Monday, January 15, 2007

Anybody can bike

“I challenge anyone who makes fun of windsurfing to come out and do it with me and see how long they last.”

So declares Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry, in an upcoming interview with Details magazine that hits newsstands Jan. 23.

It was during the height of the 2004 presidential campaign that President Bush‘s senior campaign advisor, Mark McKinnon, took one look at footage of Mr. Kerry windsurfing off Nantucket and within days the Democratic presidential nominee and his surfboard were starring in a Bush campaign advertisement.

Now looking toward 2008, Mr. Kerry hints not to count him out of the race for the White House.

“You know, different people have different feelings,” he says. “Some people react and say, ‘Oh, you lost. Why try again?’ Well, John McCain ran and lost, and he’s trying again. Ronald Reagan ran four times. Richard Nixon lost the presidency, then ran for governor, lost the governorship, and then six years later he was president.”

Stationary bike?

Number of vehicles required to transport President Bush and his bicycle yesterday to the Maryland suburb of Beltsville for his regular bike ride: 14.

Reagan reunion

That was former FBI and CIA Director William Webster helping to host a Cosmos Club book party the other night celebrating the first political thriller by Karna Small Bodman, former senior director of the National Security Council under President Reagan.

“Since the novel [‘Checkmate’] was inspired by President Reagan’s SDI [Strategic Defense Initiative, or ‘Star Wars’] program — it’s about a new missile-defense system and foreign agents trying to steal it — we were all talking about how Reagan’s dream is now deployed at Vandenberg Air Force Base and in Alaska and could have shot down those North Korean ballistic missiles a few months ago — if they came our way,” Mrs. Bodman tells Inside the Beltway.

The party’s hosts included former ambassador and Judge Laurence Silberman, former Labor Secretary Bill Brock, and former Ambassador Richard Fairbanks. And yes, there were two former National Security advisers on hand — John Poindexter and Robert C. “BudMcFarlane, the latter wearing a leg cast.

“He broke his leg skiing,” reveals Mrs. Bodman, who readers might recall spent 15 years as a TV news anchor and reporter in San Francisco and Washington.

As for “Checkmate,” its chapters are filled with Washington backdrops stretching from the White House and Capitol Hill to Georgetown’s restaurants and local dinner parties. Mrs. Bodman, who soon departs on a nationwide book tour, will appear at 6 p.m. Thursday at Borders Books at 14th and F streets Northwest.

The book’s sequel, “Gambit,” is due out later this year.

Points of history

Few serving today on Capitol Hill can honor the life and achievements of Martin Luther King like Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, who personally recalls the day the civil rights leader “awoke the nation.”

“I am proud to say that as a young man I was present for not just one, but two significant events in the life of Dr. King,” Mr. McConnell said in Senate remarks Friday. “On August 28, 1963 — a Wednesday, without a cloud in the sky — more than 200,000 people gathered on the [National] Mall here in Washington to protest racial inequality and to hear Dr. King give what would be his most- remembered speech.

“I was an intern at the time for Congressman Gene Snyder of Kentucky, and so I went outside and stood on the Capitol Steps. I could see up the length of the entire Mall, and see the crowd that had gathered there. I supported Dr. King and his cause, and wanted to witness what I knew would be a pivotal point in history.”

The very next summer, Mr. McConnell returned to Capitol Hill to intern for Kentucky Sen. John Sherman Cooper, who was instrumental in passing the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Then returning to Washington in August 1965, now in law school, Mr. McConnell paid his old boss and mentor a visit.

“All that summer, Senator Cooper had been a key proponent of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, and on August 4 it passed the Senate and was sent to President Johnson for his signature. As I sat waiting for the senator, he suddenly emerged from his office and motioned for me to follow him. He led me to the Capitol Rotunda, where President Johnson was about to sign the Voting Rights Act.

“I’ll never forget the president’s sheer physical presence in that room,” he said. “But there was another figure there, not as large but just as significant. Here in this Capitol, Dr. King stood by the president and witnessed the signing of the Voting Rights Act — an act that would not have gained America’s support without his efforts.

“With its enactment, the promise of the 14th Amendment, extending the franchise to newly freed slaves, was finally realized. Sadly, it was a hundred years too late.”

• John McCaslin, whose column is nationally syndicated, can be reached at 202/636-3284 or jmccaslin

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