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."

Mr. Blitzer finally asked the statesman about the Illinois senator, and Mr. Powell replied that "every American has an obligation right now at this moment in our history to look at all the candidates and to make a judgment not simply on the basis of ideology, or simply on the basis of political affiliation, but on the basis of who is the best person for all of America."

Lincoln's shadow

That was President and Mrs. Bush entering the East Room of the White House last night to pay tribute to Abraham Lincoln — albeit, two days before his 199th birthday.

Which is the exact point one Illinois congressman is trying to make.

Heck, Punxsutawney Phil the groundhog gets more recognition every February than the nation's 16th president, and he's a rodent.

Says Republican Rep. Don Manzullo: "The prominence of President Abraham Lincoln is an undisputed fact of American history. The man best known for freeing the slaves and saving an imperiled Union has attained iconic status among historians and citizens alike. And yet, this man of great genius, compassion and acumen lacks official federal recognition for the day of his birth, February 12."

Raisin hope

That would be famed cyclist Saul Raisin in Washington to preview the course for the inaugural U.S. Air Force Cycling Classic to be held this spring.

The Utah resident, who was on his way to becoming the next Lance Armstrong before a serious cycling accident in France in 2006 resulted in a traumatic brain injury (TBI), also met in recent days with Republican Sen. Orrin G. Hatch and visited patients at Walter Reed Army Medical Center.

Mr. Raisin and his Raisin Hope Foundation is teaming up with the Air Force to help military members and their families who have been affected by TBI. The May 4 classic will start and end at the U.S. Air Force Memorial on the grounds of Fort Myer near the Pentagon.


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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