Let It Snow...And Then, Let's Go!

Finally -- a political promise worth something: "Enjoy the dinner, and we'll have you out of here before you're snowed in," cracked Sen. John McCain.

The fluffy white stuff was falling at a steady pace outside the Capital Hilton, but 600 supporters showed up Thursday for the International Republican Institute's annual Freedom Awards anyway.

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist was honored for battling AIDS in Africa, and Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai for leading the fledgling democracy. "His commitment to freedom is of the heart," Frist said of Karzai. "And it always comes back to the spirits of the individuals in his country."

Karzai was both blunt and poetic: "Before 2002, Afghanistan was a living nightmare," he said. Last year, more than 2 million refugees came back home in just eight months. "That was a vote for peace by their feet."

Karzai's message for support went out to political powerhouses, including Sen. Kit Bond, Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, Ambassador to Afghanistan Robert Finn, IRI President George Folsom and Comcast Chairman C. Michael Armstrong.

The speeches were as short as you can reasonably expect from politicians, and everyone left early and happy despite the (never-ending) winter wonderland. "There are times, even in this town, when nice guys finish first," McCain said.

Providing Shelter: It Takes an N Street Village

Theological debates can be interesting, but some of us don't have that luxury. "I don't know about resurrection in the next life; that's not my problem," said a grinning John Steinbruck. "I'm worried about resurrection in this life." Which is why he and his wife, Erna, founded N Street Village. The shelter for homeless women and children proved the power of good deeds at its 30th anniversary party on Wednesday night at the Four Seasons Hotel.

The black-tie event, chaired by Linda Daschle, Tricia Lott and Catherine Reynolds (with entertainment by Patti Austin and Aaron Neville), raised a record $500,000 for housing, education and addiction recovery programs. Newly uplifted N Street graduates Pauline Davis, Cecelia Dyson and Mary Mullaney were cited for individual leadership, and there was lots of high-spirited mingling that included N Street Village President Zelna Joseph and Sen. Tom Daschle.

"As Cathy always says, she favors the charities for women and children," joked husband Wayne Reynolds. "Because the men can fend for themselves."

For Heart's Sake: Grape Expectations at the Corcoran

Friday's "Heart's Delight" Grand Cru dinner was the perfect win-win event: a chance to drink first-growth Bordeaux wines ("All the more delicious because the wine is good for you," said emcee Bill Plante) and to raise $600,000 for the American Heart Association. The dinner at the Corcoran Gallery was Part 1 of the two-night benefit created four years ago to honor Bruce Bassin, one of Washington's most beloved wine sellers, who died of a heart attack at age 40.

"Mrs. Bassin, I'm here tonight because of your son," said honoree Sen. Bill Frist, who spoke more as a heart surgeon than as a politician to spread the message of cardiac disease prevention and care.

The festive black-tie dinner was pro-French (no politics when it comes to wine), with eight different wines served to the discerning palates of Solicitor General Ted Olson, philanthropist Jim Kimsey, AOL's George Vradenburg and 250 other wine lovers.

Frist was presented a "very collectible, not very drinkable" wine with a Frist label by DaimlerChrysler's Rob Liberatore. Vintage 2008, we presume.

With Beth Buchanan