Left-Wing ‘West Wing’?

Posted January 28, 2003 at 6:41pm

Republican eyebrows were raised last week when an e-mail promoting the fact that NBC’s “The West Wing” was in the D.C. area shooting scenes for next season seemed to confirm suspicions that the show has a clear liberal bias.

Kathryn Seck, an official at Campaign for America’s Wilderness, sent out an e-mail urging her friends to don black ties and head to Baltimore for a scene about an inaugural ball.

“A friend of mine at the [Democratic National Committee] is trying to get some extras organized for the filming of the inauguration for the only true president, Josiah Bartlett, for the TV show West Wing,” wrote Seck. “I know it is short notice and would require taking time off work, but the DNC came up short of the target number of extras they were trying to recruit.”

She closed the e-mail with a cyber-smile and the tag line, “Only Democrats allowed.”

Just as basketball superstar Michael Jordan once declined to endorse a Democratic Senate candidate because he said that Republicans buy Nike sneakers too, officials at the “The West Wing” like to skirt the issue of whether the show is slanted.

That’s why Republicans around town were annoyed to hear that the DNC was recruiting extras for the program, as well as the fact that activists like Seck at supposedly independent organizations are still openly questioning the legitimacy of the real president, George W. Bush.

“It just goes to show that bipartisanship does not extend to the Hollywood version of ‘The West Wing,’” said one Republican. “Apparently, Republicans need not apply. Perhaps Republicans need no longer watch the show, too.”

Mindy Tucker, spokeswoman at the Republican National Committee, told HOH that she was unaware of a request for help to her organization. And she was amused by the e-mail’s mention that the DNC “came up short” on extras. “It sounds like their fundraising, their message, their redistricting, their election,” she cracked.

DNC spokesman Gullermo Meneses downplayed the controversy by saying the scene called for Bartlett to thank Democrats. “They wanted real live DNC folks,” he said. “Breaking news: President Bartlett is a Democrat.”

Seck contradicted that, however, by insisting to HOH that she was kidding when she told friends that only Democrats were wanted on the set. “That was just a joke,” she said. “That was not [the show’s] requirement or anything.”

On its Web site, the Campaign for America’s Wilderness suggests that it is a nonpartisan group “singularly focused on ensuring that America’s last wild lands have a fair chance to be considered for permanent wilderness protection.”

Seck, who used her official e-mail account in the note, stressed that her missive “has nothing to do with my group. It was just sent to friends.”

Officials for the NBC show did not return calls seeking comment.

Frist Things First. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist’s (R-Tenn.) crack staff has gotten to the bottom of why one of his first press releases as leader twice misspelled his name as “First.”

The new computers in Frist’s leadership office have a spell-check program that identifies “frist” as a boo-boo and automatically changes it to “first.”

HOH can now reveal that the computers have been reprogrammed so that F-R-I-S-T is recognized as a properly spelled proper noun. But all is still not well.

“Now I have problems spelling ‘first,’” cracked Bob Stevenson, Frist’s communications director. “Every time my fingers go to ‘first,’ it comes out ‘Frist.’”

Yo-Yo Says No-No. Acclaimed cellist Yo-Yo Ma, who turned in a magnificent performance Monday night at the Kennedy Center, thinks his fellow artists and celebrities should butt out of the debate over a potential war in Iraq.

Just an hour before the show, Ma briefly attended a reception thrown for new Members of Congress and rubbed elbows with the likes of Sen. Jim Jeffords (I-Vt.), Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Dick Lugar (R-Ind.) and former Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.). (The evening was sponsored by Roll Call, Diageo, Principal Financial Group and Qwest.)

In a brief interview, Ma said he has no interest in joining the more than 100 celebrities — including actress Janeane Garofalo — who have signed an anti-war petition. The cellist said he thinks artists should stick to issues in their own bailiwick.

“I think we should leave [the war] to the politicians,” he said.

When pressed on whether he is rooting for any of the Democratic presidential contenders, Ma stressed that he is an independent. After all, he appreciates support from people on both sides of the aisle for his Silk Road Project, which uses music to help foster the flow of ideas between different cultures.

Ma joked that it’s not easy being independent, since he hails from Cambridge, Mass., which he called the “People’s Republic Of.”

It’s Not Easy Being Green. John Hishta, former executive director of the National Republican Congressional Committee, has landed a high-priced gig on K Street.

Hishta is the new senior vice president of legislative affairs for ACS, the Dallas-based provider of business process and information technology outsourcing solutions.

It just so happens that Hishta’s former boss, former NRCC Chairman Tom Davis (Va.), has been crowned the new chairman of the House Government Reform Committee. The panel oversees the federal government, which is a major customer of business process and IT outsourcing solutions.

Another top Republican strategist, Ron Bonjean, found a much-needed soft landing after handling the tough job of serving as spokesman for ex-Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott (R-Miss.). (The Dixiecrat controversy could not have made for a happy holiday season.)

Bonjean has been named director of public affairs for Commerce Secretary Don Evans, one of the president’s closest pals. The savvy communicator will play a key role in trying to help Evans sell Bush’s tax cut on Capitol Hill and to the media.

And after eight years on the Hill, Brenna Hapes is the new communications director at Citizens for a Sound Economy. Hapes, who most recently served as spokeswoman at the House Budget Committee, will be reunited with her previous boss. Ex-House Majority Leader Dick Armey (R-Texas) recently joined CSE as co-chairman.

Meanwhile, the International Dairy Foods Association has promoted Connie Tipton to executive vice president. She is particularly popular among lawmakers and Congressional staffers because of her invention of the annual Capitol Hill Ice Cream Party.

The organization announced that she will succeed her husband, Tip Tipton, as president and CEO of the organization when he retires next January.

“Tip and I met working together when I joined the organization in 1981, and decided to make it an around-the-clock commitment when we married in 1983,” said Connie Tipton.

Keep Hope Alive. In what could be bad news for the Democratic presidential campaign of former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean, Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) is still keeping the door ajar to a possible White House bid.

“I’m getting a lot of encouragement from people around the country who are very concerned that this country is taking on a unilateral position, talking about pre-emptive strikes, nuclear war,” Kucinich said Monday on CNN’s “Wolf Blitzer Reports” program.

“People in the United States want to see America defend itself, but they don’t want to see a country which is bent on being some kind of global policeman.”

While he would be the longest of the long shots, Kucinich is a heartthrob among some liberal activists for being one of the most outspoken critics of the likely war in the Persian Gulf. That could wreak havoc on the niche carved out by Dean, who has picked up steam at the grassroots level by currently being the only big-name Democrat in the race who says he would have opposed the Congressional resolution authorizing the use of force in Iraq.

When pressed for a timetable on his decision, Kucinich said, “Stay tuned.”