BELT­WAY

The Washington Times Weekly - - National - By John McCaslin

Brunch bunch

The tall brunette brunch­ing with John McLaugh­lin at the Pea­cock Cafe in Ge­orge­town over the Jan. 20-21 week­end was Court­ney Dolan, the TV talk­meis­ter’s for­mer “right-hand man — but there’s no proper way to say that,” she points out.

Th­ese days, Miss Dolan is busy in New York (and else­where) run­ning the pub­lic re­la­tions de­part­ment for the Fi­nan­cial Times, the pop­u­lar “salmon pink” news­pa­per cur­rently cel­e­brat­ing its 10th an­niver­sary as a U.S. edi­tion. Founded as the Lon­don Fi­nan­cial Guide in 1888, the broad­sheet is printed in al­most two dozen cities around the globe.

As for Mr. McLaugh­lin, his top­ics of late are the 2008 pres­i­den­tial elec­tion and the war in Iraq. He pointed out to his familiar gang of pun­dits re­cently: “If we stay [in Iraq] one more year, 12 months, we’ll lose over 1,000 Amer­i­cans who will die, mil­i­tary who will die. [. . .] Now, do you think that a thou­sand Amer­i­can lives [. . .] is worth it?”

Oh, and be­fore we leave the Pea­cock, or­der­ing brunch at a ta­ble near the makeshift “McLaugh­lin Group” was for­mer three-term Sen. Larry Pressler, the South Dakota Repub­li­can who now heads his own Wash­ing­ton law firm.

In 1996 — un­like 2006 — Mr. Pressler was the only in­cum­bent Repub­li­can sen­a­tor to lose re-elec­tion, ousted by Demo­cratic Sen. Tim John­son, who un­der­went surgery last month at Ge­orge Wash­ing­ton Univer­sity Hospi­tal to stop bleed­ing in his brain.

Big jump

Cato In­sti­tute Pres­i­dent Ed Crane is more than “de­lighted” to wel­come Daniel J. Mitchell, the Her­itage Foun­da­tion’s es­teemed McKenna Se­nior Fel­low in Po­lit­i­cal Econ­omy, to his think tank’s schol­arly team as a se­nior fel­low.

Com­ment­ing on his cross-over af­ter so many years with Her­itage, Mr. Mitchell says Cato will be an ideal plat­form for him “to ar­gue for less spend­ing and a sim­ple and fair low-rate tax sys­tem,” while at the same time fight­ing “in­ter­na­tional bu­reau­cra­cies that want to har­mo­nize tax sys­tems and cre­ate an OPEC for politi­cians.”

Poll to ponder

Per­cent­age of Bagh­dad’s Shi’ites who say that all U.S. forces should leave Iraq within six months: 32

Per­cent­age who say forces should be re­duced even more grad­u­ally, as the “se­cu­rity sit­u­a­tion im­proves”: 0

Harper’s In­dex, Fe­bru­ary 2007

Beats break­fast

Can’t find a ticket to the much­hyped Bob Seger & the Sil­ver Bul­let Band con­cert in Wash­ing­ton?

Not to worry. Inside the Belt­way counts three Repub­li­can con­gress­men who are host­ing cam­paign-fundrais­ing re­cep­tions co­in­cid­ing with the Feb. 1 show — Mr. Seger’s first con­cert tour in 10 years.

Reps. John R. “Randy” Kuhl Jr. of New York, Vern Buchanan of Florida, and Greg Walden of Ore­gon all have your ticket: $1,000 apiece, in­clud­ing food. (Hey, it beats juice and bagels on Capi­tol Hill.)

Good cit­i­zen

We told you re­cently about a unique Na­tional Archives ex­hi­bi­tion to open just in time for spring break, “School House to White House: The Ed­u­ca­tion of the Pres­i­dents.”

Now, Inside the Belt­way has ob­tained one of the more in­trigu­ing items in­cluded in the ex­hibit, which opens March 30. As you can see, we’ve got­ten hold of Pres­i­dent Bush’s re­port card from Miss Kearns’ first-grade class (1952-53) at Sam Hous­ton El­e­men­tary School in Mid­land, Texas.

By golly, young Dubya fin­ished the year with a straight-A av­er­age, ex­celling in read­ing, writ­ing and arith­metic — and earn­ing him­self a “G” in cit­i­zen­ship.

Worth quot­ing

“Aban­don hype, all ye who en­ter here! I am a rea­son­able, non-com­mit­ted man. On the sub­ject of cli­mate change, that puts me in a de­cided mi­nor­ity. The world seems to be di­vided be­tween the ra­bid be­liev­ers and the ra­bid skep­tics. Fun­da­men­tal­ists both, they can hardly com­mu­ni­cate with each other. What on earth are we ag­nos­tics to do?”

— Roger Boo­tle, writ­ing in the Jan. 22 edi­tion of the Daily Tele­graph

Thin skins

“Why didn’t you call me?” Wash­ing­ton poll­ster and cri­sis-con­trol man­ager Frank Luntz said Jan. 23 when bump­ing into Steve Scully, pres­i­dent of the White House Cor­re­spon­dents’ As­so­ci­a­tion (WHCA), who spent last week de­fend­ing the choice of “ag­ing” im­per­son­ator Rich Lit­tle to head­line this April’s WHCA din­ner.

“I know what you’re go­ing to say; I know what you’re go­ing to say,” Mr. Scully replied.

What Mr. Luntz didn’t mind say­ing was that he per­son­ally puts Mr. Lit­tle in the “Johnny Car­son camp” of has-been per­form­ers. Still, Mr. Scully, se­nior ex­ec­u­tive pro­ducer and po­lit­i­cal ed­i­tor of C-SPAN, de­fended the sea­soned en­ter­tainer.

