A Modern-Day Thomas Jefferson?
Virginia Gov. Mark Warner is white-hot on the Democratic presidential circuit. A popular moderate in a southern state, he helped push successor Tim Kaine to victory in this month's elections and last week started his 2008 dance in New Hampshire. " Mark Warner, " says Virginia Rep. Tom Davis --a Republican--"is presidential material."
But it's not just his politics that have some Virginians humming "Hail to the Chief." Many see him as a contemporary Thomas Jefferson, a businessman and reluctant politician who dabbles in farming and winemaking at his Rappahannock Bend farm. "He's kind of a Renaissance man," says Virginia writer Walker Elliott Rowe, author of Wandering Through Virginia's Vineyards . At his farm, Warner grows 15 acres of grapes for nearby Ingleside Vineyards. They use the grapes in Ingleside wines and bottle a private Rappahannock Bend label that Warner offers at charity auctions. "The wines are very good," cheers owner Douglas Flemer, who also manages Warner's vineyard. He says Warner's wine roots could help in 2008. "The fact that he can say he's a grape grower," says Flemer, "could help in places like California." But Warner's team urges that we not take the Jeffersonian winemaker turned president comparison too seriously. "The governor jokes," says aide Ellen Qualls, "that the wine is good for charity auctions, not for drinking."
Still a Bargain at $150,000 Each
Sick and tired of losing experienced special forces to private security firms waving bricks of dollars at soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, the Pentagon recently offered $150,000 re-enlistment bonuses to SEAL s and Green Berets with 19 years or more of service. It worked. Gen. Doug Brown, head of the U.S. Special Operations Command, reveals that 601 people took the tax-free bonus that expired last month. Don't choke on the price: Training one soldier tops $300,000.
In the Body Count War: U.S. Wins 25-1
Frustrated GOP lawmakers are desperate for President Bush to do more to show how troops are winning the war in Iraq, and Indiana Rep. Mike Pence has an idea: Tell how many insurgents the U.S. troops are killing, not just the American death toll. "This is football season," says the Republican, who takes time to mourn with constituents who lose family members in combat. "People want to know if we're winning or losing . . . what's the score." Fresh from a trip to Iraq, Pence says he knows the score: just over 2,000 Americans dead, compared with 50,000 to 60,000 enemy combatants.
They, Too, Will Speak--for a Price
In all the coverage of Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward 's surprise participation in the CIA- spy leak case came the revelation that he demands up to $50,000 a speech. That got us wondering what other notables ask. Some answers: ex-Democratic boss Terry McAuliffe, $10,000 to $30,000; political guru Charlie Cook, $5,000 to $10,000; former Sen. Bob Dole, $30,001 to $75,000; talk radio's Laura Ingraham, $10,001 to $30,000; Newsweek 's Michael Isikoff, $5,000 to $20,000; and NBC's Andrea Mitchell, $20,001 to $30,000.
Out of the Frying Pan for Tom Turkey
If it's Thanksgiving, that telephone pitch must be from People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, with the usual harangue about the White House's pardoning of the national turkey in favor of a life of misery at a petting farm. But this time PETA has a pretty good idea. Instead of dispatching the birds to the Frying Pan Park petting zoo, where they commonly die within a year, PETA suggests giving them to Maryland's Poplar Spring Animal Sanctuary, where they will be restored to health and given a longer life expectancy. The White House didn't bite.
More First Spouses for Literacy
Reading isn't just the territory of the nation's first ladies. Scholastic, the kiddie-reading giant, has 43 gubernatorial first spouses signed up next month as "Ambassadors of Reading" for its "Scholastic Read for 2006." They say the spouses will host events to highlight Scholastic's effort to get kids to read for 2,006 seconds on December 2. For you English majors, that's about 33 1/2 minutes.
Rush Shushed? He Doesn't Think So
Liberal Air America has enlisted Robert F. Kennedy Jr. for its latest fundraiser, and he claims political change is in the air. "As we approach the Thanksgiving holiday," he preaches, "there are strong signs that the right wing's domination of talk radio is finally coming to an end. And that's something for which we can all be thankful," he says. A righty radio source says, "Rush [Limbaugh] and Sean [Hannity] aren't worried."
Carter Ignores Life's Alarm Clock
By his own expectation, Jimmy Carter should be dead. "When I got out of the White House," he reveals, "I had a life expectancy of 25 years." He left in early 1981, almost 25 years ago. So how has the 81-year-old ex-prez dodged the grim reaper? It's simple, he says. Eat well, keep busy, and fish.
An Artist Gets His Christmas Wish
If you like Washington art, you've probably seen Paul McGehee 's work. He has done stuff for the White House, Mount Vernon, and the U.S. Capitol, and his paintings are in the collections of former presidents. But one job on his A list has eluded him: painting the national Christmas tree used in the president's Pageant of Peace. For years he taped the televised tree lightings in hopes the call would come in, and it did last spring. Pageant boss James McDaniel says he found McGehee's work while surfing the Internet. "I said 'Wow, this is just the kind of artist who would do a good job.' " The rest is history. "It's quite exciting," says McGehee. Can it get any better? Yes, the prez will be given a signed copy of his winter scene when he lights the tree December 1.
With Julian E. Barnes
This story appears in the November 28, 2005 print edition of U.S. News & World Report.