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Inside the Beltway

Gilmore to Gingrich

A virtual Who's Who list of right-thinking men and women -- a record crowd of 5,000-plus attendees -- fills the agenda board for this week's 34th annual Conservative Political Action Conference, CPAC 2007, which kicks off Thursday at a sold-out Omni Shoreham Hotel.

Colorado Rep. Tom Tancredo, California Rep. DuncanHunter, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, former MassachusettsGov. Mitt Romney, former Virginia Gov. James S. Gilmore III, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and Kansas Sen. Sam Brownback are some of the familiar Republican names one organizer rattles off, adding that attendees also will include Vice President Dick Cheney, former U.N. Ambassador John R. Bolton, Indiana Rep. Mike Pence and former University of California regent Ward Connerly.

Inside the Beltway's question to J. William Lauderback, executive vice president of the American Conservative Union, is: "How important is CPAC 2007 for Republicans to retake control of Congress next year, not to mention hang on to the White House?"

"The GOP doesn't have a shot at regaining the majority in Congress and keeping the White House if it continues to treat conservatives like some part-time constituency who are only due a seat at the table during the pre-general election primary season," Mr. Lauderback tells this column.

"Conservatives have always been driven by the issues, not personality, with RonaldReagan possessing a rare and unique combination of both. Nonetheless, conservatives welcome candidates who have a proven record of fighting for shared principles and who can articulate a clear vision for achieving their goals."

One of the more timely titles of CPAC's slate of panel discussions: "The Left's Repeated Campaign Against the American Soldier."

Clean slate

Fire them all. Or so recommends Lawrence J. Korb, director of National Security Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York and senior fellow and adviser for the liberal Center for American Progress and Center for Defense Information.

"You know, if I were the president, I'd have the Secretary of the Army [Francis J. Harvey] and the Chief of Staff of the Army [Gen. Peter J. Schoomaker] -- they'd be fired. They should fire the whole lot of them," said Mr. Korb, interviewed on "The Bill Press Show" (heard in the Washington area on WWRC-1260 AM, 6 to 9 a.m.). Mr. Korb was responding to Mr. Press' observation that the commander at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, Maj. Gen. George W. Weightman, "said that he hadn't even been in Building 18 and he lives across the street from it. So, who ... is in charge here?"

Since the interview, the Pentagon has taken full responsibility for everything from the leaky pipes to mold on the walls and ceilings of Building 18, where war wounded from Iraq and Afghanistan are recovering.

Napolitano's nest

That was Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano, chairwoman of the National Governors Association (actually, she's the first woman and first Italian-American to chair the NGA), being toasted at a private reception Friday in the Nest Room of the Willard Hotel, sponsored by the National Italian-American Foundation.

Among those on the invitation list: Argentinian Ambassador Jose Octavio Bordon, Region of Sicily President Salvatore Cuffaro, former California Democratic Rep. Vic Fazio, Podesta Group chairman Tony Podesta and former Motion Picture Association of America president Jack Valenti.

Earning their keep

Minimum hourly wage last year of a member of the U.S. House of Representatives: $203.95

Minimum wage this year, given new rules that require more hours in session: $139.97

-- Harper's Index, March 2007

Nearman rules

After all the snow and ice finally melts, we can turn our thoughts to the 2007 ACLI Capital Challenge of May 2, one of Washington's most enduring sports battles between the media and the legislative, executive and judicial branches of government.

Thirty-eight members of Congress laced up their sneakers for last year's three-miler, among 140 teams with catchy names like Crawl Things Considered (National Public Radio) and Running from Cheney's Birdshot (FDC Reports).

Last year's champs in the Senate were New Hampshire Republican Sen. John E. Sununu (20:10) and Texas Republican Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (38:58), while on the House side Tennessee Democratic Rep. Bart Gordon (18:05) and West Virginia Republican Rep. Shelley Moore Capito (25:55) were tops in their fields.

Not a single politician, for the record, topped last year's fastest journalist: Washington Times sports reporter Steve Nearman (17:10).

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

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