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A-team

Who’s on — or perhaps more importantly, who’s fallen off — the Washington “A List”?

“There are some life sentences on the ‘A List’ — but there’s also the death penalty,” Nancy Bagley, editor-in-chief of this city’s power-elite publication, Washington Life, has said in announcing previous lists, compiled every year in secret committee.

There are 124 members of the Washington establishment making up the 2005 Washington “A List.” At the top, by titles alone (they don’t prefer the Washington party scene), are President Bush and first lady Laura Bush.

Following closely are Vice President Dick Cheney and his wife, Lynne; Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice (yes, former Secretary of State Colin L. Powell and his wife, Alma, remain on the list); and Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and his wife, Joyce. (This year’s bunch bids a fond farewell and job well done to former Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge).

Still sitting prominently on the 2005 “A List” are former President Clinton and Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, although Washington’s previous power pair — sometimes stag, sometimes together — increasingly is spotted in New York City’s social circles. And while he didn’t become president, Sen. John Kerry and his wife, Teresa Heinz (once the 2004 campaign ended, she dropped her Kerry surname), remain on the “A team.”

Washington Redskins coach Joe Gibbs, now that he has promised to stay in town for the long run, and his wife, Melissa, have made first-string this year.

“I thought it was interesting that Joe Gibbs made this year’s list, but [Redskins owner] Dan Snyder is gone,” Mrs. Bagley notes. “I didn’t interfere with that one. I think [the selection committee] wanted to shake things up.”

Remaining on the “A team” are veterans George Stephanopoulos and his wife, Alexandra Wentworth, and fellow Sunday morning news show host Tim Russert and his bride, Maureen Orth. (Might we ask: Where is Bob Schieffer?)

Mrs. Bagley once told us that no party in Washington is complete without a Kennedy in the house. Thus the continued presence of Sen. Edward M. Kennedy and his wife, Vicky, and R. Sargent Shriver Jr. and his wife, the former Eunice Kennedy.

The most prominent new face on the new 2005 “A List”? Certainly, Democratic Party sensation and new Illinois Sen. Barack Obama, and his wife, Michelle.

Laura in 2008?

President Bush need only glance to his better half to see one of the most popular public figures in the United States today.

In fact, first lady Laura Bush tops her husband and all others in a recent Gallup poll of popularity, scoring an impressive 80 percent approval rating.

Mr. Bush follows with 59 percent approval, tied with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. Former President Bill Clinton remains popular with 56 percent of the country; Vice President Dick Cheney with 51 percent; Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, 48 percent; Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean 31 percent; and House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, Texas Republican, 29 percent.

Been there

We’re told that Americans finally are ready to elect a woman to be president of the United States. But can a woman stand up for herself and her country in this increasingly hostile world?

Thanking UNESCO Ambassador Louise Oliver this week for her leadership on behalf of this country, first lady Laura Bush noted of international diplomacy: “It might be a tough job, but for a mom who’s raised five children, dealing with 189 countries is probably a piece of cake.”

Safety with Shaq

Miami Heat center and National Basketball Association all-star Shaquille O’Neal will be sworn in as an honorary deputy U.S. marshal this evening when he ducks beneath Capitol Hill.

The honor coincides with Mr. O’Neal’s becoming a national spokesman for the Safe Surfin’ Foundation. Justice Department Administrator J. Robert Flores, of the Office of Justice Programs, will administer the oath in the presence of congressmen and other invited dignitaries.

An estimated 77 million children surf the Internet today, and the FBI says there’s a good chance that one day they will encounter a sexual predator in a chat room.

John McCaslin, whose column is nationally syndicated, can be reached at 202/636-3284 or jmccaslin@washingtontimes.com.

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