Tequila embargo?

John McCaslin
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Posted: Jun 20, 2006 3:05 PM

In his 1998 book, “The Next War,” Ronald Reagan’s Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger predicted that the United States by 2003 would be at war — albeit not with Iraq, Iran, North Korea or anybody else found in today’s “axis of evil.”

Rather, Weinberger, who died March 28, surmised the United States would be at war with Mexico, of all vacation destinations.

He based his belief on growing social unrest along the U.S. and Mexican border, exacerbated by illegal aliens.

Now, in his new book, “In Mortal Danger,” Rep. Tom Tancredo, Colorado Republican, points out that while Weinberger’s scenario has yet to play out, “there are signs that ‘Cap’ knew what he was talking about.”

FORD TOUGH

That was former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger and veteran presidential adviser David Gergen paying tribute yesterday morning to former President Gerald R. Ford, who was not on hand for the National Archives observance.

While the Ford presidency wasn’t the longest — just more than two years — it certainly was significant historically, both men agreed: the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Vietnam, the arrival of Vietnamese refugees in America, an offer of amnesty to draft-dodgers, the signing of the Helsinki Accords, and the pardon of former President Richard Nixon.

Mr. Ford was the first vice president chosen under the terms of the 25th Amendment and, after the Watergate scandal, succeeded the first president ever to resign.

LESSONS IN LEVITY

Hundreds, if not thousands, of congressional news advisories are forwarded each day to reporters, lobbyists and other interested parties by the staff of senators, congressmen, committees, commissions, caucuses and task forces.

For these quotidian mailings to warrant even a second glance often requires some unique creativity on the part of the sender.

This column has observed for several months how Andrea LeBlanc, deputy director of communications for the House Committee on Government Reform, begins the committee’s weekly schedule update with personal greetings and other completely unrelated observations, as if she were chatting with a group of close friends or old college chums.

“How are you? I hope you are well,” LeBlanc writes this week. “Has your favorite old ’70s or ’80s band come back for a reunion yet? Who would you pick? My friend just bought Journey tickets. Love to hear if you have a good or bad story about your old favorites making a trip back to ‘spandex.’ Attached & below our schedule for Government Reform.”

In other words, only after she grabs your attention (this column now actually looks forward to receiving the committee’s schedule) does she segue into the official business at hand, such as a full committee hearing on federal procurement and Alaska native corporations chaired by Rep. Thomas M. Davis III, Virginia Republican.

“I feel so strongly about the work of our chairman, Tom Davis, and the Committee on Government Reform,” LeBlanc explained when reached the other day. “In addition, I know that the media are barraged with many e-mails, and I want them to know that I appreciate their consideration of the committee schedule. If I can add some levity to their day, great.”

QUOTE OF THE WEEK

“You know, I like strong women. I was raised by one, I married one. . . . And sometimes — they all listen, and sometimes they do what you ask them to do, and sometimes they don’t.” — President Bush, waxing on the subject of women in recent days.

‘FACTOR’ FANS

That was “The O’Reilly Factor,” hosted by Bill O’Reilly on the Fox News Channel, that all the president’s men were tuned in to in the forward cabin of Air Force One, as it prepared to whisk President Bush back to Washington after his most recent trip to New England.

BIG BUSINESS

Amount of money the National Republican Congressional Committee and National Republican Senatorial Committee expected to raise from this week’s President’s Dinner in Washington, attended by President Bush and a crowd of 5,000: $23 million.

PULL UP A STOOL

Washington has never looked better, and that’s important considering the nation’s capital is the destination for this week’s Society of American Travel Writers conference.

One popular event: a tour of some of the city’s more intriguing political haunts (watering holes, if you will), starting with the Round Robin Bar at the Willard InterContinental, onto the rooftop terrace of the Hay-Adams Hotel overlooking the White House with head concierge Jack Nargill, and finally into Nathan’s and Billy Martin’s Tavern, the oldest saloon in Georgetown.

Besides libations, conventioneers were served political and presidential lore at every stop. Former President Ulysses S. Grant, for example, liked to escape the White House with a brandy and cigar in the Willard lobby, where would-be power brokers approached him for favors. Grant, recalled Round Robin bar manager Jim Hewes, labeled the pesky intruders “lobbyists,” thus coining the term that remains so popular (or unpopular) today.

At Nathan’s, convention-goers saw how owner Carol Joynt, a former writer for Walter Cronkite and producer for Larry King and Charlie Rose, exhibits above each booth historical black-and-white photographs (Fidel Castro and Richard Nixon to Bill Clinton and Dick Cheney) snapped by Pulitzer Prize-winner David Hume Kennerly. Our favorite: former first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton “wincing” at the White House. (We can only imagine why.)

Billy Martin Jr., was on hand at his mahogany-lined tavern opened by his great-grandfather, William S. Martin (all four generations were named Billy Martin), who came to Washington from Galway, Ireland, during the late 19th century.

He pointed to Booth 1, “the Rumble Seat,” where John F. Kennedy read the newspaper and ate Sunday brunch; and Booth 3, “the Proposal Booth,” where Kennedy’s girlfriend, the stunning Jacqueline Bouvier, accepted his proposal of marriage.

Richard Nixon always ate meatloaf in Booth 2; Lyndon B. Johnson and former House Speaker Sam Rayburn liked to huddle in Booth 24; while Harry and Bess Truman preferred Booth 6.

In fact, Billy Martin’s is where spies Alger Hiss and Elizabeth Bentley conducted their covert business. It is entirely possible that in the early 1940s, with then-Sen. Truman eating nearby, Bentley wasn’t far away eavesdropping on government officials. Come to think of it, Hiss might have walked right past Nixon at the front door.

‘REAL’ FOOTBALL

That was Italian Ambassador Giovanni Castellaneta doing his part to attract more interest among Americans in World Cup soccer by hosting a Saturday afternoon “luncheon and game viewing” for invited guests at the embassy.

As it was, the heavily favored Italians managed only a 1-1 tie against Team USA, giving the Americans their first-ever World Cup point in Europe and the opportunity to move into the tournament’s second round.

SINGING THE BLUES

The Stephens Group in Washington and singer Bonnie Raitt are teaming up to offer backstage passes in exchange for a contribution to the Freedom to Travel Campaign, which works to lift U.S. travel restrictions to communist Cuba.

“I am looking for Freedom to Travel Campaign fans who would like to make a contribution to the cause in exchange for a pair of really good tickets to the Bonnie Raitt show on July 5 at Wolftrap,” writes Sarah Stephens. “The tickets come with after-show backstage passes. This is Bonnie’s way of helping Freedom to Travel, and it could be your way of doing the same and enjoying a great summer night of music.”

The campaign, founded in 1993, didn’t have much to celebrate last week. Two congressional amendments to end travel restrictions to Cuba went down in defeat, while another was withdrawn for lack of support.

POTTY MOUTH

Somebody is upset enough with Maryland Republican Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. to go to such lengths as to hire a large crane to hoist this message way above Interstate 95 near Baltimore: “Flush You, Governor Ehrlich.”

ART IMITATES LIFE

“And how about this: We will hear a band of congressmen singing: ‘You’ve Got to Change Your Evil Ways.’ Not making this up.” — White House pool report in advance of this year’s congressional picnic on the South Lawn.