John McCaslin

U.S. Rep. Peter Deutsch is awfully proud of his Florida Marlins, so much so that he has stepped onto the floor of the House to observe that at the beginning of the 2003 baseball season his team was not expected to be a factor in the postseason, let alone batting against the New York Yankees in the World Series.

"Underestimated, overlooked and ignored, the Marlins proceeded through the dog days of summer and down the stretch with courage and grit, and finishing the season with the best record in Major League Baseball since May," boasts the Florida Democrat, who Yankees fans might be interested in knowing was born in the Bronx.


Top constitutional law scholars and political scientists will huddle in the Senate Judiciary Committee room all day next Monday to weigh the unfathomable: A nuclear device in Washington kills the president, vice president and everyone in the line of succession.

Along with members of Congress, the analysts will seek to determine whether the current system of presidential succession is adequate for the post-September 11 world - and if not investigate reforms to the system.

For example, one of the less pressing questions in the wake of any nightmare scenario, yet one to be considered by the scholars, is whether the presidency suddenly could switch parties if needed?

The Oct. 27 congressional panel was put together by the Continuity of Government Commission, its members including former Presidents Jimmy Carter and Gerald Ford; former Sen. Alan K. Simpson of Wyoming; former Clinton White House officials Lloyd N. Cutler, Leon Panetta and Donna E. Shalala; former House Speakers Newt Gingrich and Thomas S. Foley; and Kweisi Mfume, head of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.


We shook our heads in disbelief when Homeland Security Committee Chairman Rep. Christopher Cox cited one reason he's calling for legislative improvements to the grant funding process to first responders in times of crisis.

The California Republican noted that today's grant procedure is outdated and too "cumbersome," resulting in funding for first responders "getting trapped in the pipeline," or else being funneled to the wrong places.

Can you provide an example?

"In Massachusetts, the Steamship Authority, which runs ferries to the resort island of Martha's Vineyard, and one of the vineyard's harbors were awarded $900,000 to upgrade port security," the chairman notes.

"Oak Bluff's harbor master told the Vineyard Gazette newspaper, 'Quite honestly, I don't know what we're going to do, but you don't turn down grant money.'"


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.


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.


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.


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.


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?"


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 and author of Inside The Beltway: Offbeat Stories, Scoops, and Shenanigans from around the Nation's Capital .

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