanwhile, when Mrs. Clinton was campaigning last month in Pennsylvania, a supporter held out his otherwise-ordinary “Hillary for President” campaign poster for the candidate to autograph — “Hillary,” she signed — which on eBay of late attracted 13 bids, the highest $52 plus $10 postage and handling.

Lame ‘dodos’?

Inside the Beltway overheard one CBS News veteran in Washington, who shall remain nameless, refer to the network’s struggling anchor Katie Couric as a “lame duck.”

This after it was all but confirmed in recent days that the former NBC “Today” show host will be shown the door if she doesn’t exit through it first.

Meanwhile, when it comes to viewership, Business Week’s Ron Grover reported this week that Mrs. Couric’s imminent departure “has been getting better word of mouth than just about anything CBS has put on the air in the past year.

“Is she leaving? Of course she is. And it may well be after the presidential election, even though the public relations department at CBS has turned blue denying it. But there’s a bigger question: Why do we need Couric — or Charlie Gibson or Brian Williams — to read us the news every night? Simply put, TV’s evening news is a dinosaur that should go the way of the dodo bird.”

Crossing the line

Following up on the question about whether Americans need any of the “big three” network television anchors “to read us the news every night,” the journalism watchdog group Media Research Center (MRC) points out that an unhealthy dose of personal biases and opinions are being injected into the nightly newscasts.

Here are just a few recent examples cited by the Washington-based MRC:

NBC’s Lee Cowan: “When NBC News first assigned me to the Barack Obama campaign, I must confess my knees quaked a bit. … I wondered if I was up to the job. I wondered if I could do the campaign justice.”

ABC’s Charles Gibson: “[Barack] Obama challenged Americans to confront the country’s racial divide. An extraordinary speech.”

ABC’s Claire Shipman: “[Mr. Obama] gave a great speech. I think it was a brave speech.”

ABC’s George Stephanopoulos: “As a speech, it was sophisticated, eloquent.”

CNN’s Campbell Brown: “It was daring.”

Que pasa?

The English as the Official Language Act has been introduced in both houses of Congress, stating that no person has a right, entitlement or claim to have the U.S. government or any of its officials or representatives act, communicate, perform or provide services, or provide materials in any language other than English.

Battle ready

We had to laugh at the remarks Republican presidential candidate Sen. John McCain prepared for delivery to the Associated Press’ annual meeting in Washington: “Thank you. It is a pleasure to be here. I want to keep my remarks brief, so that I can quickly get to your questions, comments or insults.”

Rest of the story

Anybody who has been around Washington long enough realizes that it’s not so much the presidents who shape the country, rather it’s the people they surround themselves with.

For example, while his is not a household name, Peter Robinson, who served for almost five years as a speechwriter to President Reagan, was assigned the task of writing the Gipper’s historic 1987 speech at the Berlin Wall, when in no uncertain terms he ordered Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev to “tear down this wall!”

With little fanfare, Mr. Robinson has since written in the National Archives publication Prologue that before he wrote the famous speech he had broken from the White House advance team and joined a dozen Berliners of different walks of life for dinner — businessmen, academics, students and homemakers.

One man spoke up that each morning on his way to work, he walked past a guard tower, and the same soldier would gaze down at him through binoculars: “That soldier and I speak the same language. We share the same history. But one of us is a zookeeper, and the other is an animal, and I am never certain which is which.”

At which point the gracious dinner hostess, he continued, grew angry, her face red, pounding her fist: “If this man Gorbachev is serious … he can get rid of this wall.”

The rest, as they say, is history.

Still ‘stealing’

Now that he’s out of jail in Zimbabwe and back in South Africa after being charged with working as a journalist without accreditation, New York Times reporter Barry Bearak is speaking his mind about President Robert Mugabe.

The following note was shared with students, faculty and alumni of Columbia Journalism School by Sree Sreenivasan, the school’s dean of students:

“Dear Sree, I’m happily back in [South Africa], having evaded a likely re-arrest by going overland through Zambia rather than risking the Harare airport. I received a lot of support from many places and … I’m extremely grateful.

“Zimbabwe is a very sad place right now. It appears that Mugabe is going to get away with stealing yet another election. That means continued suffering for the Zimbabwean people. My own understanding of their terrible problems increased a lot in the Harare cells, where I met many good people. I’m hoping for the day when I can safely return to that country and continue reporting.”

Written By

John McCaslin pens the award-winning Inside the Beltway column for The Washington Times. His column has been syndicated by the Los Angeles Times Syndicate and Tribune Media Services.

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