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Inside the Beltway: The strategic revels of the OSS Society

There are clear clues when an OSS Society dinner is under way, as was the case on Saturday evening. Each guest received a complimentary crystal martini glass, and the official libation of the night was the “Fighting 69th Regimental Cocktail” — named for a U.S. Army unit which traces its heritage back to 1849. The drink consists of one part Irish whiskey and three parts chilled champagne.

Hundreds of celebrants gathered in a glittering hotel not far from the White House, with tuxedoes and immaculate mess dress uniforms much in evidence.

The convivial crowd was assembled in the name of “OSS” — the Office of Strategic Services, the agency brought into being during World War II by Army Maj. Gen. William “Wild Bill” Donovan and considered the predecessor of both CIA and the U.S. Special Operations Command.

This is unique annual gathering which boasts old-school decorum and class, drawing an astonishing cross-section of those who serve in the Intelligence Community along with military brass, former clandestine and special ops folks and power players from a prism of callings.

“This is the best-kept secret in Washington in terms of parties. It’s our opportunity here to honor the memories of OSS personnel of the past, and those who carry on,” retired Army Major General and master of ceremonies Victor J. Hugo Jr. tells Inside the Beltway.

Ceremonial toasts were offered to America, President Trump, those currently in the field, absent and missing comrades, plus special recognition for Donovan — the “intrepid spymaster” — a salute which came from former CIA Director David Petraeus.

“History matters. We stand on the shoulders of those who came before us,” fellow former CIA head George Tenet said in his toast to the OSS itself.

Four original OSS officers who had conducted operations over seven decades ago were in the audience, attendees dined upon seared scallops, beef tenderloin and passion fruit savarin, all recipes developed by Julia Child, who had served in the OSS before cooking her way to worldwide fame.

There is a unique intensity about this event. It can last up to four hours — a huge amount of time in the nation’s capital, where influential people can sway a gathering with a two-minute appearance. Charles T. Pinck, son of an OSS officer and president of the nonprofit OSS Society, offered a promising update about funding for the future National Museum of Intelligence and Special Operations. It has just received a multimillion donation to ensure its future, a revelation which prompted considerable applause.

The evening ended with the presentation of the William J. Donovan Award to CIA Director Gina Haspel, whose acceptance speech was punctuated by several standing ovations — and moments of hushed, close attention.

EPIC: 100,000 TEXAS TRUMP FANS

President Trump journeys to Houston on Monday for a yet another “Make America Great Again” rally in a local arena that can accommodate 18,000 Texas fans.

The fans are many.

The Houston Police Department will be “fully mobilized” for the downtown rally, reports the Houston Chronicle, which also notes that by early Friday, 77,854 people had signed up to attend the big doings.

That number has since topped 100,000, prompting the Trump campaign to organize an “Big Texas Tailgater” event to accommodate the huge overflow crowd — complete with food trucks, live music from two bands and jumbotron-style screens.

“The excitement at this Trump rally will be as big as Texas — it’s going to be epic,” predicts Michael Glassner, CEO of the Trump campaign.

Mr. Trump will be joined on stage by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and Sen. Ted Cruz, currently facing a re-election challenge from Rep. Beto O’Rourke, a Democrat with considerable support from the mainstream media. Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo advises that his department following “unconfirmed reports” of a planned rally for Mr. O’Rourke that could draw thousands more people.

“We will have many, many officers out and about. We will have officers on the high ground, low ground, in the air. We will have officers in plainclothes, we will have undercover officers, we will have react teams,” said Mr. Acevedo, noting that streets around the arena will be closed off in the predawn hours.

This is Mr. Trump’s sixth visit to Texas. Three more rallies follow this week in Wisconsin, North Carolina and Illinois.

CRANKY VOTERS HAVE SOMETHING IN COMMON

A new NBC News/Wall Street Journal finds that 80 percent of registered voters — including 85 percent of Democrats and 73 percent of Republicans — say that the United States is now “divided.”

A mere 18 percent say the nation is “united,” a sad finding when so many onlookers worldwide look to America to set an example as a “united” United States.

Meanwhile, the drivers for all this discord are virtually the same on both sides of the aisle.

“When those who answered ‘divided’ were asked to describe in a few words what is most responsible for the division, top Republican responses were ‘Barack Obama,’ ‘Democrats’ and ‘the media.’”

And of course, the top responses among Democrats were “Donald Trump,” “The Republican Party” and “the media.”

MEANWHILE IN THE GOLDEN STATE

The three-day California Cannabis Business Conference begins Monday in Anaheim, promising to help some 3,000 “cannabis business leaders” learn the fine art of “navigating the world’s largest adult-use market.” This event will be staged in a 60,000-square-foot venue and feature 100 speakers, including Republican Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, Democratic Rep. Lou Correa — plus singer Melissa Etheridge, whoplans to discuss “mainstreaming cannabis through culture,” organizers say.

The event has been organized by the National Cannabis Industry Association and billed as “the first event of its kind.”

As has been noted before in the Beltway column, such fare would have amazed the ancient hippies of yore. But that is what is out there.

POLL DU JOUR

90 percent of registered U.S. voters plan to vote in the midterm elections.

48 percent plan to vote on Nov. 6.

18 percent will vote by mail or absentee ballot.

12 percent will vote “in person” before Election Day.

11 percent have already voted; 10 percent do not plan to vote.

Source: A Hill.TV/HarrisX American Barometer poll of 1,000 registered U.S. voters conducted Oct. 13-14.

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