Here's wishing a happy 90th birthday to West Virginia Sen. Robert C. Byrd, who was born on Nov. 20, 1917, the same year the U.S. declared war on Germany and marched into World War I.
"We'll have a little staff luncheon with the senator; offer some well-wishes. It's going to be low-key," says Jesse Jacobs, the senator's spokesman. "Staff is working on a birthday poem, given he likes poetry so much."
As for the senator's biggest birthday present, the spokesman tells Inside the Beltway that would be a photograph taken recently of Mr. Byrd standing alongside the Dalai Lama, President Bush, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.
"We had it signed by all the principals and framed," Mr. Jacobs says.
Mr. Byrd has been a presence on Capitol Hill since Jan. 3, 1959. And, despite his age, he remains third in the line of presidential succession.
Wait for Santa
And how will Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Nevada Democrat, celebrate his 68th birthday on Dec. 2?
"I, personally, never had birthday parties. My mother always said my birthday was too close to Christmas," Mr. Reid observed, somewhat sadly we'd say, in recent days.
Watch your back
As rector of St. John's Church, the Rev. Luis Leon is accustomed to heavy security. After all, President Bush and virtually every president before him — starting with James Madison — have worshipped in the historic yellow church on Lafayette Square, just across the street from the White House.
In fact, St. John's is known as "the Church of the Presidents" — Pew 54 being the "President's Pew," reserved for the chief executive's use when in attendance. This past Sunday was no different, although security was a bit tighter. Mr. Bush and first lady Laura Bush were seated in the presidential pew, while a few rows behind them, guarded by their own security detail, were FBI Director Robert S. Mueller and his wife, Ann.
Observing all the security in place, Mr. Leon pointed out in his homily that people constantly are seeking "security" in their lives. He told the story, or so we read in the White House pool report, about the nicely dressed woman who actually took a seat in his chair on the altar during the funeral service for former Defense Secretary Les Aspin.
Mr. Leon said he thought the woman might be a Secret Service agent or, God forbid, somebody up to no good. He said he briefly considered "whacking her on the head" with his prayer book, but that he was afraid of the headline certain to follow in the next day's newspapers.
The woman, he finally revealed, was homeless. It turns out that she had talked her way past security to the front of the funeral by posing as the reverend's assistant. His homily concluded:
"There's no such thing as full security in all of our lives," he said — a point perhaps not lost on many in the crowd.
Cool flag, Isaiah
In the category of "You learn something new every day," Rep. Dan Burton of Indiana educates us today on "an often overlooked chapter in American history."
It surrounds the tiny island of St. Eustatius, or "Statia," part of the Leeward Islands of the Caribbean. During November way back in 1776, the USS Andrew Doria, under the command of Captain Isaiah Robinson and in need of supplies and munitions, sailed into the harbor of Statia, then a Dutch colony. The brigantine fired off a 13-gun salute, and those manning Statia's cannons, under the command of Gov. Johannes de Graaff, answered with an 11-gun volley.
"This volley is regarded as the first salute to an American flag on board an American warship in a foreign port. Or, more simply put, the first recognition of America's newly declared independence from Great Britain by a foreign power," notes Mr. Burton, the ranking Republican on the subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere.