"Regarding Vice President Dick Cheney and his mysterious foot - ahem, big toe - ailment, I'm convinced he's got the gout," says John K. Putney, assistant vice president of McGuire Woods Consulting in Richmond, who previously toiled as Republican Sen. George Allen's Northern Virginia aide.
"The White House's rationale for not disclosing the condition? The liberal press will shriek, 'Aha! The King's Disease!'?" Putney tells The Beltway Beat. "Of course, they will work overtime to further portray Cheney as an elitist: one-half of the 'Bush-Cheney Monarchy.'"
Putney reveals that he, too, is "cursed with this condition."
"It is a brutal, at times completely debilitating ailment. And there is a real stigma associated with it. But Cheney certainly fits the profile," he said.
As its nickname suggests, gout was formerly associated with kings and nobles, their sedentary lives made richer by diet and drink - thus the King's Disease. The cause is uric acid crystals deposited in the joints, especially the big toe. Leading culprits are foods high in uric acid, especially liver, kidney, tripe and tongue.
WHO'S A NERD?
Who said brainy types in Washington walk around in thick-rimmed glasses wearing calculators on their belts?
Rest assured, they unwind. And in ways you might not expect.
We've just finished reading the January 2006 "Official Newsletter of Metropolitan Washington Mensa" - the international society of persons who have scored above the 98th percentile on a standard IQ test. Get a load (no pun intended) of one of this month's intriguing Mensa events, as featured in the newsletter:
"January is 'full auto' month. This month only we will be at Select-Fire in Glen Burnie, Md., which is between Baltimore and D.C. Semi and full auto UZIs, MK5s, Stens & Thompsons are available for around $45 each and come with between 90 and 96 rounds in three pre-loaded magazines, which can go pretty fast. Additional pre-loaded magazines cost $15. Select-Fire also rents other firearms. Wheelchair accessible. Free parking. Be sure to bring an extra pair of underwear."
"Are you enjoying the confirmation hearings? We are real proud to have Mr. Biden as the official Windbag of Delaware."
So reads an unexpected note attached to a work invoice sent to this columnist the other day by a plumbing company in Delaware, referring to the Democratic senator from the state, Joseph R. Biden Jr., and this week's contentious Senate Judiciary Committee hearings surrounding the nomination of Judge Samuel A. Alito Jr. to the Supreme Court.
"Anyway, we will install the vanities and take care of the re-piping on Monday the 16th. We will let you know when we are done."
Fred Barnes, executive editor of the Weekly Standard and commentator for Fox News, has a witty title for his soon-to-be-published book, "Rebel-in-Chief: Inside the Bold and Controversial Presidency of George W. Bush."
A review by Publishers Weekly notes that the author "preaches to the Crawford choir in this analysis-cum-tribute to the Bush presidency," but praises his "surprising glimpses into the personality" of the president.
For instance, whereas Bush dislikes reading newspapers, he has a copious book-reading habit: "five to every one that Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice reads."
WINDOW ON THE MOON
Walk to the south side of the Washington National Cathedral, just west of the tomb of Woodrow Wilson, and you might be surprised to come upon a moon rock.
One of the lesser-known attractions in Washington, retrieved from the Sea of Tranquillity, this 7-plus-gram lunar rock isn't encased in the marble floor, nor is it featured in a display case. Instead, it is securely implanted within one of the cathedral's large stained-glass windows - the "Scientists and Technicians Window" - that commemorates U.S. space exploration and mankind's first giant step on the moon.
The rock was donated to the cathedral more than three decades ago by the crew of Apollo 11 - Neil Armstrong, Edwin "Buzz" Aldrin and Michael Collins. (The latter astronaut is an alumnus of St. Albans School, its campus adjacent to the cathedral.)
Benefactor of this unique window was Thomas Paine, director of NASA during the presidency of Richard M. Nixon.
MORE TO MONTEL
There was added reason recently for talk-show host Montel Williams to be named chairman of the National Veterans Association - he is a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy, having worked as a special-duty Navy intelligence officer, specializing in cryptology.
Now we learn that Williams is the new spokesman for Partnership for Prescription Assistance, a clearinghouse matching needy Americans with more than 475 public and private patient-assistance programs, some offering free medicine.
Former Louisiana Republican Rep. Billy Tauzin, president and chief executive officer of the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, says Williams' involvement will give the effort "an articulate, compassionate advocate . . . embrac(ing) our goal of reaching as many uninsured, underinsured and low-income Americans as possible in what is going to be a continuing, long-term effort to assist people who need a helping hand."