Inside the Beltway

Question of the Day

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

KUDOS NOR HOLIDAYS

Members of the U.S. Senate and their staffs are told of rules and policies, some new and effective immediately, surrounding the use of the U.S. Senate Internet Service, including Web sites, electronic mail, blogs, podcasting and streaming media.

Be advised, ladies and gentlemen:

1. “Matter which constitutes or includes any article, account, sketch, narration or other text laudatory and complimentary of any senator on a purely personal or political basis rather than on the basis of performance of official duties as a senator is prohibited.”

2. “Reports of how or when a senator, the senator’s spouse or any other member of the senator’s family spends time other than in the performance of, or in connection with, the legislative, representative and other official functions of such senator is prohibited.”

3. “Any transmission expressing holiday greetings from a senator is prohibited. This prohibition does not preclude an expression of holiday greetings at the commencement or conclusion of an otherwise proper transmission.”

MOOSEHEAD CHASER

Wait until you get a load of the “Saratini” concoction that Republican activist LaDonna Hale Curzon is urging fellow female supporters of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin (“Team Sarah,” the ladies call themselves) to serve at local debate-watch parties on Oct. 2, when the Republican vice-presidential nominee goes face to face against Democratic Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. of Delaware.

Mix 1 ounce of Glacier Bay vodka (in honor of Alaska) with 2 ounces of champagne (in honor of her classiness).

Add a few drops of lipstick-red cranberry juice (in honor of the Red States and lipstick).

Shake and pour into a martini glass. Garnish with a silver bullet (in honor of her lifetime NRA membership).

Stir with a miniature plastic hockey stick swizzler (in honor of her “hockey mom” status).

Chase with a Moosehead beer (in honor of her moose-hunting abilities).

• John McCaslin can be reached at 202/636-3284 or Jim Mccaslin.

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