Bigfoot

John McCaslin
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Posted: Dec 02, 2004 12:00 AM

On Nov. 21, Vice President Dick Cheney, with about six Secret Service agents in tow, made a personal visit to the Johnston & Murphy retail store at Tysons Corner to figure out why his shoes don't fit anymore.

Cheney has been a longtime Johnston & Murphy customer, but recently found it necessary to make a personal visit "because his shoe size has changed to a size 10EEE," explains Kristen I. Smithson, who handles public affairs for the retailer in Nashville, Tenn.

Are Cheney's feet getting bigger or smaller?

"They are apparently getting wider and flatter, which happens over the years," she tells The Beltway Beat.

"Cheney selected the Lasalle wing tip loafer in brushed mahogany," she adds. "He also bought a pair of shoe trees to keep his 10EEEs in top shape."

Bob Ciuffoletti, the Tysons store manager, says he has measured Cheney's feet in the past.

"He used to shop with us often when he was secretary of defense. It was such a pleasure to see him again and help him select a pair of shoes that fit," Ciuffoletti says.

NOT FOR EVERYBODY

The Air Force is seeking military volunteers to assist wounded troops returning from Iraq when they land on the tarmac at Andrews Air Force Base near Washington, The Beltway Beat has learned.

"Several times during the week, aircraft bringing home wounded troops arrive at Andrews AFB," says a memo to personnel from Air Force Chief Master Sgt. Gerard V. Gething. "Sometimes, they arrive during late evenings; sometimes, they arrive in the middle of the night.

"Regardless of when they arrive, they always need help carrying the litters (stretchers) from the aircraft to awaiting ambulances or assisting passengers to awaiting buses. . . . Please keep in mind that this detail isn't for everyone."

ONCE CARRIED

Retired Army Maj. F. Andy Messing Jr., a Vietnam combat veteran, won't forget the day in 1967 when he was airlifted to Andrews Air Force Base and carried by litter to a waiting bus.

"The poor guys pulling litters off the plane - and there were about 30 litters at the time - started dropping them and slipping in the rain, a really hard cold rain. It was this time of year," he recalls. "Being bumped around and literally thrown onto a bus ain't no fun when you are in pain as the rain pelts you in the face."

Given the call for military volunteers to assist on the tarmac with U.S. troops wounded in Iraq, Mr. Messing appeals: "If you can't lift a litter, hold an umbrella or tuck a blanket."

Now executive director of the National Defense Council Foundation, Messing traveled to Iraq three months ago on a medical mission, ferrying medicine and other needed supplies to local hospitals. While there, he met with senior military and diplomatic personnel and had a private session with U.S. Ambassador John D. Negroponte.

EPIC BATTLE

As U.S. troops continue to wage battle in Iraq, Rep. Alcee L. Hastings, Florida Democrat, turns his thoughts this December to the 60th anniversary of another courageous battle fought by Americans: the Battle of the Bulge.

"On Dec. 16, 1944, during the coldest, snowiest weather in memory in the Ardennes Forest on the German-Belgium border, the German war machine started their infamous 'Ardennes Offensive,'" Hastings recalls.

"Even though the German offensive achieved total surprise, nowhere did the American troops give ground without a determined fight," he says. "Within three days, the unwavering American stand and the arrival of dominant reinforcements ensured that the German goal was far beyond reach."

Sadly, 19,000 U.S. troops perished in the Battle of the Bulge, which lasted a month.

GOVERNOR'S GIG

Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee and his rock 'n' roll band, Capitol Offense, will headline the Jan. 20 inaugural ball hosted by Free Republic, a grass-roots conservative news, analysis and activism forum, in Washington.

It's a repeat performance for the 49-year-old Huckabee, whose gubernatorial term expires in 2007. Because of the high-spirited show put on by his band at the 2001 Free Republic Inaugural Ball and Count the White House Silverware Party, guests left other inaugural balls in favor of the governor's less-formal gig, which, this year, honors the U.S. armed forces.

PLAYER AGAIN

Steve Smith, the former editor of U.S. News & World Report who came in from the cold to be a vice president (for communications) at The Brookings Institution, is back in the business.

He was named yesterday as the chief of the Washington bureau of the Houston Chronicle.

One of his claims to fame is that he has been a senior editor of all three major newsmagazines - he was executive editor at Newsweek and editor of the Nation section at Time. He also has been the editor of National Journal, founding editor of Civilization magazine and senior editor of Horizon magazine.

But he's a newspaperman at heart, having worked on the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Boston Globe and the Albany Times-Union.

"I'm delighted to be back in the game," he says. (This is the way editors talk, saying it in ever fewer words.)

NORTHERN EXPOSURE

Earlier this week, Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin welcomed President Bush to Parliament Hill in Ottawa, where reporters - unlike in the White House - still must adhere to proper decorum.

"For all press (correspondents, crews and photographers) planning to attend the president's joint press availability on Tuesday - jeans and T-shirts will not be permitted," the White House warned members of its traveling press corps. "Gentlemen must wear jackets."

Additional "Protocol Essentials" were provided by the White House protocol chief aboard Air Force One en route to Ottawa.

"(C)anadians have customs including firm handshakes for people they meet and customary hellos upon greeting, though the French speakers go with 'Bonjour,'" said the White House pool report. "In Quebec, don't give thumbs-down gesture, as it is 'considered offensive.' . . .

"Canadian expression 'eh' - pronounced 'AY' - means 'you know?' or 'isn't it?' but we may not encounter it since it is 'used mostly in rural areas.'"

GOOD TIMES

When former President Jimmy Carter's not swinging a hammer, he's writing books. Lots of books.

By our count, the nation's 39th president is now an author 20 times over with his latest tome "Sharing Good Times." Its cover shows a beaming Carter and his wife, Rosalynn, knee-deep in a Kodiak, Alaska, stream clutching trophy fish ("The salmon and the Steelhead were released immediately after the photograph was taken," assures the book jacket).

So what's left for Carter to write about after penning books on history, political science, religion and the technique of negotiation, a novel about the Revolutionary War, poetry and a presidential memoir based on his 6,000-page detailed diary?

"The things that matter most," he writes. Like hunting and fishing.

Just four months ago, as he writes, Carter and his wife journeyed to remote Kamchatka peninsula in Russia to spend six days floating down the Zhupanova River fishing for "large and powerful rainbow trout" unaccustomed to man-made flies.

"This is an especially wild region," he notes, "125 miles from the nearest house, and we were surprised to learn that we were nearer New York than Moscow."

He particularly enjoyed seasonal quail hunting trips to Texas with Sam Walton, founder of Wal-Mart who spent "nine months running his skyrocketing business and three months running his bird dogs."

"Sam had a small twin-engine airplane, which was less for human passengers than for his four dogs. They ran freely throughout the cabin, which had the overpowering odor of a kennel," Carter says.

And how did Walton make Wal-Mart the most profitable retailer in the world?

"In the still dark morning, Sam was awake and on the telephone with his headquarters in Arkansas, discussing the prices and quantities of individual sale items," Carter recalls. "I was also awake, able to hear every word through the paper-thin walls of the dilapidated house trailer that formed his (hunting) camp: 'The men's corduroy jackets are not moving. Cut the price to $13.95.'"