John McCaslin

"Good evening," the U.S. president began in a hastily called address to the nation, which many Americans have chosen to forget. "Earlier today, I ordered America's armed forces to strike military and security targets in Iraq. They are joined by British forces. Their mission is to attack Iraq's nuclear, chemical and biological weapons programs and its military capacity to threaten its neighbors."

His expression determined, his goals clear, the president continued: "I have no doubt today, that left unchecked, Saddam Hussein will use these terrible weapons again."

Congress was all but caught off-guard. The Senate majority leader, from the other party, was the first to react, saying he could not endorse the president's surprise military action. But as the commander in chief stated, this was "the surest way to contain Saddam's weapons of mass destruction program, curtail his aggression and prevent another Gulf war."

And so began the president's substantial bombing raid on Baghdad. He gave the military orders to unleash sea-launched Tomahawk cruise missiles and attacks by Navy warplanes targeting Saddam's many presidential palaces that were regarded by the White House as key storage points for chemical and biological weaponry and the elements to make them.

The attacks continued in waves though suspicious lawmakers on Capitol Hill accused the president of playing politics.

It was nine years ago next month that President Clinton, on the eve of a vote in the House of Representatives to impeach him, sought to destroy Saddam's now-supposedly nonexistent weapons of mass destruction.

Pressure is on

"Percentage of Democrats who think that Hillary Clinton is proposing to withdraw all U.S. troops from Iraq within a year: 76."

— Harper's Index, December 2007

How's your drink?

We are reminded on the back cover of Eric Felten's forthcoming book that President John F. Kennedy played nuclear brinkmanship with a gin and tonic in his hand. Teddy Roosevelt took the witness stand to plead that six mint juleps over the course of his presidency did not make him a drunk. Franklin Delano Roosevelt, meanwhile, was a martini mixing man.

Mr. Felten, intriguingly enough, once wrote editorials for The Washington Times under the direction of Tony Snow, who later became White House press secretary to President Bush. He later worked for Reader's Digest and the Voice of America, albeit with many audiences he's foremost the jazz singer, trombonist and bandleader.

Yet ever since the Wall Street Journal launched its weekend edition in 2005, one of the most popular features has been Mr. Felten's cocktail column "How's Your Drink?" which earned the columnist the James Beard Foundation Award for Best Newspaper Writing on Wine, Spirits or Beer, presented earlier this year.

Covering everything from cocktail lore to the culture today, the book goes by the same title, which was made popular by Frank Sinatra when he entertained guests in his home: "How's Your Drink? Cocktails, Culture, and the Art of Drinking Well."

Gipper's pick

For the past year or so, Inside the Beltway has recalled the favorite films of past presidents, as revealed by the National Archives.

Now, just in time for Christmas, comes the final installment of the Presidential Film Favorites series — a special screening of the classic film "It's a Wonderful Life," in which George Bailey (Jimmy Stewart) discovers through his guardian angel how dismal life in his hometown would have been had he not been born.

To be shown in the William G. McGowan Theater at noon on Dec. 15, it was the favorite film of Ronald Reagan.

Plame game

Cost of a ticket to an intimate (18 guests) three-course dinner and wine at restaurant Zola in Washington with ex-CIA agent Valerie Plame: $350.

So reads our invitation to next Wednesday evening's affair, hosted by the Spy Museum, and inviting participants to "hear the inside story of Plamegate" from the CIA clandestine service veteran.

Mrs. Plame recently authored the book: "Fair Game: My Life as a Spy, My Betrayal by the White House."

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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