John McCaslin

Large mouths

Given cries of careless rhetoric unleashed by Capitol Hill critics when it comes to fighting the war in Iraq, Inside the Beltway is forced to update its file on "self-control," adding these words from Harry S. Truman: "In reading the lives of great men, I found that the first victory they won was over themselves ... Self-discipline with all of them came first."

Then there's the big-brotherly advice that D.C. trial lawyer Bob Bennett once gave to his brother, former Education Secretary Bill Bennett, when the latter was an outspoken new member of the Reagan administration and, or so he later acknowledged to Time magazine, "underestimated the size of the microphone I had."

"He's got this big fish mounted in his office," Bill Bennett said of his big brother, the lawyer, "and he said, 'You know why that fish is up there? Because he opened his mouth, that's why.' "

Wellington stew

As last week's "Iraqi surge" testimony by Gen. David H. Petraeus continues to settle around the District's corridors of power, readers weigh in on the sentiments expressed in 1863 by another famous general, Robert E. Lee, who opined of armchair warriors like those in Congress today: "I am readily willing to yield my command to these obviously superior intellects."

"Great citation of the Lee letter," writes one Inside the Beltway reader, who notes, as we did, that Lee's telling line is often mistakenly attributed to the first duke of Wellington, Sir Arthur Wellesley.

"Wellington's name comes up only because he was equally disdainful of commentators," noted the reader, who forwarded a letter the duke wrote during the Napoleonic Wars to the British Parliament:

"Gentlemen: Whilst marching to Portugal to a position which commands the approach to Madrid and the French forces, my officers have been diligently complying with your request, which has been sent to HM ship from London to Lisbon and then by dispatch rider to our headquarters. We have enumerated our saddles, bridles, tents and tent poles, and all manner of sundry items for which His Majesty's government holds me accountable. I have dispatched reports on the character, wit, spleen of every officer. Each item and every farthing has been accounted for, with two regrettable exceptions for which I beg your indulgence.

John McCaslin

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

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