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View Abraham Lincoln's draft of legislation to abolish slavery in the District of Columbia, dated Jan. 10, 1849.

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View Abraham Lincoln’s draft of legislation to abolish slavery in the District of Columbia, dated Jan. 10, 1849.

No better time to duck underground into the U.S. Capitol Visitor Center and examine some unique artifacts now on display, including Abraham Lincoln‘s draft of legislation to abolish slavery in the District of Columbia, dated Jan. 10, 1849.

The draft is actually Lincoln’s notes for a bill he’d written while a congressman from Illinois, but he was unable to garner enough support for the legislation and it didn’t move forward.

Other items include a telegram Lincoln sent to Ulysses S. Grant in 1864, agreeing with his strategy to maintain pressure on the Confederate Army at Petersburg, Va., rather than pull the Army north to protect Washington. Known as the “bull-dog grip” telegram, the message urges Grant to “hold on with a bull-dog grip and chew and choke, as much as possible.”

Also on display is Lincoln’s nomination of Grant to be lieutenant general of the Army, a position previously held by George Washington.

DUH

A recent correction published in the New Orleans Times-Picayune: “A story in Monday’s paper about James Carville‘s class at Tulane University wrongly attributed the quote ‘We hate the bastards’ to Betsy Fischer. It was Carville who said it.”

DIDN’T SWIM

A female caller to C-Span admitted that she approached an illegal alien living in her state of Georgia and called him a “wetback” [-] an offensive term for a person of Mexican descent.

She said the alien shot back: “I’m not a wetback, I walked across the border.”

WASTE NOT, WANT NOT

Patrick Beckerdite, senior property manager for the Southridge Mall in Des Moines, Iowa, was one of several readers reacting to our item about Senate Democrats holding a “retreat” last Wednesday in high-end conference space at the Newseum – just three blocks from the U.S. Capitol – rather than huddling in any number of congressional meeting or hearing rooms.

Jim Manley, spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, assured us that the retreat “was paid for by members’ re-elect funds.”

“The way you told it, Jim Manley sure doesn’t get the idea of controlling expenses,” Mr. Beckerdite writes. “It doesn’t really matter that public funds weren’t used to pay for the meeting room. It’s the perception the voters have that money is being wasted.

“Just like it probably wasn’t wise to spend $170 million non-taxpayer dollars on the inauguration when so much of the country is hurting. Most people know you have to lead by example, and until the folks currently running Capitol Hill realize that, they are going to have trouble convincing the country they know how to solve our problems.”

REAGAN TRIBUTE

An enthusiastic gathering of Reaganites celebrated what would have been the late President Reagan‘s 98th birthday at Friday’s premiere of the documentary “Ronald Reagan: Rendezvous with Destiny,” featuring the Gipper’s impact on America and abroad.

Those in attendance included documentary hosts former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and wife Callista Gingrich, and ABC newsman Sam Donaldson (who spoke beforehand), as well as columnist George Will, former Sen. Fred Thompson, and retired Marine Lt. Col. Oliver North.

On another floor of the Kennedy Center that same evening was a different crowd that included President Obama, first lady Michelle Obama and their two daughters, Malia and Sasha, who were attending a performance by the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater.

This was the first family’s first time sitting in the presidential box at the Kennedy Center.

THANK YOU, MA’AM

Lest there be any confusion, this columnist is a red-blooded American male.

I say so because of the initial response I received from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi when I asked her about the bumpy start for President Obama and his administration, from his tax-dodging Cabinet choices to a pork-laden economic bailout package she herself had a hand in crafting.

“Thank you, ma’am,” she replied to my question.

Huh?

She then leaned her body into mine, as if to snuggle. I kid you not.

The speaker explained that she is currently reading a book about previous hurdles Americans have had to leap and “Thank you, ma’am” was an expression Franklin D. Roosevelt had once used when referring to the numerous bumps in the road to recovery from the Great Depression.

‘UNCERTAIN FUTURE’

What gives?

The FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS), which serves as a strong indicator of actual gun sales, shows background checks on firearms sales jumped 29 percent in January compared to January 2008. This follows a 24 percent rise in December and 42 percent jump in November, when a record 1,529,635 background checks were performed.

