Respect for Rummy Is a Shore Thing in St. Michaels

By Amy Argetsinger and Roxanne Roberts
Monday, September 15, 2008

You don't see Donald Rumsfeld in Washington much anymore. He made a rare and heartfelt appearance (wearing a sling from recent shoulder surgery) last week at the Pentagon Memorial ceremony, but he increasingly finds himself persona non grata in some corners of D.C.

But there's one place where the former defense secretary is always treated with respect: St. Michaels, Md., where Rumsfeld and his wife, Joyce, bought a country retreat in 2003. The tiny Eastern Shore town, which takes great pride in being a politics-free zone, embraced the couple throughout his controversial tenure and since his resignation.

How to repay the hospitality? Three weeks ago, the Rumsfelds threw a party for local friends and neighbors.

The low-key brunch for 50 or so included Democrats and Republicans (although next-door neighbor Dick Cheney was not spotted), according to a guest; a "very relaxed" Rumsfeld greeted everyone by name and directed them to the lawn, where a little fleet of dachshunds zipped through the crowd. Locals protective of all ex-power brokers who join their community say the couple has always been accessible and friendly, but it was unusual for them to host a large party.

It was also a chance to see history up close: The five-bedroom, four-bath home, built in 1804, is nicknamed "Mount Misery" -- no one knows for sure why. (The former bed-and-breakfast is best known as the place Frederick Douglass won a fistfight with a white farmer tasked to tame the rebellious teenager; the incident launched his antislavery crusade.)

Alas, no sign of the mint-green Vespa that Rumsfeld bought in June, but he's often seen around St. Michaels in his pickup, sporting a baseball cap. Come to think of it -- could be a good look for his next trip to D.C.

Crocs and One Sleek Bird

Spies -- they're just like us! "The American people should know that the men and women of CIA are no different than their friends and neighbors," said CIA Director Mike Hayden on Saturday. "Consider the scene this morning: Plenty of kids, a solid percentage of minivans in the lot, and I see more than a few of us are wearing Crocs."

Hayden presided over the CIA's 28th annual Family Day (think company picnic with hot dogs, soda . . . and spy planes) at the agency's headquarters in McLean. More than 20,000 employees, parents, spouses and children attended the event -- a thank-you for the long hours, overseas assignments and keeping of secrets that come with the job.

The party usually takes place in the front quad, but this year, Hayden moved it near a deactivated A-12 spy plane on the compound. "The setting allows us to admire the sleek bird behind me," he joked to the crowd. "It also makes for a more impressive sight in case the Russians are watching. They never cared much for the A-12." Take that, Puti-Put.


One in an occasional series of dispatches from parties you should have crashed.

Event: Washington National Opera's "La Traviata" opening-night gala, Saturday at the Italian Embassy.

Draw: First black-tie bash of the fall season; chance for VIPs to gossip about summer jaunts, the conventions, and the half-naked courtesans in Act 2.

Guests: WNO General Director Plácido Domingo, wife Marta (who directed the lush production), Supreme Court Justices Anthony Kennedy and Samuel Alito, former House speaker Newt Gingrich, NBC's David Gregory, NPR's Nina Totenberg, assorted ambassadors, cast members.

Tickets:$1,000 per person.

Bar: Open, natch.

Food: Midnight supper of tomato tart, veal and chocolate mousse.

Topic A: Much giddiness over the opera's live, rain-free simulcast at Nationals Park. "It was sensational!" said Domingo, who raced from the KenCen to the stadium and gala. "We did a home run tonight." (Well, someone at Nats Park needed to -- just sayin'.)

Topic B: The GOP veep nominee, natch. "The last two weeks have been the most extraordinary in my career," said Gingrich, who found a "Yes, we have Sarah Palin's glasses" sign at his optician's on Saturday. The manager told him callers are asking for "the new vice president' s" specs, "not 'the candidate,' " Gingrich said. "I think there's a lot to that."


· Engaged: Jennifer Hudson and boyfriend David Otunga on Friday night. The Oscar-winning "Dreamgirls" actress and singer received a proposal and ring from her reality show swain on her 27th birthday, People reports. The couple, both from Chicago, have been dating less than a year.

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