Jan. 29, 2001: Move over, Walter Matthau and Jack Lemmon!

Stand back, Tony Randall and Jack Klugman! Make way for America’s newest Odd Couple, Sam Nunn and Ted Turner! Nunn and Turner. Turner and Nunn. Either way you say it, it boggles the mind to think of these two on the same planet, let alone working together. Sam Nunn, former senior senator from Georgia, is one of the finest men to ever walk the halls of Congress. Ted Turner couldn’t spell class if you spotted him the “c”, the “l” and an “s” or two.

In case you haven’t heard, Ted Turner reached into petty cash and plunked down $250 million to create something called the Nuclear Threat Initiative. The purpose of the organization is to get Saddam Hussein, Osama Bin Laden and the 806 Balkan countries formed after the breakup of Yugoslavia to unilaterally give up their nuclear weapons. Each nation that accepts the disarmament proposal will get two tickets to an Atlanta Braves at Turner Stadium and a month’s free cable service featuring Turner Broadcasting System, Turner Network Television, Turner Sports, Turner Cartoons and Turner Classic Movies, plus a copy of his latest book, “Turner Talks About Modesty”.

Still, I applaud the effort. We have enough nuclear weapons stored up around the world to send us all to the moon in very small pieces and somebody has to start somewhere but, as usual, the most likely candidate for disarmament is the United States. If Sam Nunn can talk somebody else into it, good for him. But who? Anybody think Russia is ready to turn in its arsenal? China? Pakistan? North Korea? If Nunn thinks that Arizona Senator John McCain was a load to deal, wait until he sits down with President for All Eternity and Then Some Kim Jong Il, and tries to convince him that if he gives up his nukes and feeds his people instead, the North Korean army generals will name him Humanitarian of the Year.

Give The Odd Couple an “A” for effort and a “D” for naiveté. When you are the biggest, richest, most powerful nation on earth, it is easy to talk of disarmament. We’ve probably got enough nuclear weapons on one submarine to fry half the nations on earth. But if you are holed up in a cave somewhere seething because you believe the United States is responsible for every ill in this world, including psoriasis, you aren’t quite as inclined to give up your weapons and lie down with the lamb, particularly if that lamb is wearing red, white and blue.

Perhaps Senator Nunn could use his considerable abilities to defuse Ted Turner’s mouth. That would be a good start. Turner is a verbal H-bomb. If you have a gadzillion dollars, evidently you can vocally nuke anybody you choose with impunity. He hasn’t missed many. In March 1996, Turner proclaimed that the United States “has some of the dumbest people in the world. It is a disgrace.” (I wonder if Sam Nunn was included in that group?) A few years earlier, Turner told the American Humanist Association, “Christianity is a religion for losers.” When he lost a bid to buy CBS in 1996, Turner compared himself to Jews in Germany during World War II. “I know what it is like to be rounded up and sent to the East somewhere and resettled.” Don’t you know Holocaust survivors found that comment extremely amusing? Italians didn’t fare any better. At a NASA meeting, Turner said, “Imagine Italians at war. I mean, what a joke. They’d rather be involved in crime and making some wine and just having a good time.” (Note to Sam Nunn: I believe I’d try to disarm Italy first.) Turner warned a business group in Miami that Haitians “breed like cats” and that Miami would soon be “knee-deep in Haitians.” When asked what he would do if he ever met the Pope, Turner said he would show His Holiness his foot and say, “Ever seen a Polish mine detector?”

Now that he has managed to insult every group he can think of, Turner has decided it is time to disarm them. I don’t blame him. As you read this, the Haitians may be assembling a nuclear warhead with Mr. Looney Tunes’ picture on it. Just to be on the safe side, they probably got the Pope to bless their effort.

Politics make strange bedfellows and in this case a very Odd Couple. But what is Sam Nunn doing in this picture?