John McCaslin

Actor Sean Penn, appropriately enough, will be in Washington's Penn Quarter tomorrow evening to host an "intimate dinner" following a private screening of "Into the Wild," the highly acclaimed new film he wrote and directed.

Based on the nonfiction best-seller by Jon Krakauer, the movie tracks the life and hardships of Christopher McCandless, who upon graduation from college in 1992 hitchhiked to Alaska, where he lived — and died — in the unforgiving wilderness.

Soothing relief

"Whoop-dee damn-doo."

Or at least that's what Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas recalls crying out when his wife, Virginia, came running into the bathroom to inform him that the Senate, by a narrow vote of 52 to 48, confirmed his ascension to the nation's highest court, but not until after a hotly contested confirmation hearing.

Justice Thomas reveals in his new memoir, "My Grandfather's Son," that when his wife brought him the good news he was soaking his "tired body" in a warm bubble bath.

War and peace

Washington-area political junkie Steve A. Brown, after "many painstaking hours," has just completed a 21-field database on Congress.

"Since we are in a war, I was curious about how many members of Congress have served in the military," he informs Inside the Beltway. "Preliminary results are that 26 senators and 95 representatives have served. I could give a party breakdown, but I am afraid that could revive partisan bickering over the war, bickering that now appears somewhat muted."

Better days

That was Lynne Cheney, wife of Vice President Dick Cheney, appearing at the National Press Club yesterday to talk about "Blue Skies, No Fences," two things the Bush administration could use more of right now.

That's actually the title of Mrs. Cheney's just-released memoir about growing up after World War II and during the 1950s, a period she describes as one of great optimism, particularly in her hometown of Casper, Wyo., where she met her future husband.

Love thy opponent

So just what is the "11th commandment" invoked of late by 2008 Republican presidential candidate Rudolph W. Giuliani?

"The 11th commandment was a term created by the chairman of the California Republican Party, Gaylord Parkinson, in 1966. Ronald Reagan adopted it to mean that one Republican did not attack another Republican's patriotism, fidelity or sobriety," explains Craig Shirley, author of "Reagan's Revolution" and the forthcoming book on the Gipper's presidential campaigning, "Rendezvous with Destiny."

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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