John McCaslin

As she prepared to deliver Saturday's commencement at Miami Dade College in Florida, first lady Laura Bush tried to recall the advice that her own graduation speaker gave her university class to prepare for the future.

"But I couldn't recall who gave the commencement address at the University of Texas in 1973," Mrs. Bush said. "Maybe because - and I hate to admit it - I skipped the ceremony.

"But I did look it up and I found out who gave that commencement address. And you can imagine my surprise when I discovered that it was some guy named George Bush. Four years after that speech, I married his son."


Reporters in Washington this week will be offered a rare peek at four original documents from the Lewis and Clark expedition, which set out 200 years ago on May 14, 1804.

The documents detail a portion of nearly 2 tons of provisions, obtained during a Philadelphia shopping spree, that Meriwether Lewis and William Clark packed for their famous trek westward.

The items included 107 yards of brown linen to make tents, 45 flannel shirts, fishing hooks and reels, 25 felling axes, powdered rhubarb, 93 pounds of soup (dried beef, egg and vegetable paste) purchased from a Pennsylvania cook for $289.50 (it was so unpopular it was consumed only when the 33-member party faced starvation), and to make the trip as smooth as possible, Dr. Benjamin Rush's "special concoction" - a purgative.

In addition, presents and trade goods for Indians they would encounter along the way included 130 rolls of pigtail tobacco, knives, blankets, corn mills, combs, and 500 brooches and 72 rings purchased from a Philadelphia silversmith.

To lug so much gear across the continent, the pair ordered 30 sheepskins to be "taken off the animal as perfectly whole as possible."


Now that the Pennsylvania primary is history and Democratic Senate candidate Rep. Joseph M. Hoeffel knows he's facing Sen. Arlen Specter this November, he's requesting there be 11 debates.

Why 11?

"Once upon a time," says Hoeffel, "I'm told that (Specter) challenged his opponent ... Pete Flaherty to a series of 11 debates during the 1980 general election campaign" as the best way to ensure voters were fully informed on the issues.

"Nearly a quarter-century later, I hope Sen. Specter remembers the wisdom in that idea, even though he's tried to create a tradition of debating only once in the primary and sometimes twice in the general election," says the challenger.

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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