John McCaslin

Republican Rep. Michael N. Castle's bill proposing the creation of a nearly pure gold investment-grade bullion coin honoring presidential first ladies - on the front of the coin would be a likeness of the spouse, her terms of service and the order in which she served - could be more trouble than it's worth.

"Thomas Jefferson, Andrew Jackson and Chester A. Arthur were widowers when they served their presidential terms," notes reader J. Keen Holland. "Will the coins feature their late wives or the women who presided over White House social functions for them respectively - a daughter, niece and sister?

"John Tyler and Woodrow Wilson were both widowed and remarried while serving as president. Will the series feature both wives for each of them?" he asked. "Should Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton's coin identify her as 'co-president' in line with the Clintons' pledge to be a two-fer?

"I suspect Congressman Castle will rue the day he ever opened up this can of worms."


Former President George Bush opposed his son's plan to attack Iraq because of a lack of an "exit strategy," which has come back to haunt the current President Bush.

So it is written in "The Bushes: Portrait of a Dynasty," by Peter and Rochelle Schweizer, a forthcoming book based on more than 60 hours of interviews with members of the Bush clan, including the former president and son Florida Gov. Jeb Bush.

The elder Bush had voiced concerns about his son going to war with Iraq to his sister, Nancy Ellis, according to Schweizer, who is a research fellow at the Hoover Institution (Schweizer is a media consultant).

Bush's former national security adviser, Brent Scowcroft, worried publicly last year that the 2003 march on Baghdad would destabilize the Middle East region.

"But concerns about an attack on Iraq were coming from even closer to home," the authors write. "Although he never went public with them, the president's own father shared many of Scowcroft's concerns. As the prospects of war continued to grow throughout 2002, family members could see the former president's anguish.

"When his sister, Nancy Ellis, asked him about the war, he responded: 'But do they have an exit strategy?'"

The authors write that President Bush sees the war on terrorism as a "religious war." They also provide personal accounts by Bush family members of the president's "anxiety" about fighting the war, and document how his daily Bible reading influences his decisions and language.

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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