John McCaslin

President and Mrs. Bush will welcome 60,000 guests into the White House this Christmas season, while hosting 25 receptions and seven dinners.

The visitors will stroll past 25 Christmas trees, 780 feet of garland, 232 wreaths and 412 poinsettias, while sipping cups of eggnog. The White House is hoping 700 gallons of the creamy dairy drink will suffice.

INTELLIGENCE LINE

Intelligence operatives who have given high marks to CIA Director Michael V. Hayden - not only for the agency's efforts to thwart terrorism, but for restoring stability and boosting morale at the agency - are now waiting to see if President-elect Barack Obama chooses to retain their leader.

At a holiday reception Monday, hundreds of staffers lined the first floor of CIA headquarters to shake hands with Mr. Hayden, a retired Air Force four-star general who previously headed the National Security Agency.

"The line looked like one of those lines you see for a popular ride at Disney World during spring break," according to our source, who noted that Mr. Hayden spent more than two hours greeting clandestine operatives and analysts alike.

"Mike has really stood up for the people who work for him, even though many of the issues and problems he has dealt with occurred long before he took the helm," says the observer, alluding perhaps to prior detention practices that included waterboarding.

PASS THE CIGARS

So how does it feel to own a substantial chunk of Citigroup?

Yes, you.

"We find ourselves just days away from the federal government having had to rescue no less an exemplar of a large bank than Citigroup, by providing a guarantee of up to $306 billion for its loans and securities backed by residential and commercial real estate," Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) Chairman Christopher Cox said during a speech at the Mayflower Hotel in recent days.

"In addition, the federal government has twice made equity injections into Citigroup totaling $45 billion and received additional preferred stock in connection with the guarantees. Leaving aside the one-third-of-a trillion-dollar guarantee for Citi, the U.S. government's $52 billion in preferred equity makes all of you in this room who are taxpayers 7.8 percent owners of Citigroup."

RUPERT'S JOURNAL

If anybody is paying close attention to what gets printed in the Wall Street Journal now that it's owned by media mogul Rupert Murdoch, it is Ryan Chittum, a former Journal reporter who now offers business stories - and opinion - for the Columbia Journalism Review.

Consider one of Mr. Chittum's more recent headlines: "Rupert: Get Me That Bush House Story!"


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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