Seemingly in no time, cancer has consumed the remarkable life and career of a former football star and politician whose kindness and generosity this columnist won’t ever forget.
Jack Kemp was a serious contender for the 1988 presidential nomination when he embarked on a fact-finding trip to Central America, where he huddled, covertly speaking, with Contra rebels in the remote jungle of war-torn Nicaragua.
This columnist was one of a handful of writers accompanying the congressman from New York on his tour, and on the return flight to Washington there came an occasion when he inquired about my family. He was intrigued to learn that my father, Robert, who shall soon turn 92, was an FBI agent for 37 years under J. Edgar Hoover.
He listened as I recalled numerous tales told to me by my dad of World War II-era espionage and counterespionage — including how my mother, Wanda Larson, once went "undercover" for Mr. Hoover in the days before he allowed the bureau’s women the worthy rank of "agent." (Fortunately, she traded in her FBI badge for motherhood).
Two days after the trip, I was surprised when a handwritten letter addressed to my father arrived at the McCaslin family home. Mr. Kemp wrote to say that he was sitting in the darkened forward compartment of his chartered airplane, returning to the nation’s capital from a less than cheerful journey to Central America, and before time consumed his busy schedule again he had wanted to thank my father, who was long since retired, for his many decades of service to the country.
And then, speaking as the father of his own four children, he wanted my dad to know that he had done a fine job of raising his son.
CAN’T BLAME HIM
Not surprisingly, after two decades on the U.S. Supreme Court, Justice David H. Souter has announced his pending retirement at age 69. He longs for the calm and serenity of his longtime New Hampshire home. Can you blame him?
Practically every story written about the Justice Souter in recent days has recalled that he has not liked living in Washington, that he purposely avoids the social circuit, preferring the privacy of his spartan apartment on Capitol Hill.
We might recall when the "crime emergency" was declared in Washington in 2003, which only got worse in 2004. Wouldn’t you know, on the last day of April that year Justice Souter was attacked and beaten by an angry group of thugs while merely jogging along the safer streets of our capital city.
We were on hand to see the newly retired Sen. John W. Warner, Virginia Republican, take the stage with his successor, Sen. Mark Warner, Virginia Democrat.
The pair once went head-to-head for the same Senate seat.
Mr. Warner, the Democrat, got a charity audience laughing by recalling that he’d recently been "unemployed" and approached his former foe for some job tips, only to hear the Republican say "you ought to apply for my job."
"John said that it was a lot like going to camp, that you dress every morning in your uniform, divide into two sides and play ‘catch the budget,’ " the Democrat noted. He went on to praise the retired senator, pointing out that Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth of England recently crowned the Republican "Sir John" – honorary knight of Britain.
"Where was that speech in ’96 when you ran against me?" the elder Mr. Warner quipped.
Ashton Kutcher, Demi Moore, Tyra Banks, Kyra Sedgwick, Bradley Cooper and Val Kilmer.
Is all of Hollywood seated with CNN at last weekend’s White House Correspondents’ Association (WHCA) Dinner?
No, CNN spokeswoman Edie Emery assures us, pointing out that network anchor Wolf Blitzer‘s personal guests are Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa.
Politicians or celebrities, everybody this year is scrambling for a ticket to the first WHCA dinner honoring President and first lady Michelle Obama.
We had to laugh at Sen. Michael Bennet, Colorado Democrat, when he reminded his colleagues on the Senate floor: "It has been somewhat less remarked upon, but this week also happens to mark my first 100 days in office."
ALL ABOUT OBAMA
Junior senators shouldn’t feel too bad about their first 100 days in office being overshadowed by President Obama‘s first 100 days.
Consider a recent study by George Mason and Chapman universities revealing that President George W. Bush was similarly ignored by the media during his first three months in office – until, of course, Sept. 11. Indeed, Mr. Obama received more than three times more news coverage than the Republican president.
