Inside the Beltway

GIPPER PHONE HOME

If Ronald Reagan were alive “he could deal with a lot of today’s problems.”

So remarked ABC newsman Sam Donaldson, master of ceremonies for the 2008 Ronald Reagan Freedom Award Dinner, which this year honored former Soviet dissident and political prisoner Natan Sharansky.

Now living in Israel, Mr. Sharansky was freed in 1986 as part of an East-West prisoner exchange orchestrated by President Reagan. An elegantly dressed former first lady Nancy Reagan was on hand to present the appreciative Mr. Sharansky with the award.

Later, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, California Democrat, took to the stage to praise an equally appreciative Mrs. Reagan as a “great first lady of California and a great first lady of the United States.”

Another speaker to address the crowd, which included independent Sen. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut and his wife Hadassah, was Cindy McCain, who pointed out that her candidate husband, a former POW in Vietnam, and Mr. Sharansky “both were prisoners: John McCain for serving his country, Natan Sharansky for serving his conscience.”

Mrs. Reagan shared her head table with Mr. McCain’s tireless 96-year-old mother, Roberta McCain, who assured Inside the Beltway that she has no intention of slowing down between now and Election Day.

Also in the audience were Arizona Sen. Jon Kyl and his wife, Caryll; former Nevada Sen. Paul Laxalt and his wife, Carol; former congressman Jack Kemp and his wife, Joanne; former Attorney General Edwin Meese III and his wife, Ursula; former White House National Security Adviser Robert C. “Bud” McFarlane and his wife, Jonda; and Frederick J. Ryan Jr., chairman of the board of trustees of the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation, and his wife, Genny.

PASS THE KETCHUP

Michelle Obama and Sarah Palin have one thing in common: comfort food.

Not that Mrs. Obama marinates moose meat, mind you. But the wife of Democratic presidential nominee Sen. Barack Obama recently stepped from the campaign trail and into this columnist’s alma mater to help prepare a deep-fried dinner of shrimp and french fries with the Food Network’s first lady of southern cooking, Paula Deen.

“She was getting her hands dirty,” the celebrity chef told the Associated Press following her cooking session with Mrs. Obama at Virginia’s Old Dominion University. “I think [the Obamas] are like us they like real food, not a bunch of prissy food.”

COLLEGE DAZE

This columnist always assumed that college was a four-year vacation between my mother and my wife.

I wasn’t too far off in my thinking, it turned out.

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