Bone brothers

John McCaslin
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Posted: Jun 17, 2004 12:00 AM

Given that President Bush and Democratic challenger Sen. John Kerry were both members of Yale's most secret society, Skull and Bones, author Alexandra Robbins, who wrote the 2002 book "Secrets of the Tomb," all but ducked inside the mysterious crypt for another look.

"I was surprised that Bones actually does have a sexual history ritual, but even more surprised that the recounting of one's sexual history is supposed to take one to three hours. I can't fathom how most Yale men come up with that much material," Robbins, a Yale graduate, writes in next month's Vanity Fair.

She describes powerful secrets kept to this day by Skull and Bones members, bizarre rituals within the tomb, a CIA link to the society and a roster of elite "bonesmen" dating from 1856 that includes not only Bush, but his father, former President George Bush.

Our current president felt the unmistakable "tap" on his shoulder to join the society in 1967, one of 15 Yale juniors chosen annually. Had Kerry of Massachusetts not been two years ahead of Bush, the two competing politicians might together have accomplished whatever it is bonesmen do behind walls.

"It's a secret," Kerry told Tim Russert on NBC's "Meet the Press," eerily echoing Bush when he told the same interviewer: "It's so secret we can't talk about it."

And they don't care to be asked again.

"Despite political differences, most [bonesmen] view the upcoming election with a mixture of pride in the society and embarrassment at the increased scrutiny," writes Robbins. "As they see it, Bones will have a White House connection either way."

"It's a win-win situation," agrees one unnamed bonesman from the 1960s. "If there is a goddess, it looks like she is smiling on them both."

KUCINICH SCORES

Senators and congressmen alike have RSVP'd for the fifth annual Baseball All Star Party at political pollster Frank Luntz's home - called "The Smithsonian McLean branch" because of its collection of history, politics and sports memorabilia.

Under Luntz's expansive roof, one finds perhaps the most valuable private newspaper collection in Washington, a ticket from every day of Bill Clinton's impeachment trial and the Playboy interview with Jimmy Carter.

Then there's a baseball that Luntz calls "New York's Finest," signed by former New York Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani, New York Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, former baseball great Yogi Berra and New York Yankees Manager Joe Torre - signatures gathered by the pollster at Giuliani's wedding last year.

Items to debut this year: the original "Addams Family" electric chair, "The Terminator" life-size statue of actor-turned-California-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and authentic Sen. John Kerry flip-flop cards.

Attached to the invitation for the July 13 event is a top 10 list of reasons to attend, including: "Dennis Kucinich promises Big Announcement . . . has RSVP'd 'plus one.'"

HOUSE CALL

Thousands of Democrats across America will invite Sen. John Kerry and Teresa Heinz Kerry into their homes on June 26 by hosting "Your House to the White House" parties - the obvious aim to reduce President Bush's $85 million campaign coffer advantage.

If electronic bugs don't rear their ugly heads, the Kerrys will join each house party in a live national conference call from Washington, thanking them for the punch and pittance.

STAR SEARCH

The Democratic National Committee has launched a "Create Your Own Ad" contest, with the winning video or Flash animation to be shown to millions of television viewers at next month's Democratic National Convention in Boston.

The DNC asks that each submission be up to 60 seconds in length, telling why you support Sen. John Kerry for president. Former Clinton creator Paul Begala, now a co-host of CNN's "Crossfire," will narrow the submissions to 10 finalists, from which a winner will be selected.

Sorry, no pro-George W. Bush ads will be considered.

BUSH MEETS CUSTER

President Bush arrived at McDill Air Force Base in Tampa, Fla., Wednesday and "was whisked to a conference room where there were name cards for about 15 generals and rear admirals, including one General Custer" - reads the official White House pool report.

ONE-TERM BLUES?

A veteran of the Clinton administration equates the travails of President Bush to the malaise of Jimmy Carter, marking this president, like the former, "a one-termer."

Morris Reid, a Democratic political consultant in Washington, says the taking of American hostage Paul Johnson is the latest example of the Bush presidency mirroring Carter's. Besides a "chaotic" foreign policy, Reid cites high gas prices, millions unemployed, rising inflation and a Carterlike "national sense of unease."

Reid toiled under Commerce Secretary Ron Brown and Housing and Urban Development Secretary Andrew Cuomo.

DIVERSIONS HELP

The Global Language Monitor's June PQ (political-sensitivity quotient) Index was just released, with former Presidents Reagan and Clinton stealing thunder from the 2004 presidential campaign.

Which for President Bush might be a good thing, says the index's Paul "J.J." Payack.

"Ronald Reagan holds the top spot . . . while Bill Clinton's memoirs debut at No. 8. This will undoubtedly climb even higher as the Clinton publicity machine clicks in," he predicts. This, he says, will help to further "obscure" the Abu Ghraib prison scandal in Iraq, which has fallen to No. 3 from the top position in May.

CASUAL LINE

From New York's Riverside Drive comes a new line of clothing: "Dubya Duds."

"Casual clothing of high quality," says designer (and former Republican National Committee agent) H. Stuart Hotchkiss, who in 1981 created the Original Jellybean Necktie paying tribute to President Reagan's favorite sweet.

Where has Hotchkiss been since 1981?

"In 1983, I moved into a career in book and magazine publishing, retiring from that profession as president of Time Inc. Home Entertainment," he says. "Despite all my good fortune in that 20-year period, I never had as much fun as I did back in those halcyon years."

Dubya Duds, named after George W. Bush's nickname, consist of caps, polo shirts and neckties featured in "Republican Red" and "Bush Blue," the latter 100 percent silk and adorned with W's, American flags and cowboy boots.

POLITICS AND REASON

As soon as Miss North Carolina America 2003 Dana Reason wraps up her yearlong reign next week, the Charlotte Observer reports, she's hopping aboard Republican Rep. Richard M. Burr's Senate campaign.

Prior to being crowned Miss North Carolina, the 25-year-old worked to elect Elizabeth Dole the state's Republican senator.

Reason will be a field representative for Burr in more than a dozen crucial counties.

"Dana will be a valuable addition to our growing grassroots team," Burr spokesman Doug Heye tells this column. "Certainly, given her title, she has a strong knowledge of the state."

GO IT ALONE

American Enterprise Institute fellow Thomas Donnelly's latest paper, "Learning to live without Europe," has an appropriate title and argues that the United States must learn to map its strategy "without Europe."

"Our security depends on it," says Donnelly, pointing out that the two important challenges of the new century - the Middle East and the rise of China - "have very little to do with Europe," anyway.

"[T]rying to revive the Cold War model of cooperation with Europe will retard the American effort to accomplish its lasting purposes in the rest of the world," he warns.

GOD WASN'T THERE

Finally, a June 4 item in this column incorrectly said that the new National World War II Memorial included an inscription of Franklin D. Roosevelt's famous "Date of Infamy" speech with the phrase "so help us God" edited out of the sentence.

The phrase is not in the inscription because it is from an earlier part of the speech, says memorial spokeswoman Betsy Glick.

"The sentence that is inscribed - 'No matter how long it may take us to overcome this premeditated invasion, the American people, in their righteous might, will win through to absolute victory' - appears much earlier in FDR's speech and is used in its entirety."

She explains that the entire speech contains more than 450 words and because of proper letter sizing and the inscription area, "we had to manage between 35 and 40 words in total to achieve both the aesthetic effect and evocation desired."

QUOTE OF THE WEEK

"I have felt them at crucial hours." - President Bush, thanking members of the Southern Baptist Convention this week for their prayers.