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Waste Not, Want Not

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

Patrick Beckerdite, senior property manager for the Southridge Mall in Des Moines, Iowa, was one of several Inside the Beltway readers reacting to our item about Senate Democrats holding a "retreat" Wednesday in high-end conference space at the Newseum - just three blocks from the U.S. Capitol - rather than huddling in any number of congressional meeting or hearing rooms.

Jim Manley, spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, assured us that the retreat "was paid for by members' re-elect funds."

"The way you told it, Jim Manley sure doesn't get the idea of controlling expenses," Mr. Beckerdite writes. "It doesn't really matter that public funds weren't used to pay for the meeting room. It's the perception the voters have that money is being wasted.

"Just like it probably wasn't wise to spend $170 million non-taxpayer dollars on the inauguration when so much of the country is hurting. Most people know you have to lead by example, and until the folks currently running Capitol Hill realize that, they are going to have trouble convincing the country they know how to solve our problems."


Palm Restaurant icon Tommy Jacomo was busy as usual Saturday night welcoming guests into the popular downtown steakhouse, where one couldn't help notice a pair of newly framed portraits - painted Palm style - of President Obama and first lady Michelle Obama, and Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. and wife Jill.


An enthusiastic gathering of Reaganites celebrated what would have been the late President Reagan's 98th birthday at Friday's premiere of the documentary "Ronald Reagan: Rendezvous with Destiny," featuring the Gipper's impact on America and abroad.

Those in attendance included documentary hosts former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and wife Callista Gingrich, and ABC newsman Sam Donaldson (who spoke beforehand), as well as columnist George Will, former Sen. Fred Thompson, and retired Marine Lt. Col. Oliver North.

On another floor of the Kennedy Center that same evening was a different crowd that included President Obama, first lady Michelle Obama and their two daughters, Malia and Sasha, who were attending a performance by the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater.

This was the first family's first time sitting in the presidential box at the Kennedy Center.


It's going to be a busy week for Washington best-selling author James L. Swanson, beginning Monday night when PBS premieres the 90-minute film, "The Assassination of Abraham Lincoln," by Emmy-winning filmmaker Will Barak Goodman.

Mr. Swanson, author of "Manhunt: The 12-Day Chase for Lincoln's Killer," is among the nation's foremost Lincoln scholars who get asked to recount the two months surrounding the April 14, 1865, assassination at Ford's Theatre.

"It was with the assassination that the myth of Abraham Lincoln was born," Mr. Swanson says. "Lincoln was not universally liked or beloved during his presidency. Millions of people hated him. Once he was assassinated, everything changed."

Mr. Swanson's young adult version of his gripping book "Chasing Lincoln's Killer" was just released Feb. 1.

Also, the Newseum's newest exhibit, developed in cooperation with Mr. Swanson, is set to open Saturday. It follows the hunt for John Wilkes Booth through dozens of orginal photographs, engravings, artifacts and front pages that chronicled the flight and demise of the assassin.

Mr. Swanson will discuss his pair of books at 12:30 at the Newseum.


While we're on the subject of Abraham Lincoln, there's no better time to duck underground into the U.S. Capitol Visitor Center and examine some unique artifacts now on display, including Lincoln's draft of legislation to abolish slavery in the District of Columbia, dated Jan. 10, 1849.

The draft is actually Lincoln's notes for a bill he'd written while a congressman from Illinois, but he was unable to garner enough support for the legislation and it didn't move forward.

Other items include a telegram Lincoln sent to Ulysses S. Grant in 1864, agreeing with his strategy to maintain pressure on the Confederate Army at Petersburg, Va., rather than pull the Army north to protect Washington. Known as the "bull-dog grip" telegram, the message urges Grant to "hold on with a bull-dog grip and chew and choke, as much as possible."

Also on display is Lincoln's nomination of Grant to be lieutenant general of the Army, a position previously held by George Washington.

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