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Flash Traffic

Flash Traffic | Political Buzz from Washington

Issue: "John Smoltz: The closer," Aug. 3, 2002

The Washington Post last week broke the story that Sen. Sam Brownback (R-Kan.) had converted to Roman Catholicism in a "quiet ceremony" on June 27 in Washington. "He's insisting that it's a personal thing," the senator's spokesman Erik Hotmire told WORLD. The conversion ceremony took place just blocks from the White House at the Catholic Information Center, a bookstore and chapel. Presiding over the ceremony: John McCloskey, a priest who has helped to convert other well-known political figures, including former abortionist Bernard Nathanson and columnist Robert Novak. A former United Methodist, Sen. Brownback refused a stack of interview requests to discuss the conversion.

Openly gay White House AIDS czar Scott Evertz is swapping workplaces with gay physician Joseph O'Neill, who heads the AIDS office at the Department of Health and Human Services. Dr. O'Neill will become AIDS czar and Mr. Evertz will work as an adviser on global AIDS issues to his fellow Wisconsinite, Tommy Thompson, the HHS secretary. In 15 months at the White House, Mr. Evertz embarrassed the president with gaffes in the gay press, including endorsing needle-exchange programs and sticking up for a San Francisco AIDS charity that was disobeying rules against using federal funds to promote erotic discussions. But the reshuffling almost lit a fire among conservatives when early reports suggested abstinence advocate Patricia Ware would be pushed out of her job as head of the President's Advisory Commission on HIV and AIDS. After a few days of intense phone calls and e-mails from pro-family activists, the White House reversed course and told Mrs. Ware, who spoke on AIDS at the 2000 Republican convention, that she could stay in her post. "The White House is saying that Pat was never fired in the first place, and if they want people to believe that, that's fine," said Concerned Women for America lobbyist Michael Schwartz. "But she's been a tremendous advocate for good public health."

President Bush welcomed movie star Bruce Willis to the White House on July 23 to unveil a new public-service announcement starring Mr. Willis and First Lady Laura Bush that urges the adoption of children in foster care. Mr. Willis said, "I'm looking forward to helping the thousands of young boys and girls in foster care to find the kind of loving family I know exists in our country." The president announced the Children's Bureau in the Department of Health and Human Services has created the first federal adoption website-AdoptUSKids.org-that will feature photos and profiles of more than 6,500 children available for adoption. More than 130,000 of the 565,000 American children in foster care are waiting to be adopted. TeamBush hopes the website can help break down the geographic barriers to adoption and shorten the wait for foster kids. As an example of the power of adopting foster children, President Bush cited Mitch and Diane Pearlstein, who adopted a daughter whose mother abused crack cocaine. (Marvin Olasky tells the Pearlsteins' story in "Against the grain," Nov. 4, 2000.)

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C. Boyden Gray, White House counsel to the first President Bush, created a new group aimed at pressuring the Senate to get the lead out on OK'ing new judges. The Gray squad (The Committee for Justice) promises to campaign against politicians who favor dragging out the confirmation process. Its first action was airing television ads in Austin that slam Texas Democratic Senate candidate Ron Kirk for flip-flopping on the need to confirm judicial nominees once he met the "East Coast Liberal Gang." (The ad notes Mr. Kirk benefited from separate fundraisers with Bill and Hillary Clinton.)

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