John McCaslin

We’re told speaking invitations have been extended to Vice President Dick Cheney, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist and House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert for a Sept. 19 gala salute to retiring 16-term Illinois Rep. Henry J. Hyde, chairman of the House International Relations Committee.

An impressive list of Washington VIPs are helping to organize the tribute to the popular 82-year-old politician and Chicago native, from Heritage Foundation President Ed Feulner to retired Motion Picture Association of America Chairman and CEO Jack Valenti to Washington crisis-management mogul and professional singer Christian Josi.

TUPELO HONEY

The annual meeting of the Southern Governors’ Association has wrapped up in New Orleans, where Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, former chairman of the Republican National Committee, was selected by his colleagues to lead the bipartisan group into 2007.

And his top priority, the governor says, will be to promote cultural and heritage tourism in the South, particularly civil-rights and musical attractions.

“Southerners have always felt a special affection for what we call a sense of place, and our culture and heritage are important parts of it,” Barbour noted after his selection. “I am especially interested in developing civil rights and blues music attractions that help tell the South’s important story to tourists from all over the world.”

If you ask Mr. Barbour, Mississippi is the “birthplace of American music.” Come to think of it, Elvis Presley was born in Tupelo.

CHEAP LABOR

Uncle Sam’s bureaucrats must have done a double-take when reading one of the applications submitted for a top job vacancy at the National Institutes of Health’s Office of Laboratory Animal Welfare.

After all, the job seeker is none other than Mary Beth Sweetland, senior vice president and director of research and investigations for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.

In her application for the post of director, Sweetland promised that, if hired, she would change the agency’s reputation from being “so impotent that it is useless” to being a force on behalf of animals.

She also offered to work for less than the minimum salary range to save taxpayers money.

BLIND EYE?

“Mission: Impossible.” That’s how Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, Massachusetts Democrat, is now referring to the U.S. war effort in Iraq, which just recorded its deadliest month for Iraqi civilians.

Calling for voters to elect Democrats this fall, Kennedy says President Bush’s “stay the course” strategy in Iraq has failed, and he wants U.S. troops withdrawn from the bloody conflict immediately.


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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