Driving Miss Rowena

John McCaslin
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Posted: Sep 15, 2008 10:54 AM
Driving Miss Rowena

Roberta McCain, 96-year-old mother of Republican presidential nominee Sen. John McCain, never ceases to amaze, if not outpace those she encounters on the campaign trail.

Including ladies in attendance for the recent Republican Women's Federal Forum luncheon at the Capitol Hill Club (the McCain family town house until the early 1950s), among them Carly Fiorina, businesswoman and McCain economic adviser; Franki Roberts, wife of Kansas Sen. Pat Roberts; Susan Allen, wife of former Virginia Sen. George Allen; Joanne Kemp, wife of former New York congressman Jack Kemp; LaDonna Curzon, Republican activist; and Sally Atwater, widow of the late Republican political strategist Lee Atwater (the couple's daughter, Ashley Atwater, led the Pledge of Allegiance).

Mrs. Fiorina, former chairman of the board and CEO of Hewlett-Packard, told the crowd that she just returned from Paris, where Mrs. McCain is admired by young and old alike. After all, when she traveled to France two years ago at the age of 94, accompanied by her identical-twin sister Rowena Willis, she tried to rent a car, but was informed she was too old.

So what did the elderly Mrs. McCain do?

She purchased a car, the story was told, and when the twins' French holiday drew to a close, Mrs. McCain sold it.

SOUL SISTERS

Speaking of siblings, the first pair of sisters ever to serve in the U.S. Congress, California Democratic Reps. Linda and Loretta Sanchez, will showcase their new book, "Dream in Color," at the National Press Club Monday.

The sisters' dream, as they describe it, began with their parents, who immigrated to California from Mexico. Despite no formal education, the couple managed to send all seven of their children to college.

Linda, a women's rights advocate, has been a member of Congress since 2003. Her sister Loretta was elected in 1996, and as Monday's program notes, she perhaps is best known for her controversial 2007 withdrawal from the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, purporting the caucus chairmen treated female members with disrespect.

HILLS ARE ALIVE

Hans Kaiser, vice president of campaign and public affairs for the Washington-based political opinion research firm Moore Information, is likening Republican vice-presidential nominee Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin to Fraulein Maria of "Sound of Music" fame.

"How do Democrats solve a problem like Sarah?" says Mr. Kaiser, who recalls Baron Georg Ritter von Trapp's emotional plea: "You've brought music back into the house. I'd forgotten. Fraulein, I want you to stay. I ask you to stay more than you know."

To paraphrase von Trapp, Mr. Kaiser says Mrs. Palin "has brought confidence back into the Republican house, something the GOP seemed to have forgotten over the last several years."

EYES ON OXFORD

The University of Mississippi is gearing up to host the first presidential debate of 2008.

Foreign policy and national security issues will be the focus of the much-anticipated showdown between Republican Sen. John McCain and Democrat Sen. Barack Obama, after which a good many of the country's undecided voters are expected to lineup behind one of the two major-party candidates.

Meanwhile, District-based reporters who won't be on the Oxford, Miss., campus for the Sept. 26 debate are being invited into the National Press Club to watch the political action unfold.

Says press club organizers: "Our new jumbo TV screens will show every frown, eye-roll and smirk — not that we expect any, of course!"

REQUIRES PASSION

We're happy to see columnist Robert Novak, who continues to battle brain cancer, joining Internet mogul Ted Leonsis and journalist Fred Barnes as hosts for Monday evening's Army and Navy Club celebration for global economist David M. Smick, author of the new book, "The World Is Curved: Hidden Dangers to the Global Economy."

Former Treasury Secretary Lawrence H. Summers credits Mr. Smick, chairman and CEO of Washington-based Johnson Smick International, for understanding "as few do that international finance depends on politics and passions as much as on policies."