In a private upstairs dining room Tuesday night in the Monocle restaurant on Capitol Hill, Susan McCue, chief of staff to Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada, periodically checked her BlackBerry and kept the large table up to date on gubernatorial election returns from Virginia and New Jersey.
Democrats - and Republicans - strained to hear her updates.
For a few hours at least, on a rainy night in Washington, the two sides came together to share their personal thoughts on everything from the war in Iraq to the sharply divided Congress. Joining several lawmakers were political pollster Frank Luntz and a handful of pundits and columnists - even Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry dropped by.
And bringing them together, oddly enough, was the surviving half of TV's "The Odd Couple" - 83-year-old actor Jack Klugman.
"I represent a time when people were very, very happy," he told the table in a raspy voice twice invaded by cancer. "So many people come up to me and say: 'I sat on the sofa with my parents, and we laughed with you. And what great memories they are.'"
So, why isn't the country laughing anymore?
Invited politicians at the table took turns offering opinions. One well-known Republican congressman went so far as to criticize his own president for a recurring "message" perceived by many as: "Loyalty is more important than honesty or the truth."
Klugman took the opportunity to pass copies of his new book around the table, "Tony and Me: A Story of Friendship," featuring his late co-star Tony Randall. He described it as "a simple story about friendship itself - a small tale of two men who took fifty years to figure out why they came together."
He sees no reason that politicians - and Americans - can't do the same.
POOR AND PLUMP
Judging from the stack of correspondence in our mailbox - from as far away as Italy - Americans are indeed obsessed with food.
We'd written earlier about congressional passage of the Personal Responsibility in Food Consumption Act, which states that Americans ought to know when they've had their fill of cheeseburgers.
In other words, Congress finds that the quantity of food one shoves into his or her mouth comes down to "personal responsibility," especially in an age when "frivolous" lawsuits purporting "overconsumption" and "obesity" have run amok.
Miki Rosco, an Italian writer, was so intrigued by what she witnessed of America's food consumption that she penned an article for the October 2005 issue of Ulisse, the in-flight magazine of Alitalia Airlines.
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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