- The Washington Times - Friday, April 13, 2007

Assassin’s secrets

Who in Washington hasn’t spotted a certain pair of Hollywood actors traversing our streets in recent weeks?

Jon Voight and Nicolas Cage are in the nation’s capital — as in everywhere from Capitol Hill to Mount Vernon, George Washington’s sprawling Virginia estate — while filming the movie “National Treasure: Book of Secrets.”

And given tomorrow’s anniversary — it was on April 14, 1865, that Abraham Lincoln was assassinated by Confederate sympathizer (and actor) John Wilkes Booth — no better time to reveal the plot of the actors’ upcoming movie, which centers on treasure hunter Benjamin Franklin Gates (Mr. Cage) uncovering the truth behind Lincoln’s murder.

The key, or “book of secrets”: the 18 pages missing from Booth’s diary, or so we learn from the Internet Movie Database, www.imdb.com.

There’s renewed interest surrounding Lincoln’s assassination, piqued by the publication of “Manhunt,” the recent New York Times bestseller by James L. Swanson. The 2006 book provides a moment-by-moment account of the 12-day chase of Lincoln’s killer, still considered the greatest manhunt in American history.

Many Washingtonians don’t realize that across the Potomac River, in Old Town Alexandria, a granite monument was erected by the federal government in memory of the men who died in pursuit of Booth. It is found in the center of the Alexandria National Cemetery, coincidentally located on Wilkes Street, adjacent to the burial sites of four Quartermaster Corps officers who drowned in the Rappahannock River while chasing Booth through the Virginia countryside.

The inscription on the marker reads: “In memory of Peter Carroll, Samuel N. Gosnell, George W. Huntington, and Christopher Farley, who lost their lives April 24, 1865 while in pursuit of Booth the assassin of our beloved president, Abraham Lincoln.”

Voight masterpiece

It so happens that the Academy Award-winning Mr. Voight graduated from Catholic University — Class of 1960 — and while here in Washington, he returned to the campus for the first time since his graduation, personally invited by Catholic President the Rev. David M. OConnell.

“I now have a new friend in Father O’Connell,” Mr. Voight told this column. “He’s a wonderful man and a great spiritual leader.”

The actor paid a visit to his alma mater’s Nugent Hall, where he recalled for students his memories of the campus in the late 1950s. However, “the highlight of his tour was a visit to the first floor of the Pryzbyla Center to see the Cardinal logo that he had painted on the hardwood of the basketball court in the university’s old gymnasium,” the university reveals.

Wouldn’t you know? The university last September cut out the logo from the gym floor, preserving it on a wall as artwork — albeit it lacked a signature. So Mr. Voight, at the urging of Father O’Connell, gladly signed the floor — er, the painting.

Fish out of water

Downtown Washington might seem like an unusual place for the U.S. Navy’s “Blessing of the Fleets,” but then again, the U.S. Navy Memorial on Pennsylvania Avenue, between Seventh and Ninth Streets Northwest, features several fountain pools.

Enough water for Navy SEALs and special combatant-craft sailors to share center stage tomorrow at 1 p.m., when the Navy Memorial not only blesses its fleets, but showcases a new exhibit saluting the Navy’s special warfare community: “Sea, Air, Land: The Navy’s Special Operations Sailors.”

“We’re thrilled to shine a spotlight on the Navy’s community of ‘quiet professionals’ who willingly take on some of the most dangerous combat jobs in the world,” says retired Navy Rear Adm. Rick Buchanan, president and chief executive officer of U.S. Navy Memorial Foundation and Naval Heritage Center.

The fleets blessing is a centuries-old tradition passed down through generations of mariners and navies. And, yes, there will be a boat to bless: a 16-foot mini tall ship.

The next president

“Saying that his presidency would strengthen America and begin an era of bold engagement, senator and presidential candidate Chris Dodd announced his foreign policy vision in a major address tonight at the U.S. Center for Citizen Diplomacy in Des Moines.”

Or so a “Dodd for President” press release informed us yesterday.

Despite the Connecticut senator’s miniscale support (about 1 percent) in a recent poll of likely Iowa Democratic caucusgoers — lagging far behind the three leading Democratic contenders, Hillary Rodham Clinton, Barack Obama and John Edwards — Mr. Dodd recently told the Des Moines Register: “I intend to be the next president of the United States.”

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

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