"Sherpa" is the nickname given to veteran Washington hands who guide Supreme Court nominees through the political maze of the U.S. Senate - just as the sherpas (the populace living in Nepal and Tibet famous for their mountaineering skills) guide novices through the Himalayas.
Job requirements, The Beltway Beat is told by one well-known former sherpa who worked in the Reagan White House, are an insider's knowledge combined with a reputation for subtle diplomacy.
Previous Washington sherpas have included former Reagan chief of staff and current superlobbyist Kenneth Duberstein (sherpa to Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas), former Nixon aide Tom Korologos (Robert Bork), former Republican National Committee Chairman Ed Gillespie (John G. Roberts Jr.) and former Indiana Sen. Dan Coats (Samuel A. Alito Jr.)
And who was the sherpa for the sharp-tongued Justice Antonin Scalia?
Let's just say Scalia chuckles when recalling that his guide through the political minefield was none other than current U.N. Ambassador John R. Bolton, President Bush's nominee so assailed by Democratic senators for a purported lack of diplomatic skills that the president was forced to hand Bolton a recess appointment.
St. Martin's Press threw a book party this week for novelist Eric Dezenhall's latest addition to his New Jersey-based damage-control series, this one titled "Turnpike Flameout."
But more intriguingly, in attendance at the book bash -- held in Dezenhall's Connecticut Avenue public relations office - were several Washington VIPs who turn up by name as characters in the book, which centers on a devious spin-control campaign to boost the image of an accused murderer.
Book characters include the American Enterprise Institute's Norman Ornstein, who appears in "Flameout" as a music industry racketeer; psychiatrist and author Sally Satel, who becomes casino shrink "Mustang Sally"; Dezenhall's office colleague, Christian Josi, who actually gets killed in this thriller; and political pundit Rich Galen, a fictional Atlantic City cop hot on the trail of the book's central crime.
"I'm open to make my friends into fictional characters," Dezenhall tells The Beltway Beat, "provided that they're willing to be stunningly immoral."
NOT THE SAVIOR
"No greater folly has been committed by President Bush than his midlife conversion to the notion that America was put on this Earth to advance some 'world democratic revolution' and no non-democrat can be a friend of the United States." - Commentator Pat Buchanan, writing in the Jan. 30 issue of the American Conservative
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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