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Heard on the Hill: He Said What?

Former Rhode Island Sen. Lincoln Chafee is known for being a friendly, mild-mannered guy. But the Republican-turned-Independent’s good nature isn’t because he lacks the tough-talk ammo, as he proved Tuesday while promoting his latest book, “Against the Tide: How a Compliant Congress Empowered a Reckless President,” at the New America Foundation.

Chafee (a supporter of Democratic presidential nominee Sen. Barack Obama) was discussing how GOP vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin’s speech at the recent Republican National Convention energized the party’s base. While he said it was impressive, Chafee thinks the Alaska governor also energized the left, as Democrats were outraged “to see this cocky wacko up there.”

Chafee’s comment drew gasps from the audience, who apparently were not expecting to hear such relatively feisty language from the normally genteel former Senator. It even shocked event moderator Steve Clemons, who responded, “Did you just say, ‘cocky wacko?’”

Chafee just smiled.

Although he lost his re-election bid nearly two years ago, Chafee remains a popular figure in Rhode Island. He quietly left the Republican party in 2007, doing so with little fanfare by filling out a form at a local government office.

But making the switch was a bit dramatic, Chafee recalled, as the government worker in charge of receiving the form recognized him.

“The woman said, ‘You can’t change. You can’t leave the Republican party,” Chafee said. “She wouldn’t let me sign the paper.”

It’s All Greek to Them. Remember the backdrop of faux columns for Sen. Barack Obama’s (D-Ill.) big nomination acceptance speech at Denver’s Invesco Field at Mile High that Republicans so gleefully mocked? HOH detects shades of the much-derided stage scenery in the newly renovated Senate Radio-TV Press Gallery.

The podium from which many Senators hold press conferences and media availabilities got a much-needed makeover during the August recess, and Senators this week got their first taste of the new digs.

Where a cheap navy-blue curtain once provided the backdrop, now impressive-looking wood paneling lines the wall. New plush carpeting, a matching paneled podium, a large Senate seal and tall American flags complete the made-for-TV set.

But it’s the columns flanking the podium platform we noticed first.

Et tu, Senators?

Phone Sex? Wrong Number. Charlie Summers, who’s running for the seat now held by Rep. Tom Allen (D-Maine), is getting more attention from his connection to a telephone sex line than he is for his policy platforms. Summers, whose campaign office phone number was mixed up with that of a phone-sex service in a local phonebook, told HOH that the snafu — which local press pounced on — is proving to him the truth behind the old adage that any press is good press.

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