Cher: From rave fave to soldiers' savior

If she could turn back time, she’d give all the soldiers better helmets.
That’s the message that Cher brought to 400 N. Capitol St. yesterday morning as she appeared on C-SPAN’s “Washington Journal.”

If she could turn back time, she’d give all the soldiers better helmets.

That’s the message that Cher brought to 400 N. Capitol St. yesterday morning as she appeared on C-SPAN’s “Washington Journal.”

Cher is working with Operation Helmet, a nonprofit organization that provides solidiers with upgraded padding for their standard-issue military helmets to better protect them from explosions.

She said she got involved in the effort because her sister tore out an article from the paper on the topic and said, “Do something about this.” So she picked up the phone and called Dr. Bob Meaders, founder of Operation Helmet, a retired Navy captain and ophthalmologist who founded the organization.

To almost everyone’s surprise, Cher called “Washington Journal” on the topic during an open phone segment on the early morning of Sunday, May 28. It was her second call to the program; in 2003 she also called after visiting wounded soldiers at Walter Reed.

Host Peter Slen assured viewers that the calls were not set up.

“I just kept dialing until my fingers were raw and I got through both times,” Cher said.

She also established her political bona fides on air. She said her first political “baby step” was a “huge fight” with her mother over her mother’s vote for Richard Nixon. She said she watches C-SPAN religiously and reads the papers.

She’d go to Iraq if asked, she said, although “I’m not sure what I’d do. … I couldn’t bring a band.”

A C-SPAN spokeswoman said after posing for pictures with staff, she signed the network’s guest book with “I love you guys.”

She balked at saying how much money she donated to the organization, before saying “enough.” News reports have put the figure at $25,000.

“I find it shocking or I’m amazed or whatever that they can’t find the money for this,” Cher said.

Cher visited Walter Reed again yesterday afternoon. Today she and Meaders will appear before the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Tactical Air and Land Forces at 3 p.m.


McCarrick out, but not out of the loop

Unlike another public figure who said farewell to Washington in recent days, Cardinal Theodore McCarrick bid a gracious goodbye yesterday to the reporters who have covered him during his six years as head of the Washington Catholic archdiocese.

In sharp contrast to House Majority Leader Tom DeLay’s (R-Texas) hard-edged, no-apologies, no-regrets speech to the House Friday, the 75-year-old cardinal told reporters at a breakfast at St. Matthew’s Cathedral that he’ll miss his “special relationship” with the media.

“Because of all of you, you said I was a nice person, and they believed it,” said McCarrick, who will be succeeded by Bishop Donald Wuerl of Pittsburgh on June 22.

McCarrick, who will continue to serve on Vatican tribunals dealing with international justice and peace, refugees, Christian unity, and Latin America, said he’ll also miss his 560,000-member flock, which he said “has been my family in a very special way.”

McCarrick will move to an apartment at the new archdiocesan seminary in Hyattsville, Md., and spend part of his time in New Jersey, where he was a bishop and archbishop from 1982 to 2000.

McCarrick, who criticized the immigration-reform bill passed by the House because it would criminalize illegal immigrants, said that he doesn’t know if Pope Benedict XIV will accept an invitation to come to Baltimore in November but that if he does “he’ll have to come to Washington as well.”

Asked if he has any other regrets, McCarrick said, “I wish I’d been a holier man … and I wish I had done more and done it better.”

A slightly different message than DeLay, who said that if he had to relive his 21-year career in Congress, he wouldn’t change a thing except to fight harder for the conservative cause.


Morella’s bittersweet homecoming

For former Rep. Connie Morella (R-Md.), her family reunion in Portland, Maine, on Monday was a bittersweet occasion.

Morella, who lost her bid for a ninth term to Democrat Chris Van Hollen Jr. in 2002 before being named U.S. ambassador to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development in Paris a year later, attended a memorial service for 45-year-old Louise Sasso-Lundin.

Mrs. Sasso-Lundin, a former occupational therapist, died April 29 as the result of injuries suffered in an auto accident near her home in Pelican Rapids, Minn. She was one of six children raised by Morella and her husband, Tony, after their mother, Morella’s sister, died of cancer in 1976. The Morellas have three of their own children as well, including a daughter in whose home the memorial service was held.

“She was a twin who was born with a rare heart condition and had so many heart operations she’s in 15 medical books,” Morella said last week. “She was driving and apparently blacked out and went off the road. Her heart was given to the Mayo Clinic.”

Morella, 75, said she’s getting ready to help celebrate the 60th anniversary of the Marshall Plan next year. She described her time in Paris as “a wonderful experience,” despite frayed U.S.-French relations.


Committee staffs are all collecting suits

With less than a week to go before the Capitol PurSuit drive, committees and lobby shops around town are doing their own collections of used suits to contribute to the overall haul.

The annual event collects suits, which are then donated through local charities to less fortunate individuals who are entering the work force.

Dave Wenhold of Miller Wenhold Capitol Strategies, who confesses to coming up with the idea of the drive in the shower three years ago, said committee staffs around the Hill are ramping up the competition for suits as they vie for the title of “most suitable.”

Lobby shops are getting into the act as well.

Golin Harris’s Mike Fulton said they’ve blanketed the Arlington County offices near their office as well as area businesses with fliers promoting the drive. They’ve also contacted former employees and engaged the firm’s interns. He’s gotten nine area restaurants to donate gift certificates, which will be raffled off among donors.

He said they’re shooting for 100 suits to bring to the Rayburn foyer Wednesday for the collection, which will be held from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.


Everybody duck! The NRCC is coming!

If it walks like a duck and sounds like a duck, is it a duck? No, it’s a campaign gimmick.

At yesterday morning’s meeting of the House Republican Conference, National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) Chairman Tom Reynolds (R-N.Y.) unveiled a duck with Rep. John Spratt’s (D-S.C.) name on it — part of the Republicans’ new “sitting duck” program to unseat vulnerable Democrats.

Spratt is facing a stiff challenge this fall from state legislator Ralph Norman.

About 40 members signed the replica waterfowl before it’s sent to Norman, said NRCC spokesman Jonathan Collegio.

“It shows the conference is behind Norman,” he said. “We’re going to be doing it with almost all of our Democrat targets.”

He said that the campaign is part of a “shift toward more of an offensive posture since” Republican Brian Bilbray’s victory in the California-50 special election.

Sarah Feinberg, spokeswoman for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, was not impressed.

“While it is true that Norman is going to need all the help he can get from the Republican special-interest caucus, I think everyone can agree that this stunt to give Norman a fake duck is at best, well, lame,” she said.