- The Washington Times - Monday, July 15, 2002

Cloture, you say?
A late-night brainstorming session between two young women at a Washington pub has led to the publication of "The Complete Idiot's Guide to American Government."
This Wednesday evening, from 6-8 p.m., the Fund for American Studies (1706 New Hampshire Ave. NW) will host a book party in honor of the new idiot's guide, written by two Washington reporters, one of whom covers politics for The Washington Times.
"The book came about as all good ideas do: from a late-night conversation in a local watering hole in April 2001," says Mary Shaffrey, 27, a Times scribe who authored the book with Melanie Fonder, 25, a political free-lance reporter. Both women previously worked together at the Hill, a weekly newspaper that covers Congress.
The very next day the ladies approached Alpha books, the company that publishes the "Complete Idiot's" series. Several different versions of the book were bounced about, including one on Congress and the Supreme Court. The contract for "American Government" was signed just five days before September 11.
"There is so much misinformation out there," says Miss Shaffrey. "All of our friends from outside of Washington would always ask us about what we did and how we understood government so well, so we just decided to write down what we knew and what we had learned from covering Congress.
"I don't think either one of us thought the book would ever come about, it was just a fun, crazy idea that actually worked."
The book is divided into five sections: executive, legislative, judicial, money in politics and local government. It explains in very simple terms how government works and describes the role of citizens in government and politics. Quotations pulled from historical figures about government, as well as definitions on everything from "cloture" to "veep," also fill the pages.
Keeping the project all in the family, Robert Schlesinger, the former political editor at the Hill and now a Washington correspondent for the Boston Globe, wrote the foreword. John Sherry, a former intern at the Hill and recent American University graduate, helped with the editing and proofing.
The entire process, from initial contact to publication, took just over a year.

Soup for Sam
More than 2,000 senior government executives won't be sitting behind their desks this week.
Rather, starting today, the large group of government leaders will be discussing homeland security and the war on terrorism at the Excellence in Government 2000 conference at the Marriott Wardman Park Hotel in Washington.
Among the briefers: White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card, Transportation Secretary Norman Y. Mineta, Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy G. Thompson and to provide some much-needed therapy during these difficult days Jack Canfield, author and co-creator of the popular series of books that includes "Chicken Soup for the Soul."

Loaded for bear
Among members voting in committee last week to secure the nation's borders by moving the U.S. Customs Services into the new Department of Homeland Security was House Ways and Means Committee member Rep. Mark Foley, Florida Republican.
"Bringing together all aspects of the government to work as a team will bolster our national security like nothing else," observed Mr. Foley, who after congressional redistricting will have three Customs offices in his region in West Palm, Fort Myers and Sarasota.
He warned evil-doers: "We're getting closer to having all our guns in a row, locked and loaded."

Move over, woodchuck
"If Ron Kirk talks the Texas talk but walks the WashingtonNew York walk, should he explain that walk in plain Texas talk to Texans?
"That would be the right thing for him to do," says Mitch Bainwol, executive director (and chief tongue twister) of the National Republican Senatorial Committee. "He's asking people to vote for him for a critical position. It only stands to reason that he should let them know what he might do, who he would align himself with, were Texans to send him to the Senate."
Mr. Bainwol charges that Mr. Kirk "is publicly very, very quiet in Texas about his position on critical issues. He's also very, very careful to disassociate himself from national Democratic leaders whose main mission is the obstruction and derailment of anything that might be supported by President Bush."
"But that's how he is in Texas. When Ron Kirk hops off his plane in New York or D.C., it's to hobnob, schmooze and accept campaign cash."
In fact, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton threw a campaign fund-raiser for Mr. Kirk here in Washington, while former President and husband Bill Clinton helped out in the Big Apple. A former Dallas mayor, Mr. Kirk defeated teacher Victor Morales in a Democratic runoff to become the first black to claim a Senate nod in Texas.

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