Laura's dime boxes

John McCaslin
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Posted: Apr 04, 2006 3:05 AM

You might recall that after Washington (unauthorized) biographer Kitty Kelley published "The Family: The Real Story of the Bush Dynasty" in 2004, she threatened to sue former Washington Post investigative reporter and author Ronald Kessler after he debunked her charges of drug use by President Bush at Camp David.

Kessler, who wrote the book "A Matter of Character: Inside the White House of George W. Bush," took issue with Kelley's lurid drug charges during an appearance on CNBC's "Capital Report."

Now, in his new book "Laura Bush: An Intimate Portrait of the First Lady," which officially hit bookstores this week, Kessler takes on Kelley's additional claims about past drug use by first lady Laura Bush. In her book, Kelley claimed Bush was "known in her college days (at Southern Methodist University) as a go-to girl for dime bags of marijuana."

The charge provoked uproarious laughter among Bush's friends from SMU, according to Kessler's book, which is the first biography of the first lady to be written with White House cooperation.

"If she was the go-to, I missed that," Kessler quotes Pamela Nelson, Bush's Theta Kappa Alpha sorority sister at SMU. "I was there. She was the go-to for a lot of things that were uplifting."

"In the South, there was virtually no marijuana. It was so new," added Bush's sorority big sister, Susan Byerly Nowlin. "It leaves you in awe that someone would say that."

As for Kelley, she attributed the claim to Robert Nash, identified as an Austin public relations executive who was a friend of "many" in Bush's SMU class. But according to Kessler, Nash later said he did not know any of Bush's SMU classmates, but merely told Kelley he had heard a rumor about her selling dope.

In fact, Kessler writes, Bush knew so little about drugs that when she was discussing Kelley's claims with her White House aide Gordon Johndroe, she mistakenly said the author had accused her of selling "dime boxes" of marijuana.

Kessler, who besides the Post also worked at the Wall Street Journal, calls attention to another claim by Kelley. That one goes that after the Bushes were married, they would visit Jane Purucker Clarke, another one of Bush's sorority sisters, and her boyfriend, Sanford "Sandy" Koufax, the former baseball star, on the island of Tortola in the British Virgin Islands and attend "heavy pot-smoking parties."

But when the Bushes visited Clarke on Tortola, "Jane had not met Koufax and was married to her husband, John Clem Clarke, the artist," says Nelson.

"The Kitty Kelley story is a lie," Clarke told Kessler.

We'll let you know about any additional lawsuits.

ODD BEDFELLOWS

What do former Republican House Speaker Newt Gingrich and Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean have in common?

Not much, but would you believe both agree on the prospect for Democratic gains in the 2006 midterm elections?

Tom McMahon, the DNC's executive director, calls our attention to a Gingrich interview over the weekend with Time.com, during which the former Republican leader was asked about the opposition's chances come November, particularly in light of widespread Republican shenanigans of late.

Gingrich replied that Democrats could make their case with a single slogan: "Had enough?"

Dean has. In fact, he's resorted to such a slogan, "Enough is enough," while crisscrossing the country in recent months.

CHIPS AND DIP

Yes, you heard correctly, the Poker Players Alliance were to hold a reception Tuesday night on Capitol Hill (albeit in the cafeteria of the Longworth House Office Building) to "promote and defend" the game of poker, which it calls "a true American tradition and a game of skill."

Scheduled to attend were World Series of Poker champions Chris Ferguson, Howard Lederer and Greg Raymer.

While not specifically citing poker, there are those in Congress who have cast a wary eye on America's gambling habits, particularly when it comes to unregulated Internet wagering. It is estimated that more than $100 billion is bet on the streets of the U.S. every year.

HAD A GAS

One never knows what they're going to read in Mariani's Virtual Gourmet Newsletter, published weekly (and free of charge, we might add) by our good friend John Mariani, columnist for Esquire and Wine Spectator magazines and author of "The Encyclopedia of American Food & Drink."

This week, the Big Apple-based Mariani writes about his recent trek to Istanbul, New York's posh new Italian restaurant Table XII, and our own Ceiba at the corner of 14th and G streets Northwest in Washington.

But our favorite item is this correction he spotted in the New York Times Dining In/Out section:

"Because of an editing error, a recipe last Wednesday for meatballs . . . misstated the amount of chipotle chilies in adobo to be used. It is one or two canned chilies, not one or two cans."