John McCaslin

The U.S. government-run Foreign Press Center in Washington has assumed the role of travel agent, booking hotel rooms for foreign correspondents who wish to cover the Iowa caucuses and New Hampshire primary.

One international correspondent we heard from was intrigued by "the idea of State Department-paid Foreign Press Center people serving as travel agents and making room arrangements."

"The funny side of this is that the hotels themselves are taking advantage of this situation," he says, "providing a block of rooms, but imposing four and five-day minimum-stay requirements, even though the New Hampshire primary is only a one-day event."

The press center has already booked some 300 hotel rooms for the foreign scribes. Uncle Sam is now working to find additional hotel space.

GRAVE EXPANSION

Uncle Sam is running out of hallowed ground to bury his dead. So the congressional leadership and Veterans Affairs have requested immediate consideration of a bill to establish six additional cemeteries in the National Cemetery System, the most appropriate locations being Sarasota, Fla.; Jacksonville, Fla.; southeastern Pennsylvania; Birmingham, Ala.; Bakersfield, Calif.; and Columbia, S.C.

THE VITO VOTE

All we ever hear about is the importance of the Hispanic vote. What about the Italian vote?

As the nation fast approaches the 2004 election, John McLaughlin, host of TV's long-running "The McLaughlin Group," will moderate the National Italian American News Bureau's upcoming panel discussion, "The Italian-American Vote: Does it Count?"

Among those weighing in at the forum next month will be Arizona's Democratic governor, Janet Napolitano; political analyst Bill Schneider; and syndicated columnist Robert Novak, with the latter welcoming the opportunity to get asked anything besides the identities of his sources.

HORSE RACE

The Democratic primary will come down to a battle between former Gov. Howard Dean of Vermont and Rep. Richard A. Gephardt of Missouri, with the decisive clash not over national security, but domestic policy, says New Republic editor Peter Beinart.

"Dean, who learned fiscal conservatism from his investment-banker, Republican father, embodies today's Democratic Party better than Gephardt, the son of a Teamster from working-class St. Louis," says Beinart. "Perhaps nothing explains the fight for the 2004 Democratic presidential nomination better than that."

Meanwhile, the International Union of Journeymen Horseshoers and Allied Trades has endorsed Gephardt.

BLINDFOLD OPTIONAL

A proposed National Health Museum is one step closer to reality after Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy G. Thompson awarded a $1 million federal "partnership" grant toward the museum's construction.

In addition, museum planners have determined that the soon-to-be-vacated Food and Drug Administration site in Southwest Washington "offers an ideal location" for the museum.

Now that funding and location are nearly settled, the Republican Study Committee points out that the museum can begin tackling other concerns. Take the controversy over the wording of on the Enola Gay (the plane that dropped the first atomic bomb) display at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum.

Asks the study group: "How will a National Health Museum deal with controversial health topics such as Roe v. Wade, RU-486, the morning-after pill ... HIV/AIDS issues, sex education, abstinence, sexually transmitted diseases, etc?"

GOLDEN GAVELS

Being a new kid on the block, freshman Sen. John E. Sununu (R-N.H.) frequently is handed the duty of presiding with firm gavel over Senate proceedings.

Last Friday (Oct. 17), at approximately 6 p.m., Senate action was halted by Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) to observe that Sununu had reached his 100th-hour milestone of presiding time. At which point freshman Sen. Mark Dayton (D-Minn.) stepped up to the lectern.

"I join the distinguished majority leader in expressing my appreciation for your presence here this evening," Dayton told Sununu. "I did not achieve my golden gavel status as swiftly as the senator from New Hampshire, but I did. I suffered through many hours when I would rather have been elsewhere in order to achieve that and ... presid(ing) over what are, as we both know, occasionally unruly adults."


John McCaslin

John McCaslin is a contributing columnist on Townhall.com and author of Inside The Beltway: Offbeat Stories, Scoops, and Shenanigans from around the Nation's Capital .

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