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."

"Politicians like Giuliani hide behind it when criticized by another on issues," Mr. Shirley points out, "which Reagan did plenty against Gerald Ford in 1976 and George Bush in 1980."

Tired yet?

Political observers are forever curious why presidential candidates who are lagging far behind their opponents in the popularity polls insist on staying in the race for the White House.

Consider Sen. Christopher J. Dodd, Connecticut Democrat, who will be returning to New Hampshire today for an amazing 17th time since the 2008 presidential sweepstakes got under way, even though you'd never know it by his dismal polling numbers.

Actually, Mr. Dodd will officially file to run in the New Hampshire primary this weekend, then host the usual meetings with senior citizens and firefighters of the Granite State.

Kudos, meanwhile, to New Hampshire's weary voters, who somehow continue to show up to greet what has been an endless stream of presidential wannabes hosting agonizingly redundant campaign events.


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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