Routine drill

John McCaslin
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Posted: May 12, 2005 12:00 AM

It was almost a year ago - June 9, 2004 - when Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist of Tennessee was hosting a Capitol Hill reception for close friends of Ronald Reagan who were in town to attend the former president's funeral.

Suddenly, urgent word was relayed to Frist to evacuate his office. An unidentified plane - later determined to be carrying Kentucky Gov. Ernie Fletcher to Mr. Reagan's funeral - was feared headed toward the Capitol dome. Among the Reagan alumni who fled for safety were former U.N. Ambassador Jeanne Kirkpatrick and former Secretary of State George P. Shultz.

On Wednesday, Frist was hosting yet another reception - you guessed it, for friends of Mr. Reagan. This time, the Reaganites were in town to toast former first lady Nancy Reagan at a gala dinner in her honor.

Once again, urgent word reached Frist that a threatening plane had appeared on the radar screen. "Get out" came the order.

"It was almost like a joke," Frederick J. Ryan Jr., chairman of the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library Foundation, told The Beltway Beat. "Last time, Senator Frist was hosting a reception for Mr. Reagan's closest friends . . . and here we had some of those same people on hand for today's evacuation.

"I was literally talking to Senator Frist when the order came," said Ryan. "We ran outside and heard a loud jet engine, and I said, 'This one is real.'"

Fortunately, what evacuees heard was a military jet scrambling to intercept any intrusive aircraft.

'CANCER SCHMANCER'

That was Hollywood actress Fran Drescher sharing a table at Citronelle in Georgetown on Tuesday night with Pennsylvania Sen. Arlen Specter, his wife Joan, and Florida Rep. Katherine Harris.

Drescher, a cancer survivor, was in town to testify yesterday before the Senate Appropriations Committee on the Gynecologic Cancer Education and Awareness Act of 2003. Drescher wrote a personal account of her battle with the disease, "Cancer Schmancer," in 2002.

Specter, 75, was diagnosed earlier this year with Hodgkin's disease, although his doctor says he has an excellent chance of being completely cured.

"I have beaten a brain tumor, bypass heart surgery and many tough political opponents, and I'm going to beat this, too," Specter said after his diagnosis.

Wednesday evening, meanwhile, Chloe restaurant and lounge in Adams Morgan was to be the venue for Specter's and Iowa Sen. Tom Harkin's tribute to Drescher for her helping to craft legislation and raise awareness of women's cancer issues.

The actress, who starred in "The Nanny" and is producing and appearing in the WB network series "Living With Fran," is the recipient of the Albert Einstein College of Medicine 2005 Spirit of Achievement Award.

DADDY DEAREST

Democratic activist/Hollywood producer Lawrence O'Donnell is serious about public education - especially at his daughter's elite school - as Dennis Miller and CNBC viewers recently learned.

O'Donnell was a guest on Miller's cable-TV talk show last week, discussing the political feud between California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and the state's teachers unions.

O'Donnell, producer of NBC's "West Wing," said Schwarzenegger's poll numbers were sagging "because of public school parents like me."

"Every single teacher my daughter has had has been a great teacher," he said.

"You're delusional," retorted Catherine Seipp, a California resident and National Review contributor, who also was a guest on the show.

At that, O'Donnell's temper flared and he began shouting at Seipp, who was seated next to him. "I've met them all. I know my daughter's teachers. Don't you tell me that they're not great. They're great."

Miller joked: "Listen, if a teacher raised their voice against your kid in a California public school like you just did with Cathy, you'd protest, right?" O'Donnell responded with more ranting: "She's never met my kid's teachers. . . . For her to tell me about the teachers at the Canyon Charter School without ever having met them, that they're not great. . . ."

"Every one of them, yes. From kindergarten to fifth grade. Every single one of them. They're better than you will ever imagine."

Canyon Charter School is in Santa Monica, Calif. (ZIP code 90402), where the Census Bureau reports that the median family income is $174,183 (more than three times the national average), the median home value is more than $1 million and less than 1 percent of the population is black.

