Presidential historian Craig Shirley — author of four books on Ronald Reagan and a host of other iconic figures — reports that he has just turned in the final chapter of his latest project to publisher Harper Collins. The forthcoming book is titled “Honored Madam,” and it is a definitive biography of none other than Mary Ball Washington, mother of George Washington and five other children. It is also a reminder about old school tenacity.
“We sometimes attend the Ball family ancestral church, St. Mary’s White Chapel, on the Northern Neck of Virginia, which piqued my interest — and of course, I’ve always been fascinated by Washington. He used to pass right in front of our home here in Dunnsville, on his way to Williamsburg. He sometimes stayed in local homes,” says Mr. Shirley, who lives in the Virginia countryside.
“I always thought history dealt Mary Ball Washington a raw deal and decided to investigate, and found that she was far more complex and complicated that history portrayed her. A definitive, honest account of her life has never been written before. She was tough, no doubt about it. But a single, widowed woman, raising five children and stepchildren, successfully managing plantations, money, budgets, servants and slaves in a century not very hospitable to women had to be strong,” the author advises Inside the Beltway.
“And her relationship with her son was fascinating. She frustrated him and embarrassed him no doubt, but he was always a dutiful son. His letters to her always opened with the salutation, ‘Honored Madam.’ Hence the title of the book,” says Mr. Shirley.
Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and Fox News host Laura Ingraham are among those who have put the book on their reading lists.
While discord and controversy rages in the Capitol, a watchdog has a reminder about House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s travel habits. For more than a decade, Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton has tracked Ms. Pelosi’s use of military aircraft for travel, using Defense Department documents obtained through Freedom of Information Act requests.
“We have long noted Pelosi’s abuse of the perks of public office that granted her access to luxury military travel,” Mr. Fitton wrote in an op-ed for Fox News. “We reported in 2010 that Pelosi’s jet travel cost the Air Force $2,100,744.59 over a two-year period — $101,429.14 of which was for in-flight expenses, including food and alcohol.”
The average cost of such a congressional delegation trip was $228,563.33. Of the 103 trips that Ms. Pelosi led, 31 included members of her family. Mr. Fitton also cited one journey to the Middle East for lawmakers and spouses that cost $17,931 per hour for the aircraft alone. There were other things.
“Purchases include Johnnie Walker Red scotch, Grey Goose vodka, E&J brandy, Bailey’s Irish Cream, Maker’s Mark whiskey, Courvoisier cognac, Bacardi Light rum, Jim Beam whiskey, Beefeater gin, Dewar’s scotch, Bombay Sapphire gin, Jack Daniel’s whiskey, Corona beer and several bottles of wine,” Mr. Fitton noted.
WHAT THE PARTIES PINE FOR
“Looking ahead, most Republicans want to see their party move in a more conservative direction. Nearly 6-in-10 Republican and Republican-leaning registered voters (58 percent) say they want the GOP to move in a more conservative direction, compared with 38 percent who want it to move in a more moderate direction,” reports a new Pew Research Center poll.
“Among Democratic and Democratic-leaning registered voters, somewhat more say they want the Democratic Party to move in a more moderate (53 percent) than more liberal (40 percent) direction,” the poll said.
By the way, the research also found that a record-setting 54 percent of Americans now say that there is “a great deal of difference” between what the two political parties stand for. Consider that in 1994, that figure was 23 percent, according to Pew Research archives.
STUCK AT TWO MINUTES
At least it’s not one minute to midnight.
As it has for more than six decades, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists has made a yearly adjustment on the symbolic “Doomsday Clock,” which is meant to show how close humanity is to ultimate destruction. It’s now two minutes to the doomsday hour — just as it was in 2018.
“A new abnormal: It is still two minutes to midnight,” the scientists said, citing an increased used of “information warfare to undermine democracy” as an influence on their decision.
These back-to-back readings are the closest the timepiece had come to doomsday since 1953, when the U.S. and the Soviet Union were testing atomic weapons.
“Humanity faces two dire and simultaneous existential threats: nuclear weapons and climate change. The longer world leaders and citizens thoughtlessly inhabit this abnormal reality, the more likely it is that we will experience the unthinkable,” said former California Gov. Jerry Brown, who was named as executive chairman of the Bulletin last year.
The clock itself was created in 1947 and originally set at seven minutes to midnight. It retreated to 17 minutes to midnight in 1991 at the end of the Cold War — but has been creeping close to the apocalypse ever since. Mr. Brown suggests a “new Cold War” is underway.
WEEKEND REAL ESTATE
For sale: Merkaba, an ultra-modern home shaped like an eight-point star and built in 2003 on 85 acres near Tenino, Washington. Six bedrooms, five baths; “Guggenheim Museum meets spaceship” design includes formal living and dining rooms, home theater, copper-lined “focus room,” cathedral ceilings, three fireplaces; 8,462 square feet.
Cantilevered roofs, indoor and outdoor pools, courtyard, guest house and staff quarters, archery range, herb gardens, barn, mountain views. Priced at $11 million through Sothesbysrealty.com; find the home here
POLL DU JOUR
• 70 percent of Americans say the economy should be a “top priority” for President Trump and Congress this year; 79 percent of Republicans and 64 percent of Democrats agree.
• 67 percent say terrorism should be a top priority; 83 percent of Republicans and 53 percent of Democrats agree.
• 51 percent say immigration should be a top priority; 68 percent of Republicans and 40 percent of Democrats agree.
• 45 percent say the military should be a top priority; 65 percent of Republicans and 31 percent of Democrats agree.
• 44 percent say climate change should be a top priority; 21 percent of Republicans and 67 percent of Democrats agree.
Source: A Pew Research Center poll of 1,505 U.S. adults conducted Jan. 9-14 and released Thursday.
• Kindly follow Jennifer Harper on Twitter @HarperBulletin
Copyright © 2019 The Washington Times, LLC.