Inside the Beltway

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Is it still considered bad form to talk politics during a social gathering?

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MASQUERADE MASTER

His resume reveals involvement in eight presidential campaigns, starting in 1976, focusing particularly on debate preparation.

He played the role of George H.W. Bush in mock debates with Geraldine Ferraro in 1984 and Michael Dukakis in 1988.

In 2000 and 2004, respectively, he assumed the persona of Dick Cheney in practice debates with Joe Lieberman and John Edwards.

For more than 20 times during the 1992 campaign he sparred with Bill Clinton in his debate preparation; in 2008, he assisted Hillary Rodham Clinton as she geared up for a whopping 23 primary debates.

Curious where he stood this week, Inside the Beltway reached Washington lawyer Robert B. Barnett at his Williams & Connolly office, and while he’s not playing the part of John McCain as Barack Obama undergoes three days of preparation for Friday’s first presidential debate, at the University of Mississippi, he assured us that he is involved in other capacities. He declined to be specific.

Alan Schroeder, author of “Presidential Debates: 50 Years of High-Risk TV,” and an associate professor at Northeastern University, told this columnist in a telephone interview from Boston: “Barnett probably has been the stand-in debater for more candidates than anyone in history.”

Washington lawyer Greg Craig, a former Clinton administration official, instead has the honor of playing Mr. McCain this week.

Meanwhile, if only for a few hours, prominent black Republican Michael S. Steele, Maryland’s former lieutenant governor, will become Mr. Obama as Mr. McCain prepares for the debate.

ONE MAN’S VIEW

“When there is a fire in your kitchen threatening to burn down your home, you don’t want someone stopping the firefighters on the way and demanding they hand out smoke detectors first or lecturing you about the hazards of keeping paint in the basement. You want them to put out the fire before it burns down your home and everything you have saved for your whole life.”

-Sen. Mitch McConnell, Kentucky Republican, addressing the current economic crisis and why Congress must take immediate action to try to head off a serious blow to Main Street and this columnist’s 401(k).

ASLEEP AT THE WHEEL?

Portion of the laws passed by the current Congress that have involved the renaming of post offices: 1/4

-Harper’s Index, October 2008

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