In fact, during Mr. Obama’s first 50 days in office the big three network evening newscasts featured more than 1,000 stories (28 hours’ worth) about Obama doings, devoting more than half the airtime to the new president. Mr. Bush, at the same time, received less than eight hours of network news coverage.
What’s with the "kinder, gentler Marxism" phrase we keep hearing repeated on Capitol Hill when describing President Obama’s ultimate agenda?
Eric Etheridge didn’t help ease concerns when he opined in the New York Times that Mr. Obama is not a socialist, he’s a "social Democrat."
Which had Rep. John Carter, Texas Republican, running to open his dictionary.
"An objective definition of social democracy from Merriam-Webster’s online dictionary," the congressman found, "is as follows: ‘A political movement advocating a gradual and peaceful transition from capitalism to socialism by democratic means.’ "
Yikes, is that the only definition?
"Here is the first paragraph from the Encyclopedia Britannica about social democracy: ‘A political ideology that advocates a peaceful, evolutionary transition of society from capitalism to socialism using established political processes. Based on 19th century socialism and the tenets of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, social democracy shares common ideological roots with communism, but eschews its militancy and totalitarianism.’ "
The 2008 calendar date on which "Debt Day" fell (when the U.S. government runs out of money in a given year and all of the spending for the remainder of the year is borrowed money): Aug. 5.
Date that "Debt Day" fell in 2009: April 26.
SO THAT’S IT
"The president approached me when he was Senator Obama, before the Democratic primary. And he said, ‘Tell me, Arlen, if a Jewish kid from Kansas can carry Pennsylvania, how can a black kid from Kansas carry Pennsylvania?’ And I gave him some advice, and he became, he became president of the United States of America."
[-] Pennsylvania Sen. Arlen Specter speaking Wednesday at the White House. The senator is hoping he can now win reelection as a Democrat, given he was trailing Republican challenger Pat Toomey, a former Pennsylvania congressman, by a sizable margin in the polls
SPARE A DIME?
The May 2009 Harper’s Index, not surprisingly, reflects heavily on the economic downturn in this country, including this pair of eye-openers:
Percentage of all U.S. men over twenty who are now unemployed or not seeking work: 31
Estimated percentage of Bush administration political appointees who are currently unemployed: 70
NO HABLA INGLES
It was revealed at the National Press Club last week that the lack of English proficiency is hurting the United States to the tune of an estimated $65 billion in annual lost wages.
Still, it’s doubtful English will ever become the official language of the United States, given the Obama White House has already set out to speak in another tongue.
In fact, the Obama team last Wednesday saw fit to excerpt leading Spanish-language media coverage of President Obama’s first 100 days in office, including an accolade that the White House two weeks ago, for the first time ever, carried out a bilingual press conference in English and Spanish.
Otherwise, Spanish-language media applauded Mr. Obama for his "intense" outreach to Hispanics, who for the first time represent nearly 10 percent of presidential appointments that require Senate confirmation. This compares to 5 percent under President George W. Bush and 4 percent under President Bill Clinton during the same time period.
Mr. Obama so far has 26 Hispanics – Puerto Ricans, Dominicans, Colombians and Cubans among them – working at the White House in a variety of senior-level posts. Hispanics make up 14 percent of the U.S. population.
Privileged residents of the quaint villages and towns of Fauquier County, Va., take notice: For centuries, you and your ancestors have been mispronouncing "faw-keer."
Yours truly on Saturday night shared a bottle of wine with Julie A. Fauquier, whose distant relative Fauquier County was named for when it was founded in 1759.
A wine buyer and consultant living in Bass Lake, Calif., Mrs. Fauquier is a descendant of Francis Fauquier, the acting governor of the colony of Virginia from 1758 until his death in 1768. He was a close friend of Thomas Jefferson.
Mrs. Fauquier assured this writer that the correct pronunciation of her French surname is "foe-key-ae" – therefore, she said in no uncertain terms, the famed horse country of Virginia should be pronounced "foe-key-ae coun-tee."