John McCaslin

Now that Illinois Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich is out on bond waiting to face federal corruption charges, not the least being his intention to sell President-elect Barack Obama's Senate seat to the highest bidder for personal financial gain, we'll go ahead and consider the statement his office sent to Inside the Beltway last month equally bogus:

"Last night's victory was bittersweet for Illinois - as we gain a great president, we lose a great senator. And it goes without saying that our next senator has big shoes to fill. Because it's important that the best person for Illinois is selected, I want to be clear that the calendar won't dictate our search."

CLOSING ADVICE

"I believe America is in trouble."

So retiring Republican Sen. Chuck Hagel of Nebraska begins his sobering assessment of the state of the world, "The Challenges That Lie Ahead."

Published by the Republican Party's Ripon Forum, the senator labels the Middle East "more dangerous, more complicated, more interconnected and more combustible than ever before."

One of the most immediate priorities of President-elect Barack Obama, he says, should be to implement a "comprehensive geostrategic approach to the broader Middle East region spanning North Africa to Afghanistan and Pakistan."

Doing so, suggests Mr. Hagel, will require all U.S. instruments of power - diplomacy, trade, economic assistance, intelligence and military might - however a "war of ideas and ideologies" would have to be fought to win over Middle Eastern youth.

"Classrooms are the battlefields," he says. "This will require a revolutionary universe of new thinking and policies. The human dynamic always dictates outcomes."

MARYLAND BALL

Will George W. Bush be shining his stirrups for the Black Tie and Boots Inaugural Ball?

Sponsored by the Texas State Society at the invitation of its president, Texas Republican Sen. John Cornyn, the ball during past inaugurals has been one of the hottest tickets in town. Not anymore, as far as the "in town" part goes.

For Barack Obama's inauguration, the Texas Two Step will be performed for the first time in Prince George's County, at the new Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center. Like most things Texan, the event will be big. Musical entertainment will be provided by Asleep at the Wheel and Bob Wills' Texas Playboys.


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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