- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 12, 2006

America watching

“Are you enjoying the confirmation hearings? We are real proud to have Mr. Biden as the official Windbag of Delaware.”

So reads an unexpected note attached to a work invoice sent to this columnist yesterday by a plumbing company in Delaware, referring to the Democratic senator from the state, Joseph R. Biden Jr., and this week’s contentious Senate Judiciary Committee hearings surrounding the nomination of Judge Samuel A. Alito Jr. to the Supreme Court.

“Anyway, we will install the vanities and take care of the re-piping on Monday the 16th. We will let you know when we are done.”

Book worm

Fred Barnes, executive editor of the Weekly Standard and commentator for Fox News, has a witty title for his soon-to-be-published book, “Rebel-in-Chief: Inside the Bold and Controversial Presidency of George W. Bush.”

A review by Publishers Weekly notes that the author “preaches to the Crawford choir in this analysis-cum-tribute to the Bush presidency,” but praises his “surprising glimpses into the personality” of the president.

For instance, whereas Mr. Bush dislikes reading newspapers, he has a copious book-reading habit: “five to every one that Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice reads.”

Class of ‘68

Former President Bill Clinton will deliver the eulogy tomorrow morning at the Washington National Cathedral for former Democratic Sen. Eugene McCarthy, one of the most outspoken if not influential political leaders of his time.

Mr. McCarthy died in his sleep in Washington on Dec. 10 at the age of 89. The memorial service, which is open to the public, begins at 11 a.m.

A staunch opponent of the Vietnam War, Mr. McCarthy went head-to-head against Lyndon B. Johnson for his party’s presidential nomination in 1968. While his bid for higher office proved unsuccessful, he attracted a huge following.

“It will be a gathering of the ‘68 hippies — all those ‘Clean for Gene,’ ” says Washington journalist Bill Press, who is helping to spread word about the memorial service. Also speaking at the service will be Peter Yarrow, of Peter, Paul & Mary fame, who volunteered in Mr. McCarthy’s 1968 campaign.

“He inspired a whole generation,” says Mr. Press. “My relationship with him began in 1968 as a volunteer in San Francisco. The campaign is where I met my wife. We got married right after the campaign and have been married ever since — Carol was ‘Clean for Gene’ from Rhode Island, and I was ‘Clean for Gene’ from California.

“There were a bunch of us,” he says. “[Former Senate Majority Leader] Tom Daschle was one of the early ‘68 guys, John Fox Sullivan of National Journal was another. I keep discovering them.”

Window on the moon

Walk to the south side of the Washington National Cathedral, just west of the tomb of Woodrow Wilson, and you might be surprised to come upon a moon rock.

One of the lesser-known attractions in Washington, retrieved from the Sea of Tranquillity, this 7-plus-gram lunar rock isn’t encased in the marble floor, nor is it featured in a display case. Instead, it is securely implanted within one of the cathedral’s large stained-glass windows — the “Scientists and Technicians Window” — that commemorates U.S. space exploration and mankind’s first giant step on the moon.

The rock was donated to the cathedral more than three decades ago by the crew of Apollo 11 — Neil Armstrong, Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin and Michael Collins. (The latter astronaut is an alumnus of St. Albans School, its campus adjacent to the cathedral.)

Benefactor of this unique window was Thomas Paine, director of NASA during the presidency of Richard M. Nixon.

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

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