- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 21, 2003

Medical briefing

Columnist Bill Safire might be a Syracuse University dropout, but he’s still the college’s first choice to quiz Dr. Oliver Sacks on “Neurology and the Soul” at Washington’s Dana Foundation.

(No shrinking violet in the achievement department, Mr. Safire is actually the foundation’s chairman.)

While Dr. Sacks claims to be shy, he acted invigorated, standing in front of his audience in a bright orange shirt — his favorite color — and a tie imprinted with the table of periodic elements.

Nurses in the crowd were pleased to hear the 70-year-old neurologist, who calls himself “a specialist in ambiguity,” say that nurses are much better observers than doctors on the whole, so he always talks to them after seeing patients.

And with regard to our aging population and dreaded Alzheimer’s, the doctor acknowledges that “we don’t know how much is a disease or an extension of aging.”

Finally, he says, neuroscientists are just beginning their journey to understanding what makes a person unique.

“Our character, our self, our soul, is embodied in the nervous system,” says Dr. Sacks, “somewhere among the 100 billion neurons with 100 trillion connections in the three-and-a-half pounds that make up our heads.”

Sing it, Cal

We were impressed to hear renowned Washington columnist and Fox News Channel late-night host Cal Thomas make his singing debut Saturday night with acclaimed singer/songwriter Ann Hampton Callaway.

The unlikely pair sang “Merry Little Christmas.”

“I bet Bill O’Reilly couldn’t do that,” Mr. Thomas said when we called to inquire of his performance, which took place on the stage of “After Hours with Cal Thomas.”

“However, I don’t think I’ll go into singing full time.”

Miss Callaway is among the most widely acclaimed artists in the pop/jazz field today. It was she who wrote “At the Same Time,” which was performed by the admiring Barbra Streisand for President Clinton in Los Angeles.

Christmas flight

As is tradition at the annual holiday White House Basement Party, a Christmas poem — penned this year by Greg Clugston of Salem Radio News — was read to all assembled, including White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan.

The talented Mr. Clugston titled his verse: “‘Twas the Night Before Christmas — 2003 White House Press Basement Version”:

‘Twas the night before Christmas and at the White House,

President Bush was asleep — quiet as a mouse.

With Barney and Spot at the foot of the bed,

Visions of prescription drug benefits danced in his head.

Tomorrow, in the morning, to Camp David he’d go

For Christmas with Laura and his parents in tow.

Having gotten a lid, the reporters laid low,

Expecting their holiday shift to go slow.

When out on the South Lawn there arose such a clatter,

Laura jumped up to see what was the matter.

And what to her bewildered eyes did she see?

Two shadowy figures attempting to flee.

The couple wore ball caps in the dark of the night,

Boarding a Gulfstream Five for a top-secret flight.

The plane flew at top speed with shades pulled down tight.

Even exterior lights were off — to keep out of sight.

When a “non-U.K.” pilot spotted the presidential plane,

The control tower suggested he was going insane.

The president arrived at a remote military base.

So remote, in fact, it looked like outer space.

Travel poolers were incredulous, as they began to swoon,

Realizing that Bush had just flown to the moon!

Dressed all in white, Bush emerged with a jump.

Wearing a spaceflight suit, he was ready to stump.

“Now Kerry! Now Gephardt! Dean, Edwards, and Clark!

And the rest of you candidates who are a shot in the dark!

“My bold new campaign will keep you off-kilter.

I’ll do it bypassing the national media ‘filter.’

It was a strategy all of the Democrats feared —

TV ads replaying Saddam’s shaggy beard.

Bush hoisted a flag, planting it inside a crater.

He saluted and waved and said, “See ya later.”

Hours later, Dubya arrived back home on the lawn.

Stepping off the Gulfstream he stifled a yawn.

He approached the stakeout with a twinkle in his eye,

Knowing the secret travel would boost poll numbers high.

And I heard him exclaim, while Cheney hunted and fished,

“Merry Christmas to all! ‘Mission Accomplished.’

John McCaslin, a nationally syndicated columnist, can be reached at 202/636-3284 or jmccaslin@washingtontimes.com.

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