“I spoke to Lit­tle yes­ter­day, and he’s ex­cited with all the pub­lic­ity” and the chance to ap­pear be­fore the Wash­ing­ton crowd of re­porters, politi­cians and visit­ing celebri­ties, Mr. Scully said.

He sim­i­larly down­played re­ports that the WHCA had sought a more mild-man­nered head­liner for this year’s din­ner, so as to pre­vent a re­peat of last year’s rou­tine by Stephen Col­bert of Com­edy Cen­tral, who some com­plained was too crit­i­cal of Pres­i­dent Bush, and for that mat­ter, the press.

Les­son learned

It’s taken him two-plus years to pick up the book, or else find it’s wor­thy of a sec­ond read. Ei­ther way, that’s the nose of Rep. Mike D. Rogers, Alabama Repub­li­can, buried in the 2004 best­seller, “Speaker: Lessons from Forty Years in Coach­ing and Pol­i­tics,” by for­mer House Speaker J. Den­nis Hastert, Illi­nois Repub­li­can.

Mr. Rogers was read­ing the book on a Jan. 22 evening flight from At­lanta to Wash­ing­ton. As for the lessons Mr. Hastert said he learned: When it comes to win­ning in pol­i­tics, “un­der­promise and over­pro­duce.”

Out­ing Art

To show how times have changed in “jour­nal­ism,” Pa­trick W. Gavin, ed­i­tor of the press-gos­sip Web log Fish­bowlDC, won­ders if blog­gers such as him­self could have pre­vented Art Buch­wald’s suc­cess­ful ca­reer as a syn­di­cated colum­nist had the In­ter­net been up and run­ning a half-cen­tury or more ago.

He cites the re­cent obit­u­ary of the widely read colum­nist in The Wash­ing­ton Post, which pointed out that Mr. Buch­wald dropped out of the Univer­sity of South­ern Cal­i­for­nia af­ter learn­ing that he could use the GI Bill to study in Paris.

“Once there, Buch­wald conned his way into a glam­orous, al­beit low-pay­ing, job as nightlife and en­ter­tain­ment colum­nist for the Euro­pean edi­tion of the New York Her­ald Tri­bune. He knew noth­ing about haute cui­sine, he later re­called, but got the job by claim­ing to have been a wine taster in the Marine Corps. He said he faked his role as food critic by mak­ing sure to ask if the mush­rooms were fresh.”

Writes Mr. Gavin: “You’ve gotta be hon­est: Nowa­days, had some­one se­cured a colum­nist gig for a ma­jor pa­per by ly­ing about his cre­den­tials, it wouldn’t take long be­fore blog­gers outed them. That’s a noble ser­vice that blog­gers pro­vide, for sure, but it’s also in­ter­est­ing to note, in Buch­wald’s case, what we may have po­ten­tially lost (Buch­wald’s ca­reer) had his lit­tle fib been dis­cov­ered and, as a re­sult, it per­ma­nently set him back or dis­cour­aged him from jour­nal­ism.

“Food (with fresh mush­rooms) for thought.”

Fully re­cov­ered

So Jed Bab­bin, for­mer deputy un­der­sec­re­tary of de­fense, how does it feel to of­fi­cially en­ter the Fourth Es­tate as ed­i­tor of Hu­man Events?

“Well, it’s kind of like be­ing handed the Crown Jew­els right be­fore some­body tries to steal them,” Mr. Bab­bin told Inside the Belt­way on Jan. 23. “The [con­ser­va­tive] coali­tion is kind of ‘Balka­nized’ right now, and I’m go­ing to see what I can do to get it back to­gether again — stir peo­ple up, get them to talk to teach other [. . .] and try to get back to the days of the Rea­gan revo­lu­tion.

“But we have no Ron­ald Rea­gan to rally around,” he pointed out. “We have to fa­cil­i­tate this sort of con­ver­sa­tion, and that’s what I aim to do.”

Re­gard­ing his new po­si­tion, Mr. Bab­bin agrees “this is no doubt dif­fer­ent, but it’s some­thing I’ve been try­ing to do, golly, for more than a decade now. I started writ­ing for Amer­i­can Spec­ta­tor and do­ing ra­dio broad­casts seven or eight years ago at least.”

He added: “I’ve al­ways been billing my­self as a re­cov­er­ing lawyer, and now I feel re­cov­ered.”

Hu­man Events was founded in 1944, tout­ing it­self the coun­try’s old­est con­ser­va­tive weekly. It was said to be Mr. Rea­gan’s fa­vorite mag­a­zine.

Classy bid­ding

When embed­ded with the Marine Corps in Iraq in 2003, CNN’s cor­re­spon­dents and pro­duc­ers kept safe in War­rior One, a re­fur­bished Hum­mer that came un­der heavy fire near Bagh­dad.

Now, net­work spokes­woman Edie Emery tells us that af­ter go­ing on the auc­tion block, War­rior One has raised $1.25 mil­lion for the Fisher House Foun­da­tion, which builds “com­fort homes” for fam­i­lies of hos­pi­tal­ized mil­i­tary per­son­nel.

The high bid of $1 mil­lion was of­fered by Dave Liniger, co­founder and chair­man of RE/MAX In­ter­na­tional Inc. And get this: even though he was out­bid, Dave Ressler, a Corvette car dealer, still do­nated $250,000 to Fisher House.

Samuel R. Berger, who served as Pres­i­dent Clin­ton’s na­tional se­cu­rity ad­viser, still is the topic of con­ver­sa­tion for mis­han­dling clas­si­fied doc­u­ments.

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