Former Democratic vice presidential nominee and retiring North Carolina Sen. John Edwards insists he hasn't given thought to seeking the White House in 2008.
Then again, until such time he does decide, he has no intention of dropping off the national stage.
Consider "the fuss over the flags," writes Jim Schlosser of the Greensboro News & Record.
"For 45 minutes before the boyish, blue-suited Edwards entered the auditorium of the Greensboro Historical Museum for a farewell town meeting with constituents, his aides furled, unfurled and kept repositioning five American flags and a North Carolina flag on the stage.
"They'd move one flag forward, another backward. They twisted coat hangers and placed them inside two flags to make the fabric lean a certain way," Schlosser says.
"An aide picked a place on the floor in front of the stage and marked it with white tape. This is where Edwards needed to stand for the flags to be centered in the background."
Hold your flags, we're not through yet.
"The aides then changed their minds and moved the tape to the second step leading up to the stage. One aide went to the back of the auditorium and folded his hands as if it were a camera lens. He squinted through his fingers and called for some more last-minute shifting of the flags."
"From almost the very second that the state of Ohio was awarded to President Bush, he and his party have been solemnly warned that they must 'reach out' to their Democratic opponents. Much of this advice is beyond absurd."
- David Frum, resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, adding that as one contributor to the fiercely anti-Bush British newspaper the Guardian put it: "If this doesn't add up to a mandate, it's hard to know what the word means."
Thousands of pro-Bush Americans are already sending Christmas greetings to "Fahrenheit 9/11" filmmaker Michael Moore.
In fact, in less than 24 hours after www.MerryChristmasMichaelMoore.com was launched, more than 2,000 season-greeters signed up to send a traditional holiday card to the liberal Hollywood movie director.
"We couldn't think of a better way for the majority of America to let Michael Moore know they are thinking about him over the holidays," says site co-founder Michael Caputo. "We are shocked at the sheer volume of requests, but we've got our elves working on it day and night.
"It sure seems Michael Moore will have a bit of mail this holiday season."
COST OF FREEDOM
"Minimum number of bullets the U.S. military purchased for use this year: 1,500,000,000."
- Harper's Index, December 2004
When Washington public relations writer Kevin McCauley picked up The New York Times last week, he didn't like what he saw.
"I called Simon Properties, the big shopping mall operator, to ask why they were trashing the Statue of Liberty with the ad the company ran," the editor of odwyerpr.com tells The Beltway Beat. "It featured an image of the statue with the tag line, 'Very Inspiring. Now, where's the mall?'"
And what became of the editor's complaint?
"Simon," McCauley tells us, "killed the campaign and apologized."
The ad urged consumers to visit one of Simon's 13 malls in metropolitan New York.
"Please understand that we meant no disrespect to this national icon of freedom," said Les Morris, Simon's corporate relations manager. "It was not our intent to be offensive; rather to promote our centers in a lighthearted manner. Please accept our sincere apologies."
Morris told McCauley that the ad, which won't appear again, was one in a series that used familiar landmarks not just in New York, but Boston, Philadelphia and here in Washington.
As McCauley notes, Simon Properties didn't need any more controversy.
The Indianapolis-based Simon Property Group "is co-chaired by Melvin and Herbert Simon."
"They own the Indiana Pacers basketball team that was involved in the recent brawl with the Detroit Pistons," he says.
CatholicExchange.com Editor in Chief Tom Allen is reminding readers of the upcoming People's Choice Film Awards and the "faithful" public's opportunity to vote for "The Passion of the Christ."
"While the Motion Picture Academy has predictably given 'The Passion of the Christ' the cold shoulder, Mel Gibson's epic film has broken into the Top 5 for the People's Choice Awards for 'Favorite Movie Drama,'" reveals Allen, who considers the film "a sign of contradiction in our ever-deteriorating entertainment culture."
"Let Hollywood know what people of faith believe is the best movie of 2004," he encourages, posting the Internet ballot site: www.pcavote.com.
Voting ends Dec. 13, with the awards presented Sunday, Jan. 9, on CBS.
JOGGING WITH JESUS
This columnist was recently shedding pounds aboard a treadmill at a 24-hour fitness facility in Thousand Oaks, Calif., and couldn't help but notice that every last woman in the gym was glancing in my direction - something that never happens on treadmills in Washington.
My resulting ego trip lasted no longer than my stamina, however, when my friend Tim Pohlman, a former vice president of Infinity Broadcasting in Los Angeles, approached me to say: "How does it feel to work out next to Jesus?"
And so it was, the object of all the attention - James Caviezel, the blue-eyed actor who played Jesus Christ in "The Passion," dripping sweat instead of stage blood.
While we're on the topic of religion, Marc Morano, senior staff writer at CNSNews.com, was at the National Press Club to hear an MIT meteorologist actually dismiss alarmist fears about human-induced global warming as nothing more than "religious beliefs."
"Do you believe in global warming? That is a religious question. So is the second part: Are you a skeptic or a believer?" said Massachusetts Institute of Technology professor Richard Lindzen.
