Sweet Column: Voting Rights Act deal today Plus Madeleine Albright on working out, Hillary, religion in foreign policy; Pelosi/Duckworth; Obama on Conan.

SHARE Sweet Column: Voting Rights Act deal today Plus Madeleine Albright on working out, Hillary, religion in foreign policy; Pelosi/Duckworth; Obama on Conan.
SHARE Sweet Column: Voting Rights Act deal today Plus Madeleine Albright on working out, Hillary, religion in foreign policy; Pelosi/Duckworth; Obama on Conan.

A string of items…..Extension of the Voting Rights Act to be announced today….plus… Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.), House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) and more….

from today’s column…

Fifty pounds lighter, former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright talked about her workout routine on Tuesday morning.

I was at a Christian Science Monitor reporters’ breakfast with Albright, who is plugging her new book, The Mighty and the Almighty: Reflections on America, God, and World Affairs.

We got on the exercise tangent because she told the New York Times Magazine that she could leg press 400 pounds.

“I got a little nervous after I had said it. I got off the red eye and went to my place and said, ‘OK, Margo [Carper, her personal trainer], we have to do this.”’

And she did. “Yes, I do leg press 400 pounds,” said Albright. “To what end, I don’t know. I could make a vulgar comment.”

She said she lost 50 pounds over the last year through exercise and diet.

Cranberry juice

Her routine is weights, aerobic stuff and work on the big ball. A rotator cuff injury means she is not doing much upper body work. “I have a very good trainer. It is so much fun.”

Her diet included a lot of cranberry juice and black seed, she said. “When you don’t eat, it’s all the same. There is no diet,” she said.

On a more serious note: The first female secretary of state, Albright said the country is ready for a woman president and chatted up pal Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton. “Of course I’d support her. I definitely believe this country is ready for a woman president, not just any old woman. Hillary is a truly incredible person who’s so smart, so focused.”

Albright is taking a new look at the role of religion in foreign policy in her latest book. “I have not turned into a religious mystic. Whereas before we used to talk about the fact [that], ‘This is complicated enough, let’s not bring God and religion into it,’ I now fully believe that we have to.”

*House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) and Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) will be among the speakers this afternoon to announce a deal on extending key portions of the 1965 Voting Rights Act for 25 years.

The issue has been a priority of the Rev. Jesse Jackson and his son, Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. (D-Ill.).

In a time of political polarity in Congress, this event brings rare comity because it is bipartisan and bicameral — involving the House and the Senate.

*House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) told me that Democratic House candidate Tammy Duckworth was a hit at a fund-raiser thrown for her at the home of one of Pelosi’s San Francisco neighbors. Pelosi said Duckworth, running in the west suburban 6th District, was so impressive it was hard to get people to leave. Duckworth was on a fund-raising swing in California and was flying back to Illinois on Monday. Accompanying her was her finance chairman, Bill Brandt.

*Obama guests on Late Night with Conan O’Brien on May 12. O’Brien is hosting his show that week at the Chicago Theatre.

Stephen Colbert’s comments at Saturday’s White House correspondents dinner –and the media coverage that did and did not follow — triggered a debate at my blog, blogs.suntimes.com/sweet.

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