John McCaslin

Patrick Beckerdite, senior property manager for the Southridge Mall in Des Moines, Iowa, was one of several Inside the Beltway readers reacting to our item about Senate Democrats holding a "retreat" Wednesday in high-end conference space at the Newseum - just three blocks from the U.S. Capitol - rather than huddling in any number of congressional meeting or hearing rooms.

Jim Manley, spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, assured us that the retreat "was paid for by members' re-elect funds."

"The way you told it, Jim Manley sure doesn't get the idea of controlling expenses," Mr. Beckerdite writes. "It doesn't really matter that public funds weren't used to pay for the meeting room. It's the perception the voters have that money is being wasted.

"Just like it probably wasn't wise to spend $170 million non-taxpayer dollars on the inauguration when so much of the country is hurting. Most people know you have to lead by example, and until the folks currently running Capitol Hill realize that, they are going to have trouble convincing the country they know how to solve our problems."

NEW FACES

Palm Restaurant icon Tommy Jacomo was busy as usual Saturday night welcoming guests into the popular downtown steakhouse, where one couldn't help notice a pair of newly framed portraits - painted Palm style - of President Obama and first lady Michelle Obama, and Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. and wife Jill.

REAGAN TRIBUTE

An enthusiastic gathering of Reaganites celebrated what would have been the late President Reagan's 98th birthday at Friday's premiere of the documentary "Ronald Reagan: Rendezvous with Destiny," featuring the Gipper's impact on America and abroad.

Those in attendance included documentary hosts former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and wife Callista Gingrich, and ABC newsman Sam Donaldson (who spoke beforehand), as well as columnist George Will, former Sen. Fred Thompson, and retired Marine Lt. Col. Oliver North.

On another floor of the Kennedy Center that same evening was a different crowd that included President Obama, first lady Michelle Obama and their two daughters, Malia and Sasha, who were attending a performance by the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater.

This was the first family's first time sitting in the presidential box at the Kennedy Center.

NOT TO MISS


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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