Before he leaves Washington to celebrate Christmas and usher in Election Year 2004, the White House issued three successive statements from President Bush:
Laura joins me in wishing you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.
Laura joins me in sending our best wishes for a joyous Kwanzaa.
Laura joins me in wishing you a blessed and Happy Hanukkah.
Thanks to our readers who risked sending us spiritual greetings this holiday season, particularly Robert Jason of Canada who, given "political correctness gone mad," realized his simple Christmas greeting was fraught with potential complications.
"So here is my amended greeting to you," Jason writes.
"Please accept with no obligation, explicit or implied, my best wishes for an environmentally conscious, socially responsible, low stress, non-addictive, non-judgmental, tolerance embracing, inclusivity enhancing, equality seeking, gender neutral celebration of the winter solstice holiday, practiced within the most enjoyable traditions of the religious/secular persuasion of your choice, with respect for the religious/secular and/or traditions of others, or their choice not to practice any religious and/or secular traditions."
As is tradition at the annual holiday White House Basement Party, a Christmas poem, penned this year by Greg Clugston of Salem Radio News, was read to all assembled, including White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan.
The talented Clugston titled his verse: "'Twas the Night Before Christmas - 2003 White House Press Basement Version":
"'Twas the night before Christmas and at the White House,
President Bush was asleep - quiet as a mouse.
With Barney and Spot at the foot of the bed,
Visions of prescription drug benefits danced in his head.
Tomorrow, in the morning, to Camp David he'd go
For Christmas with Laura and his parents in tow.
Having gotten a lid, the reporters laid low,
Expecting their holiday shift to go slow.
When out on the South Lawn there arose such a clatter,
Laura jumped up to see what was the matter.
And what to her bewildered eyes did she see?
Two shadowy figures attempting to flee.
The couple wore ball caps in the dark of the night,
Boarding a Gulfstream Five for a top-secret flight.
The plane flew at top speed with shades pulled down tight.
Even exterior lights were off - to keep out of sight.
When a "non-U.K." pilot spotted the presidential plane,
The control tower suggested he was going insane.
The president arrived at a remote military base.
So remote, in fact, it looked like outer space.
Travel poolers were incredulous, as they began to swoon,
Realizing that Bush had just flown to the moon!
Dressed all in white, Bush emerged with a jump.
Wearing a spaceflight suit, he was ready to stump.
"Now Kerry! Now Gephardt! Dean, Edwards, and Clark!
And the rest of you candidates who are a shot in the dark!
"My bold new campaign will keep you off-kilter.
I'll do it bypassing the national media 'filter.' "
It was a strategy all of the Democrats feared -
TV ads replaying Saddam's shaggy beard.
Bush hoisted a flag, planting it inside a crater.
He saluted and waved and said, "See ya later."
Hours later, Dubya arrived back home on the lawn.
Stepping off the Gulfstream he stifled a yawn.
He approached the stakeout with a twinkle in his eye,
Knowing the secret travel would boost poll numbers high.
And I heard him exclaim, while Cheney hunted and fished,
"Merry Christmas to all! 'Mission Accomplished.'"
The Atlantic Media Co. has announced an annual $25,000 journalism award in honor of Michael Kelly, the first American reporter killed while covering the war in Iraq.
Kelly, who died at 46, was editor of two Atlantic Media publications, the Atlantic Monthly and National Journal. The future award will recognize a journalist whose work exemplifies a quality that animated Kelly's career: the fearless expression and pursuit of truth.
"Michael was the boldest man I've ever met," says Atlantic Media Chairman David G. Bradley. "At the center of his genetic wiring was moral courage."
SPORT OF POLITICS
Try as he might, Sen. George Allen of Virginia, son of the late Washington Redskins coach George Allen, can't help but mix politics with football.
Reacting to word that Sen. John B. Breaux (D-La.) would retire at the end of this congressional session, the chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee remarked: "An open seat in Louisiana is encouraging, and with President Bush leading the ticket Republicans will be running strong in ACC and SEC territory."
He was referring to college football's ACC (Atlantic Coast Conference) and SEC (Southeastern Conference), where Democrats are now forced to defend five open seats in the 2004 election.
AULD LANG SYNE
Washington's Bonnie Rideout, the three-time U.S.-Scottish fiddle champion who will be performing "A Scottish Christmas" this Friday (Dec. 26) at the Kennedy Center Concert Hall - her performances have sold out for four consecutive seasons - has been arraigned.
Yes, arraigned, on charges of assault toward a flight attendant who refused to let the world-renowned musician carry her valuable violin on board an airplane bound for Wichita, Kan. Miss Rideout, as this column first reported, didn't wish her violin to get damaged or even lost by baggage handlers.
"I removed my precious violin from its case and asked to hold it in my lap all the way from Washington, D.C., so that they could check 'the bag.' My violin is smaller than an infant and bothers no one," she says. "My approach to solving this dilemma was apparently too confrontational."
Her court date has been scheduled for Feb. 13.
There is now "Maharishi Vedic City, Iowa," following ballot approval by residents and the legal filing of documents with the secretary of state.
The city, the first in the country to adopt a Vedic (Sanskrit for "knowledge") administration, is named after Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, founder of Transcendental Meditation.
All buildings in Maharishi Vedic City, says Mayor Robert Wynne, will now conform to Vedic architectural design, while residents will be offered Vedic (prevention-oriented) health care, eat Vedic (organic) agriculture, receive Vedic (cosmic creative) education, and live under Vedic (perfect-order) government.