John McCaslin

Before he departed the White House recently, Karl Rove was busy licking postage stamps — vintage stamps.

A stamp collector and enthusiast, the former top aide to President Bush has been known to plaster his outgoing envelopes with a colorful array of antique stamps — which, of course, given the current postal rates must add up to 41 cents.

Better yet, Mr. Rove sometimes will carefully choose stamps that bear a personal message for the recipient. For instance, Donna Brazile, with whom Mr. Rove waged war in her capacity as head of Al Gore's presidential campaign in 2000, recently received a parting note from Mr. Rove on the occasion of his retirement.

"I love Karl, because when you receive a letter from Karl, you don't automatically go and read the letter," Miss Brazile told the National Journal's Hotline. "You look at the stamps."

Sure enough, on the corner of the envelope was a 15-cent stamp with the words: "We've just begun to fight."

"I love that man," Miss Brazile said, "because he knows how to fight."

Meanwhile, this columnist over the weekend was snooping around the desk of a well-known magazine editor in Washington and laid eyes on a handwritten note that Mr. Rove sent to her in the days before his retirement. She explained that she recently sent Mr. Rove a copy of a letter that her retired father had written to his three grown children in 2001, immediately following the September 11th, 2001, terrorist attacks.

In his letter, the father accurately predicted Mr. Bush would have no choice but to retaliate against the terrorists; however, he guessed that very few allies would be lining up to join the United States in its battle. But in the end, he assured his children, America and all it stands for would once again prevail over the enemy.

Mr. Rove wrote back that he was dashing off to the Oval Office to show the encouraging letter to Mr. Bush. He then tucked his note inside a White House envelope and adorned it with four stamps: a 3-cent 1957 "International Naval Review" stamp, a 10-cent 1976 "Bicentennial" stamp, a 15-cent 1978 George M. Cohen "Yankee Doodle Dandy" stamp, and a 13-cent 1977 "Dogface" butterfly stamp.

History in making

We dropped by Washington historian James L. Swanson's Capitol Hill home Saturday evening for an informal gathering in celebration of the National Book Festival, which was kicked off this year by President and Mrs. Bush.

Indeed, Mr. Bush made the point of telling Mr. Swanson how much he enjoyed reading his recent best-selling book, "Manhunt: The 12-Day Chase for Lincoln's Killer." The president isn't alone.

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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