President Bush came face-to-face with the sacrifice and uncertainty surrounding the war in Iraq during an "ask the president" event this week at Okaloosa-Walton College in Niceville, Fla.
"I have a brother who served in Afghanistan and is going back to Iraq," a young woman stood up and told the president, wondering whether his administration has a vision and strategy to complete the mission.
"That's a very legitimate question," Bush replied. "And the answer is, we do. . . . I just want you to know that your brother is going on a mission that has historic proportions to it."
He then recalled a story that "I hope helps you and helps everybody understand." He said he was sharing dinner with Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi in Tokyo and thought it significant their conversation centered on world peace.
"Now, the interesting part of the story, I think, as far as your brother is concerned, is that during the course of the conversation I thought it was pretty neat to be talking to a prime minister of a country that we had been at war with. . . .
"And that day I was talking to the head of a former enemy, and we're talking about keeping the world more peaceful. There were a lot of people after World War II who did not believe that Japan could be a self-governing, peaceful nation. . . .
"But, fortunately, our predecessors in the presidency and the Senate and the Congress . . . never forgot that fantastic American belief that freedom has the capacity to transform lives, transform enemies to allies in peace."
Bush concluded by telling the woman: "Someday, an American president is going to be sitting down with an elected leader from Iraq, huddled and talking about how to keep the peace. That's what your brother's mission is."
We've written about American Muslims for George W. Bush, its actual Web site being muslimsforbush.com.
Now, a group of American Muslims supporting John Kerry for president officially has started its own Web site - muslimsforkerry.com.
"Muslim voters in this election are a crucial demographic for the campaigns, because of their concentration in battleground states like Michigan and Ohio," says Shahed Amanullah, one of the founders of the new Kerry Web site.
He predicts Muslim voters this November "will come out in large numbers and vote for the candidate that offers this country the brightest future."
"That candidate is clearly John Kerry . . . the right man for the presidency of the United States of America."
Amanullah says Muslim organizations are registering unprecedented numbers of voters, many of whom are becoming involved for the first time.
Two members of the legal profession suddenly catapulted to the top of the Democratic Party - vice-presidential nominee Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina and Illinois U.S Senate candidate Barack Obama - have put "a new face on the image of trial lawyers nationally," says Washington malpractice lawyer Jack Olender.
Now, Kim M. Keenan, a counsel at his firm, will be sworn in tomorrow as president of the National Bar Association at its annual convention in Charlotte, N.C. Olender says with Keenan at the helm of the organization, the compassionate side of trial lawyers will be on full display.
"We've got our own Barack Obama here," he says. "She's dedicated her life to serving the underdog."
Congratulations to the nation's 100 U.S. senators, who have insisted on citing "S Res" (short for Senate resolution) so often that the abbreviation has made its way into the new 11th edition of Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary.
Besides S Res, here's a list of other newcomers, all of which help better define our modern times:
Body wrap (body treatment), clafouti (baked fruit dessert), digital subscriber line (high-speed Internet connection), dream catcher (circular net to block bad dreams and catch good ones), information technology (all things computer), lossless (being without loss), menudo (tripe stew with chili peppers), MPEG (computer file formats/files), nanotech (nanotechnology), pleather (plastic fabric resembling leather), PMB (private mailbox), and teensploitation (exploitation of teens by film producers).
HE SINGS, TOO
"Ladies and gentleman, presenting Alan Keyes, Maryland resident, Illinois Republican Senate candidate - singing 'Somewhere Over the Rainbow.'"
- Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee spokeswoman Ann Lewis, introducing a video now appearing on the DSCC Web site featuring Alan Keyes singing the famous "Wizard of Oz" song.
GOSS ON TERROR
President Bush's choice for CIA director, Rep. Porter J. Goss, 65, told The Beltway Beat in an interview prior to this week's announcement that the war on terror, from an intelligence standpoint, was going better than expected, if not extremely well.
"I've been here doing oversight . . . and we're doing much better than we ever had reason to believe," said the congressman, a former CIA operative and the chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. "Particularly given we were 'underinvested' in the intelligence community for so long."
On another front that still rings true today, the Florida Republican stressed that Americans are not privy to much of the war on terrorism because it is being waged "covertly," through intelligence channels.
"But we are definitely out and about, and very active around the world and in dozens of countries, literally making strong and steady progress against the international terrorist network," he said.
When he's not writing opinions from the nation's highest bench, Supreme Court Justice Anthony M. Kennedy circles the globe - a U.S. diplomat, if you will - paying visits of late to China, Russia and Slovenia.
"Face-to-face dialogue between Americans and citizens of other countries is one of the most effective means for public diplomacy to promote understanding of U.S. policies and, ultimately, to create a climate of acceptance," explains the State Department's Bureau of International Information Programs, which recruits Americans such as Justice Kennedy to travel to one or more foreign countries "to engage skeptical publics through lectures, workshops, and seminars, and by serving as consultants."
In 2003, 712 U.S. speakers and specialists were sent overseas to conduct more than 1,200 programs in every region of the world.
Laith Kubba, for example, who fled Iraq and became a senior officer at the National Endowment for Democracy, was tapped to develop support for the U.S. policy on Iraq. He provided audiences in Indonesia with personal examples of deposed Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein's cruelty to his own people and his failure to comply with U.N. resolutions.
ALL YOUNG ONCE
The moral of the following story: "Hair today, gone tomorrow."
On the 30th anniversary of his presidency, former President Gerald R. Ford was toasted this week in the U.S. Capitol's Statuary Hall by two of his old comrades, Vice President Dick Cheney and Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld.
To mark the occasion, Cheney, who is campaigning hard for re-election, dug out an old article from U.S. News & World Report that described Rumsfeld's departure as Ford's chief of staff to go to the Pentagon, and Cheney taking over as his successor.
"White House associates look on Mr. Cheney as a copy of Mr. Rumsfeld in work habits," Cheney read from the magazine. "But they described Mr. Cheney as friendlier, easier to approach. Some aides believe older associates will test Mr. Cheney's authority, largely on account of his youth and because of his reputation as being 'softer' than Mr. Rumsfeld."
Today, says Cheney, people keep telling him that his Democratic opponent, the boyish North Carolina Sen. John Edwards, "got picked because he is charming; he's good looking; and he has great hair."
"I said, 'How do you think I got the job?'"
DRIVING WITH DUBYA
Campaigning just as earnestly as President Bush these months leading up to Election Day is first lady Laura Bush.
"Being on the campaign trail isn't what it used to be," she concedes. "These days, we travel in a very nice airplane."
Unlike 1978, when George. Bush first campaigned for Congress across the dusty prairies surrounding Midland, Texas.
"Newly married, we spent all of our time in our car, driving up and down the Panhandle of West Texas," she recalls. "Believe me, you learn a lot about your husband when you spend that much time in a car with him."