Golf Legend Palmer Takes a Swing at Politics

Once a Coast Guard yeoman, Arnold Palmer said his service was a boon.
Once a Coast Guard yeoman, Arnold Palmer said his service was a boon. (Public Domain - )
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By Amy Argetsinger and Roxanne Roberts
Thursday, October 2, 2008

The reporter's secret to covering galas: You can generally focus on your chocolate mousse during the after-dinner speeches until the moment someone says, "I don't want to be political here, BUT . . ."

When Arnold Palmer said the magic words Tuesday at the U.S. Navy Memorial Lone Sailor Awards, it was time to grab the pen. Because, well, it's Arnold freaking Palmer -- not just one of the greatest golfers in history but a towering icon of alpha-male cool. Basically, he was Bono back before they invented rock stars, and, as with Bono, you strangely care what he thinks about world affairs.

Palmer, 79, a former Coast Guard yeoman, received one of the evening's awards recognizing sea-service vets who distinguished themselves in later life. (Other honorees at the Building Museum fete: Rep. Norm Dicks, P&G chief exec A.G. Lafley, late steel magnate John McConnell. Other guests: Ann Curry, Roberta McCain, Tom Ridge, a fleet of admirals.)

The golf legend spent much of the night mobbed by middle-age fanboys in tuxes trying to get his autograph. At one point, a guy sidled up to us on the fringe of the Palmer mob, pointed at our take-home bottle of Arnie brand iced tea/lemonade and said, "I'm Arnold Palmer's dentist, and I took that photo of him." (Oooh, can you get us backstage?)

Anyway, Palmer's political commentary came when he accepted the award and mused about how the Coast Guard "helped me find the things I needed to find" at a troubled time in his young life. If he were in charge, he said, "every young person would serve a year in our services."

Whoa -- was he calling for the draft? We pried him from the post-dinner mob for a second. Not the draft, he said, but "a requirement -- you can do your service whenever you want." Then he gave us a sort of thumbs-up and a solid eye-contact wink and moved on. Total rock star.

Georgetown Swigs? Yes. Political Elitism? No.

Defending his veep pick Sarah Palin yesterday, Sen. John McCain twice made withering references to the sort of critics who hang out at "Georgetown cocktail parties."

Trust us, John, Georgetown cocktail parties ain't what they used to be.

"I don't want to burst anybody's bubble," said Carol Joynt, who owns Nathans restaurant in Georgetown. "If they think we're all standing around with cigarette holders and bouffant hairdos talking down to the middle class -- that era went away in the last century."

"That was the Kennedy era," Democratic fundraiser Esther Coopersmith told The Post's Libby Copeland. "He's showing his age."

McCain specifically railed against the "Georgetown cocktail party person, who quote, calls himself 'a conservative.' " We asked columnist Kathleen Parker, a conservative who called on Palin to drop out, whether she's been to any Georgetown cocktail parties lately.

"I haven't gotten an invitation yet, but I am available," said Parker, who splits her time between Georgetown and Camden, S.C. She said most of her big-city socializing consists of sidewalk chats, occasionally involving dogs.

For what it's worth, our colleague Sally Quinn said yesterday that McCain hasn't been a stranger on the circuit. "I've sat next to him many times at dinner parties in Georgetown," she said. "He's an absolutely delightful dinner partner."

THIS JUST IN . . .

· Tina Fey's white-hot year just got hotter: Publishers are in a bidding war for the Emmy-winning, "30 Rock," Sarah Palin doppelganger's new humor book; price is $6 million and climbing.

· Now we know why a San Francisco judge rejected Sharon Stone 's custody request for son Roan, 8: In court papers, the judge said she's unreliable and overreacts -- she wanted the kid to get Botox injections for his smelly feet. What, they don't have soap and clean socks in L.A.?

SURREAL ESTATE

Buyers: Jim and Joy Zorn

Price:$3 million

Details: Looks like the new Redskins head coach is planning to stay awhile. Zorn and his wife found a brand-new four-bedroom, five-bath house in Great Falls and bought it from the developer in May -- three months after he signed a five-year, $15 million contract with team owner Dan Snyder. The country-style mega-mansion (cedar siding, front and back porches) sits on almost two acres; perfect for a team picnic.


© 2008 The Washington Post Company

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