John McCaslin


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).


"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.


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.


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?'"


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."

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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