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Heard on the Hill: Palin Splits Female Caucus

The women of the Senate might enjoy sisterly solidarity on a variety of topics, but there’s one subject on which they diverge: former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin.

Four female Senators shared their experiences during a Wednesday panel discussion, and the lightning rod of a former GOP vice presidential candidate was one of the few topics on which the bipartisan group differed.

Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas) opined during a session sponsored by the U.S. Capitol Historical Society that she thought Palin and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton got relatively fair treatment compared to their male counterparts during the 2008 presidential campaign.

But Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) had a totally different take. “I really disagree,” she said vehemently. She noted that Palin was frequently asked who would take care of her children and recalled the scrutiny that Clinton endured when she teared up during the New Hampshire primary. “I can’t think of that happening to a male candidate,” she said.

And Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) said Palin simply fell short of the “toughness test” that female candidates have to meet to get taken seriously. “She showed a lack of experience, knowledge, and a limited world view,” she said, adding that her “attractive female package” overshadowed her shortcomings.

Feinstein clearly doesn’t approve of Palin’s decision to leave the governorship before her term was up. “And now she’s done what I think we should never do. ... It’s important that we show the drive and stamina,” Feinstein said, especially since the women agreed that female politicians are held to a higher standard.

One thing the women do agree about, though, is that living the multitasking life of a mother/Senator/wife leaves little time for extracurricular activities ... like affairs.

“For one thing, I don’t have the time,” Hutchison laughed when asked why the recent spate of philandering pols hasn’t included any women. She said she’s so busy that she wouldn’t have time for everything else “while you’re getting your flight to South America,” a dig at South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford (R), who had a high-profile dalliance with an Argentinian mistress.

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) agreed. “I’m changing diapers and getting dinner on the table. ... It’s just not a reality,” she said.

Gonna Be Your Man in Motion. The classic 1980s flick “St. Elmo’s Fire” is not only considered among the great coming-of-age films of the decade, it’s also one of the most famous movies ever set in Washington. But here’s a little factoid you might not know: Sen. Arlen Specter (D-Pa.) helped inspire it.

“St. Elmo’s” screenwriter Carl Kurlander appeared at the Capitol Visitor Center on Tuesday evening to screen his documentary, “My Tale of Two Cities.” An HOH spy in attendance says Kurlander also talked about writing “St. Elmo’s Fire,” the Demi Moore-Emilio Estevez-Rob Lowe headlined film following the lives of a group of recent college grads as they try to find themselves in Washington.

According to Kurlander, he decided to set the flick in the nation’s capital in part because a girl he had fallen in love with came to Washington to work as a staffer for Specter.

Who knew, right? Not Specter, according a spokeswoman.

“What great news to learn that Sen. Specter played a role — albeit a tangential one — in inspiring the screenplay,” spokeswoman Kate Kelly tells HOH. “The Senator bears no responsibility, however, for Rob Lowe’s haircut in the movie.”

Softball Questions. Game on! The lineup for the Congressional Women’s Softball Game in June is starting to shape up. Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) have just signed on as Senate co-captains. The Senatorial duo joins Reps. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.) and Jo Ann Emerson (R-Mo.), the House captains, for the June 16 game that Wasserman Schultz founded last year to raise money for the fight against breast cancer. The Florida Democrat is a breast cancer survivor — and a not-too-shabby softball player (although her game was hampered when she broke her leg during last year’s matchup).

The game will pit Members of Congress and their staffs against staffers of the campaign committees of both parties, and the proceeds will go to the Young Survival Coalition. Team Congress is already starting to practice for the big dance, HOH hears.

A Gillibrand spokeswoman said her boss is casting a wide net, looking for ringers to beef up the all-Congress team. “She’s talking to all her female colleagues — she’s recruiting everybody,” the spokeswoman says.

Pastor Plays Promoter. We’re not sure whether Rep. Ed Pastor has any thoughts on the classic rivalry between Andre the Giant and Hulk Hogan, but we do know this: The Arizona Democrat is excited to welcome the current giants of the squared circle to his district this weekend.

Pastor took to the House floor on Tuesday to spotlight World Wrestling Entertainment’s annual Super Bowl-esque extravaganza, WrestleMania, which takes place Sunday in Glendale, Ariz. And while we expect the 70,000 or so WWE fans expected to pile into the Glendale-Phoenix region this weekend are pumped for some flashy in-ring maneuvers, plenty of smack talk and maybe even a few cheap shots with a steel chair, Pastor said WrestleMania is a win for the area — the pay-per-view typically brings in $50 million in revenue for local communities.

“We welcome WrestleMania, the WWE, and their fans because they will experience the culture of our city, the great weather, and have the opportunity to patronize our wonderful businesses,” Pastor said.

“WrestleMania is truly a family-friendly event that creates an atmosphere where families from around the world can join together to celebrate their love for WWE and their favorite superstars,” Pastor added.

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