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Buckle Up, Barack

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of

Arguably one of the hardest-working White House correspondents of the past three decades is Mark Knoller, heard every day on CBS Radio News and beyond.

This week, Mr. Knoller sat down with outgoing Vice President Dick Cheney, and in examining the transcript of the interview, it's not difficult to read between the lines:

Q: Do you think it is easier to run for president than to be president?

A: I do.

Q: In what ways? What is he [President-elect Barack Obama] facing that he doesn't realize?

A: Well, I've been through a lot of campaigns myself ... and the situation changes once you sit down in the Oval Office and begin to receive on a daily basis the president's daily brief -- intelligence briefing that the intelligence community pulls together and the CIA presents every morning about what's going on in the world, and about threats, threats to the homeland, problems we face overseas. And it is a tough, dangerous, complex world that we live in. And my experience has been, having been through 40 years in the business, that there's nothing like sitting down at the desk and having to deal with those problems to have a sobering effect on somebody's outlook and expectations.

Q: Both Barack Obama and Joe Biden have spent their political careers in legislatures. Now they're moving into the executive. Is that going to be a shock to their systems?

A: [W]hen you're the president of the United States, it's all on your platter. You are the ultimate decision-making authority. You're the one who is going to make those decisions about defending the nation, about committing troops, sending young men and women in harm's way. And you always hope that no president faces those choices, but certainly our experience has been you do. You can't get into that chair for four years without sooner or later having to address those basic fundamental decisions -- life aand death decisions, if you will -- about the fate of the nation. And it's different than being a member of a legislative body where you're one of 100 in the Senate, or one of 435 in the House.


Of the countless celebrities descending on Washington for President-elect Barack Obama's inauguration, few will have as hectic a schedule as Academy Award-winner Louis Gossett Jr.

Apart from hosting his Eracism Foundation's Inaugural Purple Ball on Jan. 20, the stage and screen actor will offer the official toast at the National Inaugural Jewish Ball on Jan. 18, sponsored by Ohev Sholom, the national synagogue where Mr. Gossett last year became the first black to preach a sermon in the synagogue's 122 year history.

If that's not enough on his inaugural plate, Mr. Gossett on Jan. 19 will host "Raising the Roof," a nationally televised tapestry of words and music honoring Martin Luther King and featuring the Boston Children's Chorus and the Young People's Chorus of New York City.

Peeking at the guest list for the PurpleBall, we find among others: Ashley Judd, Lisa Marie Presley, John Cusack, Herbie Hancock, Angela Bassett, Patricia Arquette, and Hill Harper.

Mr. Harper?

None other than Mr. Obama's college roommate when he attended Harvard.


That was Rep. Edward J. Markey, Massachusetts Democrat, and his wife, Susan Blumenthal, during the intermission of "West Side Story" at the National Theatre on Wednesday night, likening the battling "Sharks" and "Jets" to fighting Hamas and Israeli soldiers.

Or so the world would hope. In the musical, which runs through Jan. 17 prior to opening on Broadway, the warring New York City street gangs ultimately end the bloodshed and learn to co-exist.

West Side Story made its world premiere at the National Theatre in 1957.


There's a new chairman of the 100-plus-member House Republican Study Committee: Rep. Tom Price of Georgia, a medical doctor by practice.

"With complete liberal control of government, we are now presented both with an opportunity and an obligation to provide the American people with a clear, positive, conservative alternative to an irresponsible tax-hiking, 'big government' agenda," says Mr. Price.

The congressman replaces outgoing chairman Rep. Jeb Hensarling of Texas.

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