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.

On hand for Mr. Swanson's gathering was a representative from Scholastic Books, who told Inside the Beltway that the world's largest publisher and distributor of books for young readers would be condensing Manhunt — the biggest page-turner ever written surrounding the escape, search and capture of Abraham Lincoln's assassin, John Wilkes Booth — into a children's story.

Earlier, we reported that an HBO mini-series is in the works based on Mr. Swanson's best-seller.

Toss in a brick

When they aren't slinging mud at one another, lawmakers constantly stand on the House floor to recognize the everyday accomplishments of constituents. After all, a congressman faces re-election every two years.

Whether it's the hardware store owner's son attaining the rank of Eagle Scout, an auto-assembly worker attaching his 100,000th tailpipe, or a couple celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary, recognizing these otherwise ordinary feats earns a constituent mention in the famed Congressional Record, and a congressman a much-needed vote or two.

"I rise today to congratulate the Denton Acme Brick plant for creating what could be the world's largest brick," Rep. Michael C. Burgess, Texas Republican, stood up to announce last week, right in the middle of debates over Vietnam becoming a nonpermanent member of the U.N. Security Council and the increasing amount of imported Chinese products that are tainted, poisonous or counterfeit.

The congressman informed his divided colleagues that this particular monster brick is 3,000 times larger than an ordinary brick, weighs 6,400 pounds and took 18 months to bake. After Acme obtains the "world's largest" brick recognition from Guinness World Records, it will put the brick on display, and no doubt send a warehouse full of votes the congressman's way.


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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