John McCaslin

Something must have creeped into the drinking water on Capitol Hill, because it wasn't the first time in recent weeks that a Democratic congresswoman forgot who she was grilling.

Take the House Select Committee on Intelligence hearing late last week, when Rep. Janice Schakowsky, Illinois Democrat, began her blistering attack on the intelligence community. In doing so, she called the CIA director, who is also an Air Force general, Michael V. Hayden, by the wrong name — "General Gates" — not once, but twice.

This occurred even though Mrs. Schakowsky was sitting almost directly across from Mr. Hayden, who for that matter was wearing his Air Force uniform that bears the shiny nameplate "Hayden."

To the congresswoman's credit, she could have thought she was speaking to former CIA Director Bob Gates, who left the CIA job 15 years ago. (We also recall a "Gen. Gates" — Horatio Lloyd Gates — who was an American general during the Revolutionary War.)

Either way, during her brief remarks Mrs. Schakowsky charged that "Gen. Gates defends the use of torture," and she pointed out that "earlier this week, Gen. Gates, you testified that for the first time the CIA waterboarded three al Qaeda detainees."

Not the political sort, which is a refreshing change in Washington, Mr. Hayden chose not to correct Mrs. Schakowsky, and simply answered the congresswoman's questions until such time as she said, "OK, my time is ticking away."

The best person

Did the nation's first black secretary of state yesterday all but endorse Democrat Barack Obama to become the nation's first black president?

That's what we heard between our sips of coffee, but you be the judge.

"Frankly, we've lost a lot in recent years," Colin L. Powell told CNN's Wolf Blitzer. "I am a Republican, but I am keeping my options open at the moment. And I am in touch with the candidates."

Which means?

"I will ultimately vote for the person I believe brings to the American people the kind of vision the American people want to see for the next four years. A vision that reaches out to the rest of the world, that starts to restore confidence in America, that starts to restore favorable ratings to America."

Mr. Powell reiterated that he has "voted for members of both parties in the course of my adult life," and come Election Day in November "I will vote for the candidate I think can do the best job for America, whether that candidate is a Republican, a Democrat, or an independent."

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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