FARMER BARACK

The call for a “White House Farmer” was first made by Michael Pollan, the Knight Professor of Journalism at the University of California Berkeley and author of “In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto.”

There’s a White House chef, he figures, so why not a White House farmer?

Spurred by Mr. Pollan’s proposal, published last October in the New York Times Magazine, the Internet site “White House Farmer” was launched by the Brockmans, a farm family in central Illinois. It proposes transforming “five prime south-facing acres of the White House lawn” and planting an “organic fruit and vegetable garden” for harvesting by the White House chef and area food banks.

Bountiful crops worthy of a president’s table don’t grow by themselves, so for three months the site accepted White House farmer nominations (56,000 were submitted) from all 50 states and the District, followed by 10 days of polling that ended Jan. 31.

The top three vote-getters: Claire Strader of Troy Community Farm in Madison, Wisc.; Carrie Anne Little of Mother Earth Farm in Puyallup, Wash.; and Margaret Lloyd of Home Farming in Davis, Calif.

As for plowing the lush green White House South Lawn, Ms. Strader and Ms. Little said jointly they would be “thrilled by the possibility of converting a portion of the lovely White House lawn into a lively vegetable farm. As vegetable, fruit, and flower growers, we know that a well-managed organic farm can be at least as beautiful as a lawn and certainly more engaging, productive, and inspirational.”

Farmer Lloyd adds: “By raising food at the White House, President Obama’s promise of change can include the most fundamental thing to Americans: the food they eat.”

Hmmm. It was just announced that “local food” chef Sam Kass, who cooked for the Obamas in Chicago, has joined the first family at the White House, working alongside executive chef Cristeta Comerford.

ELITE BACKYARDS

New Interior Secretary Ken Salazar “is going Hollywood on us” by caving in to actor Robert Redford’s demands that oil and gas leases in Utah be canceled.

“The only winners in this decision are the Hollywood elites who use our western states for a personal playground, burn a lot of energy to keep their private jets aloft and their mansions warm, and don’t notice if energy costs go up,” charged Niger Innis of the civil rights group CORE, which organized a protest in Salt Lake City against the actor “and his extremist environmental friends.”

“When people are reeling from a bad economy, how can Ken Salazar justify listening to Hollywood elites, like Robert Redford, instead of struggling consumers and low-income families who count on Salazar and the Interior Department to ensure that they will have access to the American energy they need?”

NOT RETIRING

First Amendment authority Nat Hentoff, who left the Village Voice in December after a remarkable 50 years as a columnist, has become a senior fellow at the Cato Institute.

“The core of libertarianism is a defense of free speech,” observed Ed Crane, Cato’s president and CEO. “No American in recent history has done more in defense of free speech and the First Amendment than the great civil libertarian, Nat Hentoff.”

TWO LISTS

The U.S. Travel Association is applauding the House of Representatives for its overwhelming 413-3 vote in favor of the Fast Redress Act, which would establish a robust appeal and redress process for airline passengers who are wrongly identified as terrorist threats and are delayed or prohibited from boarding a flight.

“It’s good to see Congress standing up for the traveler,” says association president Roger Dow. “This reform is long overdue.”

Under the bill, along with its existing terror suspect list, the Department of Homeland Security would develop a “comprehensive cleared list” shared by federal agencies of individuals who had been previously misidentified. First, the Senate has to approve the legislation.

DOCTOR TOM

Republican Study Committee Chairman Rep. Tom Price of Georgia says the now days-old decision by former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle to withdraw his nomination to become Health and Human Services secretary “provides a glimmer of hope” — and not because of Mr. Daschle’s overlooked taxes.

“While the fact that he failed to pay his taxes is completely unacceptable, the greater danger of Mr. Daschle’s nomination was his intent to create a national government-run health care system,” says Mr. Price, who was an orthopaedic surgeon before coming to Capitol Hill.

After nearly 20 years in private practice, he headed the orthopedic clinic at Grady Memorial Hospital in Atlanta, teaching resident doctors in training.

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Written By

John McCaslin pens the award-winning Inside the Beltway column for The Washington Times. His column has been syndicated by the Los Angeles Times Syndicate and Tribune Media Services.

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