Ashcroft, No Sellout

By Al Kamen
Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Washington State University Vancouver folks were puzzled last week when only 100 people bought advance tickets for former attorney general John D. Ashcroft 's speech on national security and civil liberties.

After all, last year's speaker, newly named Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean , sold out the 1,100 seats before the event.

The head of the WSU Vancouver College Republicans told the Oregonian of Portland it may be that Ashcroft, the author of the controversial USA Patriot Act, "is not an exciting character for a lot of people."

Well, he must be exciting to someone. He received a $27,000 speaker's fee to address the school's fourth annual Public Affairs Distinguished Lecture series, according to Carolyn N. Long , head of the school's public affairs program. And that was substantially less than his usual $60,000. With travel and other costs for receptions and dinners, the tab came to about $36,000.

Dean's fee, she said, was only $17,000. Probably could have been given more if he had promised to scream.

"We did an all-out blitz" to gin up interest among local Republican Party folks and others, Long said. In the end, about 700 showed. Of those, 225 paid the full $10, 400 students were comped and 75 were VIPs. Several rows in the back were roped off to make the room appear smaller.

A couple of dozen protesters were outside and one inside as Ashcroft gave an address described by news accounts as an interesting speech.

Eternal City Beckons Eternal Officeholder

Sad news. We've failed once again to land a most excellent job in Rome -- as ambassador to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, which is based in the Eternal City.

Someone even turned this job down, we hear, clearing the way for Peace Corps Director Gaddi Vasquez , who's now said to be President Bush 's pick.

The ambassador's office is on the Piazza del Popolo, site of the last public executions in Rome and not far from the Spanish Steps. It's an easy stroll for an exquisite lunch at Da Bologna, where the stars hang out. What better way to bring attention to world hunger?

Loop Fans may recall that Vasquez, a former Orange County official, announced "with mixed emotions," in October 2003 that he was leaving after only 20 months at the Peace Corps. But he never left.

Vasquez would replace former congressman Tony P. Hall (R-Ohio), who is being talked up as the next envoy for war-torn Sudan.

CONTINUED     1        >

© 2006 The Washington Post Company