"Essentially, if whatever you are told is alleged to be supported by 'all scientists,' you don't have to understand (the issue) anymore. You simply go back to treating it as a matter of religious belief," said Lindzen, in a speech appropriately titled, "Climate Alarmism: The Misuse of 'Science.'"
Victoria's Secret is once again sparking outrage. In recent years, the lingerie retailer has angered some with its TV specials featuring models strutting their stuff while wearing nothing more than lacy underthings.
Now, the company is accused of devastating virgin forests: "Victoria's Secret mails more than 1 million catalogs daily, produced on paper made almost exclusively from forests," the ForestEthics group said in announcing nationwide protests against the company.
"Victoria's Secret's impact on the world's remaining old growth and endangered forests is simply devastating and unnecessary. The company has the responsibility and the power to ensure that its catalogs are made from recycled paper," commented Tzeporah Berman of the San Francisco-based group.
She said Canadian forests are being "chewed up for catalogs" and said she was "horrified to discover that habitat for some of the last wild herds of caribou in North America is being destroyed."
Added another ForestEthics official, Joshua Martin: "There's nothing sexy about cutting down vast swaths of forests ... to make things like junk mail and catalogs."
Does a black leather jacket pass for "black tie" at a Washington awards gala?
It does if you're John Walsh, host of "America's Most Wanted," who received the Olender Foundation's Advocate for Justice 2005 award.
"I have more leather jackets than anybody in the United States, more than 57," Walsh told the audience.
Jack Olender, who himself sported a black bomber jacket for the occasion, additionally honored Walsh by presenting an Olender Foundation grant in his name to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.
PAIR OF LETTERS
"Gentlemen," Washington-area resident Doug Welty writes to the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve Toys for Tots Foundation, "Lincoln Property Company, our building managers here in Arlington, dropped off a Toys for Tots flier today that says at the bottom: 'In keeping with the principles of the Toys for Tots campaign, we cannot accept toy guns, knives, or other things of this nature and toys should have a perceived value of $10.'
"As I have donated toy guns to Toys for Tots campaigns for many years, I was wondering if this is actually a Toys for Tots policy or just something our building manager made up. It also seems to me, upon reflection, that a Scout knife or leatherman-type tool would be a Christmas gift that most boys would prize.
"Are 'things of this nature' to be verboten ... in this enlightened era of political correctness?"
A response soon came from retired Marine Maj. Brian A. Murray, vice president of operations for the Toys for Tots Foundation, who wrote to Welty: "While not a written policy, we do not accept items that have a connection to violence. Not political correctness, but a conscious decision to stay away from toys/gifts resembling weapons."
Welty told The Beltway Beat that "the guns I put in the boxes are cowboy-style, not gangsta style."
CHICKEN FOR THE SOUL
"Enjoyed your piece on the Battle of the Bulge," writes Chuck Rigney of Norfolk, regarding Congress observing this month's 60th anniversary of the courageous World War II battle fought in frigid temperatures against Germany, during which 19,000 U.S. troops died.
"Over Thanksgiving dinner I got (my wife) Gail's father, Tommy Mitchell, to tell a couple of stories about his involvement in the battle. He was an infantryman in the Army and got the nickname 'the Mole' for his ability to scrape out a foxhole in the solid frozen ground anytime the shells started landing.
"He said he became extremely adept at knowing the type of shells (especially the ferocious '88s') coming in, and when they landed they would be a dud or go off. The duds would impact with a crack, while the others would 'thud,' then a split second later explode.
"One time he was on guard duty along with five other 'expert' marksmen when a chicken appeared out of nowhere, and they all opened up on it at the same time. After the initial burst of automatic-weapons fire, the chicken was none the worse for wear from their efforts.
"He said they all busted out laughing and agreed that the chicken should live to see another day. Tommy said the thought that all of them missed the chicken didn't speak too highly of what might happen should Germans show up, but it certainly provided a moment of comic relief in an otherwise bitterly cold and bloody time."
BE THE PAPER
Twenty-two conservative student publications have been started on college campuses so far in 2004, breaking the record of 21 set in 2003.
"I tell students, 'Don't complain about the media - be the media,'" says Benjamin Wetmore, director of student publications for the Leadership Institute's Campus Leadership Program.
Still, it isn't easy to print a conservative collegiate publication, given most campuses "force-feed students an unhealthy dose of liberal indoctrination," Wetmore notes.
"Leftists" at Cornell University in New York, he said, defunded the Cornell American, while administrators at Lynchburg College in Virginia "told security staff to throw out copies of the conservative Lynchburg Current."
"The Campus Leadership Program will help any student who wants to start a conservative newspaper - no matter how aggressive and thuggish the left is," Wetmore assures.
Still think your vote doesn't count?
Consider the other Washington - Washington state - where a statewide manual recount of the gubernatorial election - requested by the Democratic Party - is under way.
At one point this week, a mere 42 votes separated Republican Dino Rossi and Democrat Christine Gregoire, the state's attorney general.
"This is by far the closest race in the history of our state, and one of the closest the nation as ever seen," says Gregoire, who is appealing - through the Democratic National Committee in Washington - for donations.
As she explains it, Washington law requires the party requesting the recount to pay for it. Estimated cost: $750,000.