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Inside the Beltway

- The Washington Times - Friday, September 7, 2007

Plain(s) politics

We opened yesterday's mail to see that Academy Award-winning actor and director Robert Duvall and his fourth wife, Luciana, will host a high-end cocktail party at their country home in The Plains, Va., later this month to benefit Republican presidential candidate Rudolph W. Giuliani.

The invitation to the Sept. 20 gala requests a campaign contribution of $2,300 per guest, which gets you a photo with the candidate (and maybe even the celebrated actor). Others can fork over $1,000 ($500 if you're younger than 35) to mingle about the Middleburg-area estate and listen to Mr. Giuliani's remarks.

Mr. Duvall, who is a descendant of both Robert E. Lee and George Washington, announced his support for Mr. Giuliani earlier this week.

Brush with history

We couldn't decide whether to title this next item a "Brush with history" or a "Brush with Hillary." Either way, New York Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton is lucky to be alive to run for president today.

So reveals former Democratic National Committee Chairman Terry McAuliffe, who recently sat down for a luncheon interview in Old Town Alexandria with Frances Killpatrick of the Old Town Crier.

As Mr. McAuliffe tells the story, he and his young son, Jack, were at Camp David one Thanksgiving visiting President and Mrs.Clinton, when Jack decided to take a joy ride.

"Hillary and I were walking down a path, and Jack came to pick us up in a golf cart," he explains. "Instead of putting on the brake, he stepped on the gas, ran into Hillary and sent her flying. 'What a career wrecker,' I thought. 'My son kills the first lady.' "

As it was, Mrs. Clinton got up and dusted herself off. And the rest is history.

Read all about it!

Headline: "Washington Post Executive Editor Leonard Downie to Discuss the Future of the News Business."

That's right, next month's Society of Professional Journalists' (SPJ) 2007 Convention and Conference in Washington will concentrate on "declining newspaper readership" in the wake of "blogs, citizen journalism [and] the seismic shift to online news and other trends [that] are taking the news business by storm."

The SPJ says that the "major shift" in how Americans consume their news "is overtaking many newsrooms across the country" and that "questions about traditional journalism's relevance are being asked by many."

Queer studies

This columnist won't ever forget the reaction from my father, an FBI agent, when he opened up my college report card to see that I'd taken the course "Preparation for Marriage" as an elective.

Not that he disapproved of couples being adequately prepared before taking the long walk down the matrimonial aisle. Rather, he just felt that his son, who he knew wasn't anywhere close to getting hitched, should have chosen (aka spent his hard-earned money toward) a more relevant course geared in the direction of my particular major curriculum.

I tried to explain that the pre-marriage course was beneficial in a variety of ways, particularly when it came to communicating with the opposite sex: how to be patient, how to be respectful, how to avoid conflict, how to compromise, how to tell the truth, etc.

Still, he refused to believe that a "Preparation for Marriage" course could actually be listed as part of any college's curriculum, and he grabbed the course guide to see for himself.

It's a good thing my father is not the parent of a college student today. Consider just a few of today's "most outrageous" university courses in America, culled from the new guide "Choosing the Right College," published by the Intercollegiate Studies Institute (ISI), founded in 1953:

• University of Michigan: "How to Be Gay: Male Homosexuality and Initiation."

• University of California at Los Angeles: "Gay and Lesbian Perspective in Pop Music."

• Wesleyan University: "Queering the American State: Politics and Sex after 1968."

Oh, and for the record, my eventual marriage didn't last. In retrospect, I should have taken the "ceramics" elective.

John McCaslin can be reached at 202/636-3284 or jmccaslin@washingtontimes.com.