John McCaslin

What on earth were Christie Hefner, chairman and CEO of Playboy Enterprises, Republican Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida, and Democratic Reps. Jesse L. Jackson Jr. of Illinois and Ellen O. Tauscher of California, brainstorming about Wednesday over breakfast at La Colline?

Hefner, accompanied by her husband, former Illinois state Sen. Billy Marovitz, joked that she came to Capitol Hill in search of Playboy's next celebrity guest photographer, an assignment happily filled most recently by Las Vegas Mayor Oscar B. Goodman.

In truth, it was just a friendly get-together of old friends, Hefner tells The Beltway Beat, and the conversation soon turned to what everybody else talks about when in Washington - who will run for president in the next election and, more importantly, can they win?

The consensus: Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry's bid for the White House continues in earnest; Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton's biggest obstacle to bunking again in the White House is the man who took her there in the first place, husband and former President Bill Clinton; Arizona Sen. John McCain has every intention of winning the 2008 Republican nomination; Florida Republican Gov. Jeb Bush is youthful enough that he would be in a better position to run for president in 2012; and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is not "political" enough to campaign for the nation's highest office. (However, look for her to vie for a California Senate seat, predicts Tauscher.)

Just as the give-and-take was getting intriguing, Ros-Lehtinen excused herself from the table, explaining to amused Democrats that she had to keep a previously scheduled appointment with fellow "members of the white, Christian party."

BIGGER QUESTION

President Bush traveled this week to Pennsylvania to speak at Penn State about Social Security reform. And there to greet him at the university's airport it turns out, was Penn State's legendary football coach, Joe Paterno.

"And so I said, 'Why don't you ride over to the college campus with me here, the university campus. I need a briefing on what's going on,'" Mr. Bush recalled. "And Joe Paterno kindly agreed to travel with me.

"I said, 'Let's talk football.' He said, 'Why don't you tell me what's going on in Washington?'"

FOREIGN AFFAIRS

A notice posted at the State Department draws attention to eight national minority organizations that are holding 2005 annual conferences and training programs that bureaucrats might want to attend on the taxpayers' dime.


John McCaslin

John McCaslin is a contributing columnist on Townhall.com and author of Inside The Beltway: Offbeat Stories, Scoops, and Shenanigans from around the Nation's Capital .

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