The Washington Times
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Inside the Beltway

John McCaslin
THE WASHINGTON TIMES

Published May 14, 2003


     Moran again
     The president of the American Life League is praising the Catholic Diocese of Arlington, Bishop Paul Loverde and his "faithful priests" for standing up to an outspoken U.S. representative who thinks "it's possible to be pro-abortion and remain in good standing with the Catholic Church."
     The praise from Judie Brown referred to an incident involving Rep. James P. Moran, Virginia Democrat, who, according to eyewitness accounts, got into a shouting match May 4 with a priest at Blessed Sacrament Church in Alexandria after a homily touched on pro-life topics.
     Here's what we know: Two days before Election Day in Alexandria, Mr. Moran, who is Catholic, took Virginia's visiting Lt. Gov. Tim Kaine, and Alexandria city councilman and Democratic mayoral candidate Bill Euille (who is not Catholic and won the election) to Mass with him "to shake a few hands," says our source close to Mr. Euille.
     In fact, Roll Call newspaper reported that Mr. Moran asked that Mr. Euille be recognized during the Mass, a request that the parish rebuffed.
     With the three politicians seated before him, the Rev. Bryan Belli delivered the sermon, part of which touched on pro-life issues and Catholic politicians who ignore church teachings. Mr. Moran's spokesman, Dan Drummond, was quoted in Roll Call as saying that it is unethical and possibly illegal for Father Belli to attack the Democratic Party from the pulpit.
     After the 9 a.m. Mass, according to the newspaper, a "red-faced" Mr. Moran exchanged heated words with the Rev. Michael Dobbins, with Mr. Moran "screaming and pointing his finger at him."
     "How can you reconcile yourself as a Catholic with your views on abortion?" the priest is reported to have asked Mr. Moran, who is said to have shot back, "You priests don't know anything about abortion."
     "Congressman, put away the talking points. Talk to me as your priest," Father Dobbins told his parishioner. Mr. Moran is reported to have replied that there was "not enough time" and walked off but not before hearing the priest say: "Congressman, one day you will need me, and I will be here."
     "That's what these pro-abortion 'Catholics' seem to forget," Mrs. Brown said yesterday. "The pastor is not interested in the politician's voting record but his soul. It is a credit to Bishop Loverde's leadership that his priests are confident enough to boldly proclaim the Gospel, even in the face of elected leaders who claim to have a mandate from the people for their immoral positions on abortion."
     Mr. Moran declined to be interviewed by Inside the Beltway yesterday. But Mr. Drummond, his spokesman, denied Blessed Sacrament parishioner accounts that the congressman's "nostrils were flaring."
     "There was no verbal shouting match between the congressman and Father Dobbins as some unnamed sources were quoted as saying," Mr. Drummond says, describing his boss as "calm, cool and collected."
     If that's really the case, it might be a first for Mr. Moran, whose hot temper has repeatedly gotten him into trouble, and even a fistfight or two, from his Northern Virginia district to the floor of the U.S. Capitol.
     
     Peter Factor
     Additional charges of bias are being leveled against "ABC World News Tonight" anchor Peter Jennings, this time by Bob Zelnick, a 21-year veteran of ABC News.
     Just last week, we wrote that Peter Collins, a former ABC News correspondent, said in an interview with Marc Morano, senior staff writer of CNSNews.com, that Mr. Jennings manipulated his news scripts.
     Mr. Zelnick, who became chairman of the journalism department at Boston University after leaving ABC in 1998, has stepped forward now to tell Mr. Morano that Mr. Jennings made it his practice to insert a liberal bias into the news copy of reporters in the field.
     "It was very common for correspondents, both domestic and foreign, to run into a 'World News Tonight' [staff] that was influenced by Peter, who had a different interpretation of a story," Mr. Zelnick said.
     "The correspondent who knows that he is going to be doing a piece on 'World News Tonight' girds himself for battle when the phone rings and the editors or sometimes Peter gets on the phone," he explained.
     Mr. Zelnick called it the "Peter Factor," although he added that "World News Tonight" as a whole "has a tradition of changing the scripts of correspondents, often for stylistic reasons, often for editorial reasons."
     
     Cheney's big break
     Vice President Dick Cheney was present yesterday when the Hudson Institute presented the James Doolittle Award to his former boss, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld.
     "The true story ... is that I flunked my first interview," Mr. Cheney said of his 1968 meeting with Mr. Rumsfeld, then a Republican member of the House from Illinois.
     Mr. Cheney was a young congressional fellow, working on his doctoral dissertation, with plans to return to the University of Wisconsin to teach. As part of his fellowship, he was to negotiate an employment arrangement, working for free, with the lawmaker of his choice.
     Mr. Rumsfeld had spoken to the group of fellows, "and I was impressed, so I made an appointment to go see him," Mr. Cheney said. "And the interview lasted about 15 minutes, and I found myself back out in the hallway. And it was clear that we hadn't hit it off.
     "He thought I was some kind of airhead academic, and I thought he was rather an arrogant young member of Congress," Mr. Cheney said. "Probably we were both right."
     A short time later, Mr. Rumseld was tapped by President Nixon to be director of the Office of Economic Opportunity. Mr. Cheney, working for free for another congressman, "sat down one night, unsolicited, and wrote a 12-page memo suggesting to [Mr. Rumsfeld] how he should handle himself in his confirmation hearings and giving him some sterling advice on what he ought to do with the department once he got confirmed."
     Weeks went by. Then, the day after Mr. Rumsfeld was sworn in, Mr. Cheney received a phone call asking him to meet with the new director. After Mr. Cheney was led into the office, Mr. Rumsfeld had little to say, except: "You, you're congressional relations. Now get out of here."
     "And that's how I was hired," Mr. Cheney said. "Literally."

John McCaslin, a nationally syndicated columnist, can be reached at 202/636-3284 or by e-mail: jmccaslin@washingtontimes.com.

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