Reporters know that once the deadly dull policy-wonk questions are asked and evaded by administration officials, some off-the-wall inquiries can be most revealing. This is especially the case when the subject is as sharp as Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.
So last weekend in Beijing, after the obligatory chat about serious matters -- North Korean nukes and the deadly terrorist attacks in London -- Fox News Channel's James Rosen asked: "What movies have you watched the most . . .?"
"There are probably a couple," Rice said. " 'Casablanca' I watch whenever it comes on. . . . 'Here's looking at you, kid' -- who doesn't love that line? I love Humphrey Bogart. I love everything about that movie. It's in many ways my favorite movie."
Who isn't thrilled at that scene where the French all stand in Rick's bar and sing "La Marseillaise" to defy the Germans who are to steal France's personal colony, Morocco? (Unclear how Moroccans react to this.) "But I'll give you a real scoop," Rice said, warming to the inquiry. "I've also watched 'The Way We Were,' " the Barbra Streisand-Robert Redford flick, and " 'Trading Places,' " the Eddie Murphy-Dan Aykroyd comedy, "many, many times."
"I generally don't watch movies of redeeming value," she said. "I tend to take them as entertainment."
" 'Spiderman II'?" Rosen asked. "You saw that?"
"I did. I liked it," Rice said.
"Do you ever wish you were a superhero?" Rosen asked. "Sometimes, sure," she said. (Okay, so the obvious follow-up -- Which? -- wasn't asked.) And does she think it is important to have an African American woman on the Supreme Court?
"I think there will be," she said, noting U.S. strides over the years and adding: "I'll bet that many people haven't thought about the fact that it's been awhile since there was . . . a white male secretary of state -- Madeleine Albright, Colin Powell and now me."
Then Rosen lobbed this one: "Do you believe that Lee Harvey Oswald was the sole assassin of President Kennedy?"
Rice's finely honed antenna shot up. "I have no idea," she said. "And I've actually never -- never been a conspiracy theorist, a person who read those stories very much."
Nice try, James.
GOP 'Special Guest' Fined
Bureaucrats gone bad. Loop Fans will recall John T. Korsmo, the North Dakota Republican appointed chairman of the Federal Housing Finance Board by President Bush. Korsmo got into a bit of trouble a couple of years ago by showing up as a "special guest" at a fundraiser for a GOP House candidate. Seems FHFB-regulated bank presidents just happened to be on the invite list.
Korsmo pleaded guilty to making a false statement to federal officials -- he said he had no role in compiling the list. Korsmo, who was looking at a maximum five years in the slammer and a $250,000 fine, was sentenced Monday to 18 months of probation and a $5,000 fine.
Justice Bush and Spouse George W.
It's not easy figuring out where Bush is heading to find his Supreme Court nominee, but some hints emerged yesterday.
First prominent Republicans out there extolling the virtues of someone who's not a legal-beagle, or a long-cloistered appeals court judge. The idea would be to have instead perhaps a governor or a businessman or a person from some other profession. (After all, legal experience is not required. That's what law clerks are for.) And we had Laura Bush opining from Africa that she would like to see another woman succeed Justice Sandra Day O'Connor. Well, let's use the Dick Cheney Selection Method -- searching for a "solid" vice president and ending up with the job yourself. (Remember, Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist was at the Justice Department in 1971 working on a "solid" successor to Justice John Marshall Harlan II, a successor who turned out to be . . .) So the choice would be? Laura Bush, of course. A woman of great character, experienced in government, education and child-rearing. Apparently supports abortion rights but not aggressively so and not likely to be subjected to harsh criticism.
Runners Now Runners-Up
Back in April, Assistant Secretary of Commerce William H. Lash III and Federal Election Commissioner Bradley A. Smith were in the running for president of the State University of New York at Brockport.
There was said to be a third candidate, a fellow who ran a university in Pennsylvania, but Smith and Lash seemed far more worthy.
Alas, the other candidate, John R. Halstead, was named last week as the winner. Smith, who taught law at Capital University in Columbus, Ohio, before coming to the FEC five years ago, is heading back there. Lash is still at Commerce.
An Unusual Suspect
Folks at the conservative Progress for America were taken aback when they glanced at the Web site of the National Republican Senatorial Committee. An NRSC video, shown for the first time at a dinner for the president last month and now on the site, includes a blast at "liberal special interest groups" that, NRSC spokesman Brian Nichols said yesterday, have "threatened the president's agenda."
The usual suspects, such as MoveOn.org and the New Democratic Network, were listed, along with Progress for America.
Turns out the target was supposed to be People for the American Way, Nichols said, but somehow between script and outside production company and finished product, it was changed to Progress for America.
Apologies all around, Nichols said, adding that the video was removed until it can be corrected.