John McCaslin

MSNBC's Mika Brzezinski was fortunate to be left standing after being mugged of $6 outside her Washington hotel Thursday morning while waiting for her chauffeur-driven car to pick her up for the 6 a.m. broadcast of "Morning Joe."

We won't forget the time former Health and Human Services Secretary Donna E. Shalala, one of the kindest Cabinet members to ever serve under President Clinton, was retrieving her hard-earned dollars from an automated teller machine in one of Washington's better neighborhoods.

"Give it up! Give it up!" a pair of bandits warned the pint-size secretary, who quickly dropped to the fetal position and began screaming at the top of her lungs.

Miss Shalala once played shortstop in Cleveland's Pigtail League, coached by none other that New York Yankees owner George Steinbrenner. He once said he wished he had eight other players like Miss Shalala on the team.

She didn't give her assailants a penny -- and lived to tell about it.


Welcome to the nation's capital. If the constant terrorist threat isn't enough to fret over, the millions of visitors arriving next month for President-elect Barack Obama's inauguration should realize that the District of Columbia has more than its share of assaults and killings.

So many that a "Crime Emergency" was declared in 2003 by an overwhelmed Metropolitan Police Department, and it only got worse in 2004. On the last day of April, Supreme Court Justice David H. Souter, one of the top judges in the land, was attacked and beaten by an angry group of young thugs while jogging around the streets of Washington.

Which made Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg's purse-snatching outside the infamous Watergate Hotel petty in comparison.


Inside the Beltway this week interviewed Mayor Virg Bernero of Lansing, Mich., home to 6,000 General Motors Corp. employees (there were 30,000 GM employees in the city prior to downsizing), and read to him a quote from Texas Rep. Ted Poe:

"[Y]ou'll love the way the federal bureaucrats make new cars. The new federalized auto industry will have the competence of FEMA, the pleasantries of the Post Office and the compassion of the IRS."

To our surprise, whereas Mr. Bernero and Mr. Poe disagree on whether the U.S. auto industry should receive a massive bailout package (ironically, Mr. Poe, a Republican, opposes President Bush on the bailout, while Mr. Bernero, a Democrat, supports the president), Mr. Bernero said he does not disagree with Mr. Poe about any additional Washington involvement.

"I don't want Washington designing our cars," the mayor told us. "I was in Washington recently and it's amazing they get any one thing done on Capitol Hill."

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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