While O'Donnell shouted the virtues of Canyon Charter teachers, his "neck veins really began throbbing, the eyes began bulging and the teeth, like an offended dog's, actually seemed to increase in number and size," Seipp writes on her blog (cathyseipp.journalspace.com).

TWO TOO MANY

China's notorious one-child family-planning program is coming under attack on Capitol Hill, and a congressman says that unless it stops, the 2008 Olympic Games should not be held in Beijing.

"According to the Olympic charter, established by Pierre de Coubertin, the goal of the Olympic movement is to contribute to building a peaceful and better world by educating youth through sport, practiced without discrimination of any kind," says Rep. Tom Tancredo, Colorado Republican, who labels China's human-rights record "abysmal."

The one-child rule remains a source of "coercion, forced abortions, infanticide and perilously imbalanced boy-girl ratios," he says, and Chinese couples who bring "unsanctioned" children into the world face forced sterilization, heavy fines and job losses.

Tancredo has introduced a congressional measure calling on the International Olympic Committee to change the venue of the Olympic Games unless "significant progress" is made in ending abuses.

SALUTING SAM

Former Homeland Security chief Tom Ridge, TV talkmeister John McLaughlin, Washington Redskins owner Dan Snyder and legendary football coach Joe Gibbs were all pressing the flesh Monday night at the Partnership for Public Service's 20th annual Leadership Awards Dinner at Washington's Ritz-Carlton.

Honored this year for improving the way government works were a business leader, Home Depot Chief Executive Officer Bob Nardelli, and a government leader, Ohio Republican Sen. George V. Voinovich.

SOCIAL ENGINEERS

Hoping to prevent the U.S. court system from "dictating a radical redefinition of marriage," while stopping judges who are engaged in "social engineering," a California congressman is seeking to amend the U.S. Constitution by defining marriage as a legal union of one man and one woman.

"Ironically, in 1878, the United States Supreme Court itself acknowledged the critical role of marriage in maintaining social stability," says Republican Rep. Dan Lungren. "As the court observed, 'Upon it society may be built, and out of its fruits spring social relations and social obligations and duties.'"

AGONIZED BY GITMO

"I expect it to be the largest book party that we've ever had," Time's Judith Stoler said in advance of Wednesday evening's reception at the magazine's Washington bureau for "Inside the Wire," by former Army Sgt. Erik Saar and Viveca Novak, Time's terrorism correspondent.

A one-time FBI and National Security Agency intelligence analyst, Saar was posted for six months at the U.S. terrorist detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. What he saw there more than disturbed him - from beatings of detainees to sexual interrogation tactics.

"Saar couldn't have been more eager to get to Gitmo," the book's publisher said. "After two years in the Army learning Arabic, becoming a military intelligence linguist, he pounced on the chance to apply his new skills to extracting crucial intel from the terrorists.

"But . . . he entered a bizarre world that defied everything he'd expected, belied a great deal of what the Pentagon has claimed and defiled the most cherished values of American life."

MASTER LAWYER

The Washington Bar Association and Chief D.C. Court of Appeals Judge Annice M. Wagner have presented the Charles Hamilton Houston Medallion of Merit posthumously to O.J. Simpson trial lawyer Johnnie L. Cochran Jr.

Also receiving the medallion was Washington malpractice lawyer Jack Olender, who told the audience of 500 lawyers and judges that Cochran was the master trial lawyer of this era.

Past recipients of the medallion were Supreme Court Justices Thurgood Marshall and William J. Brennan Jr., as well as Martin Luther King.

Houston is former dean of the Howard University Law School and was instrumental in forming the team of lawyers that prosecuted civil-rights cases culminating in Brown v. Board of Education to end racial discrimination in the schools.

RATHER OR NOT . . .

Wednesday marked the 24th straight time that Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Sen. Richard G. Lugar, Indiana Republican, was to compete in the annual three-mile Capital Challenge around Anacostia Park.

Defending champions include the fastest man in the House, Rep. Bart Gordon, Tennessee Democrat; the fastest woman, Rep. Jane Harman, California Democrat; and the fastest senators, John E. Sununu, New Hampshire Republican, and Kay Bailey Hutchison, Texas Republican.

Best name for a media racing team goes to CBS: "Rather or Not, Here We Come."