- The Washington Times - Monday, November 29, 2004

Talking too much

It certainly was a unique appearance by Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist — a heart surgeon in real life — before the Federalist Society 2004 National Convention.

As the Tennessee Republican put it: “You’ve succeeded at an almost impossible task: You’ve put a doctor at ease in a room filled with a thousand lawyers.”

The surgeon says he takes great pride in being “a citizen legislator — someone who sets aside a career for a period of time to serve in public office” — sort of like Jefferson Smith in the classic film “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.”

“One of my favorite scenes in that movie is when Mr. Smith takes the oath of office,” said Mr. Frist. “He raises his right hand and … pledges ‘I do.’ Then the Senate president says with a less than subtle touch of sarcasm: ‘Senator, you can talk all you want to now.’”

Wherein lies the problem — unprecedented filibustering in the U.S. Senate.

“A senator takes the floor, is recognized, starts talking and doesn’t stop talking,” said Mr. Frist. “The flamboyant Huey Long [Louisiana Democrat] once took the floor and filibustered for over 15 hours straight. When Senator Long suggested that his colleagues — many of whom were dozing off — be forced to listen to his speech, the presiding officer replied, ‘That would be unusual cruelty under the Bill of Rights.’”

Behind the facade

Colin L. Powell’s stepping down as secretary of state within days of President Bush’s winning re-election isn’t such a big loss for the nation, says outspoken liberal Rep. Barney Frank.

“The recent resignation, apparently encouraged by the president,” opines the Massachusetts Democrat, “has stripped one of the important facades behind which the reality of the Bush foreign policy has been hidden.

“It is deeply regrettable that the president and the secretary of state worked together to keep this facade in place until now, because the fact that the secretary of state would be leaving is the sort of information that would have been relevant to the voters on Election Day.”

A member of homeland security committee, Mr. Frank says there “is no clear evidence that Secretary Powell had any great influence on the administration’s foreign policy, but his having been around did, I think, help the administration in its effort to appear more reasonable in its foreign policy than it has been.”

Bipartisan vintage

You know you’ve reached the top rung of the winemaking ladder when your California chardonnay is chosen by the first lady of the United States for her Thanksgiving dinner table.

Actually, Donald Patz tells Inside the Beltway he didn’t know until after the fact that his 2002 Patz & Hall “Hyde” chardonnay was served by Laura Bush to visiting King Juan Carlos and Queen Sofia of Spain last week — and again the next day as the Bush family gathered in Crawford, Texas, to celebrate Thanksgiving.

“I’m told it was one of the favorite wines of Laura this past year, and we felt great about that,” says Mr. Patz, referring to his winemaking partner James Hall (the pair bottled their first vintage in 1988), who must feel somewhat consoled by the honor.

“The Patzes typically vote Republican,” Mr. Patz explains. “The Halls typically vote Democrat. We had an even split, pretty much like the rest of the country.”

Education secretary

An appropriate name is “Pa(i)ge”

For a pedagogical sage!

And isn’t it telling

That Miss Margaret “Spellings”

Should succeed Mr. Paige on the stage?

F.R. Duplantier

Life goes on

Several weeks after their thrilling come-from-behind World Series victory, the Boston Red Sox have been saluted in Congress — sort of.

“Even if the Red Sox are the very best baseball team in the world right now, I know that a return to Yankee domination is but four short months away,” Rep. Rosa DeLauro, Connecticut Democrat, dared say in leading the House toast.

“I can only hope that [fellow members] will join me here next year as we return to our annual practice congratulating the Yankees.”

Some congratulations for a team cursed since 1918.

“I, for one, will miss the ‘1918’ chants for sure, but life will go on,” she said.

John McCaslin, whose column is nationally syndicated, can be reached at 202/636-3284 or [email protected]

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