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In Lobbyists' Quarrel Over Ad,Is It Too Late to Kiss & Make Up?

By Richard Leiby
The Washington Post
Thursday, March 3, 2005; Page C03

What do gay marriage, combat in Iraq and Social Security reform have in common? If you said "uh — nothing," then you clearly haven't seen the incendiary ad cooked up by USA Next, a conservative group that has declared war on seniors lobby AARP. Sure, the small ad ran only briefly on the Web site of the American Spectator several days ago, but its contention that "the real AARP agenda" supports gay love (note green check mark) and not U.S. troops (red X) continues to draw coverage nationwide and has sparked demands for an apology.

The kissing males from Portland, Ore., are incensed that their photograph was used and say it was appropriated without their permission. "USA Next is illegally using our photo to portray us as a threat to American values," declared Richard M. Raymen, who wed Steven P. Hansen in a ceremony last year.

USA Next declared war on AARP with this ad, which ran briefly on the American Spectator Web site and has generated demands for an apology. (Photo on Right by Portland Tribune - Ad by USA Next)

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"It's clearly hateful and clearly homophobic," says their Washington attorney, Christopher Wolf, who demanded an apology in a letter this week to the Fairfax-based advocacy group (formerly known as the United Seniors Association). He wrote: "They did not volunteer to be models for a 2005 right-wing hate campaign."

Buzz off, responds Charlie Jarvis, the group's CEO. "They ought to be suing all the left-wing blogs for circulating this [ad]. That's who they ought to be asking for an apology," he told us.

USA Next claims it purchased the photo from the Portland Tribune, which photographed the men at a public ceremony. But the newspaper told us yesterday it has no record of selling the photo to anyone.

Jarvis, a former Interior Department official in the Reagan and Bush I administrations, calls the men's protest "silly" and "a diversionary tactic." The real issue, he says, is AARP's "liberal" agenda, citing its opposition to President Bush's push for private Social Security accounts. "We are a conservative, free-market alternative to the AARP," Jarvis says, adding that the point was to expose "their character as the largest liberal lobbying organization on Earth."

The nonpartisan AARP, which has 35 million members age 50 or over, calls such claims "baseless." It may oppose Bush's Social Security plan, but, spokeswoman Lisa Davis told us: "We have no position on gay marriage. We certainly support our troops in war and in peace."

It's War, Not Politics, Says 'Gunner' Filmmaker

"Two years into this war, everything is seen through a political lens, and that's wrong," says Michael Tucker, co-director of the gritty Iraq combat documentary "Gunner Palace," which opens tomorrow. "No matter whether it was right or wrong, it's happening."

Here recently to screen his movie for Sen. John Kerry and others on the Hill, Tucker spoke of his mission to "humanize" the war by capturing the daily lives of field artillery soldiers.

"Everyone's so tuned into reality TV and button-pushing false realities, where it's all plotted out," the 38-year-old former Army reservist told us. "This is war. . . . This is not plotted out."

He was accompanied by recently retired Army Capt. Jonathan Powers, 26, who served as a platoon leader in the unit for more than a year.

"I hope that after seeing Mike's film, the reaction is not just putting a yellow ribbon on the back of your car," Powers said, "but opening a dialogue about this war."

NAACP Wants to Sit Down With Tavis Smiley

Tavis Smiley says he's flattered to be considered for the top job at the NAACP. (Kevin Foley - PBS via AP)
The NAACP has approached PBS chat-show host Tavis Smiley in its search for a successor to Kweisi Mfume. While Smiley tells us he will meet with the civil rights group's search committee — which is considering more than 200 applicants for the top job — we also hear that he's locked into contract commitments.

"President and CEO of the NAACP is perhaps the most prestigious position in all of black America," he said in a statement yesterday. "It is flattering to be asked to consider such a vaunted opportunity for leadership and I have agreed to meet with them to hear more about their plans for the future."

Regarding the search, John White, the group's spokesman, told us: "I have not heard any favorite mentioned at the NAACP. . . . And I haven't heard Tavis Smiley say he wants to be president."


• Is former energy secretary Spencer Abraham ready to join the exclusive Senate male spouses club? "Sure," he tells us. His wife, Jane, is considering a Republican bid for the Michigan seat he held before Democrat Debbie Stabenow defeated him in 2000. "My wife's at the early stages of testing the waters," Abraham, now a fellow at the Hoover Institution, told us at a reception for the Hoover board of overseers Tuesday night. "It's early. I don't want to over- or understate this. . . . Obviously we'll return to Michigan if this gets more serious."

• CNN's Anderson Cooper has landed on Vanity Fair's just-released 2005 international best-dressed list—along with the likes of Jude Law, Andre 3000 and George Clooney. But newsman Cooper, Gloria Vanderbilt's hunky son, is apparently shocked at the notion. He told the mag: "I am unaware that I have any personal style."

The Daily Blowhard

"Maybe there are different ways I would define myself. But I can tell you that my biggest weakness is my sensitivity. I am too sensitive a person."

— Ear-biter, convicted rapist and ex-boxing champ Mike Tyson, as quoted by an Italian newspaper.

With Anne Schroeder

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