Leave No Secretary Behind?

Posted February 7, 2003 at 6:19pm

Leave No Secretary Behind? Democrats have been chuckling about a letter they received last week from Education Secretary Rod Paige that suggests the nation’s top educator may need to head back to school.

The man charged with implementing President Bush’s “No Child Left Behind” initiative might need a refresher course on grammar, based on the Feb. 4 letter that was sent to the House and Senate education committees.

Paige notified the panels that his department is delaying publication of the Federal Pell Grant payment schedules for the 2003-04 award year, but the reason for the deferral was hazy.

“I understand that uncertainty regarding the maximum Federal Pell Grant award amount,” wrote Paige.

Democrats were laughing about that miscue. “It looks like we can add the Department of Education secretary to the nearly 6 million children that are being left behind under this president’s woefully under-funded education budget,” said one senior Hill staffer.

Paige spokesman Dan Langan was none too pleased with the Democratic giggling.

“This is nothing more than petty, partisan sniping,” Langan angrily told HOH. “If there is an error, we’ll correct it. It’s unbelievable that any amount of space would be wasted on this.”

Ford Hammers DeLay. Rep. Harold Ford Jr. (D-Tenn.) scored pretty well with a funny routine as one of the speakers at the 59th Annual Congressional Dinner put on by the Washington Press Club Foundation.

“Tom DeLay [R-Texas] became House Majority Leader because of affirmative action — who’s kidding who?” Ford parried. “He became House Majority Leader because of a point system. He got 10 bonus points for taking a civility class. He would’ve gotten 10 more if he had passed. But what put him over the top was the 50 points he got for fumigating the Capitol building.”

Ford also set his sights on former House GOP Conference Chairman J.C. Watts (Okla.). “I was prepared to say complimentary things about the Congressional Republican Black Caucus, but he left.”

Noting that the “dozens of people who watch cable news” probably know him, Ford poked fun at himself by rattling off the scores of shows he appears on regularly.

“But I’m about to break through to prime-time network television on a new reality series, ‘Survivor, the Democratic Leadership Fight,’ ” he joked.

This part of the routine was particularly enjoyable for HOH, who was sitting one table over from House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), who easily beat Ford in that leadership “race” last year.

“You might remember that campaign,” Ford said. “I’m proud of it and I’m proud of my supporters. In fact, both of them rode over here with me tonight.”

Let’s just say that Pelosi wasn’t laughing hysterically, but there was a quiet smile on her face.

Is It McCain or Moskowitz? Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) also did well at the press dinner, noting that he was pleased to be performing for the Washington press corps.

“Or, as one of my advisers calls it, my base,” he joked.

McCain’s routine focused on a ruse about how his identity — as a straight-talking presidential candidate — had been stolen by the six Democrats seeking the White House. “I feel so violated,” he deadpanned.

He started by talking about Sen. Joe “Lightfingers” Lieberman (D-Conn.). “Lieberman has reportedly been seen at condos in South Florida brazenly declaring ‘Oy vey, am I not the John McCain in this race?’”

Then there’s Sen. John “57 Varieties” Kerry (D-Mass.). “Like me, John is a Vietnam veteran, tall, good looking and has a fine head of hair,” McCain said.

He then noted The Boston Globe article revealing that Kerry’s paternal grandparents were both Jewish. “He isn’t content to just lift my identify, but Joe Lieberman’s as well,” cracked McCain.

“I know this is a key Democratic constituency, but what chutzpah!” he said, adding, “By the way, did I mention that the name McCain was originally Moskowitz?”

As for Rep. Richard “Mugsy” Gephardt (D-Mo.), the notoriously temperamental McCain said, “Like me, he is nice, non-confrontational, laid back, slow to anger … why is everyone laughing?”

Top Secret. Since he’s a former CIA spook, it’s only appropriate that Rep. Rob Simmons’ (R-Conn.) birthday party on Tuesday night will be held at D.C.’s new Spy Museum.

Apparently in keeping with the agency’s tradition of secrecy, a Simmons aide refused to give HOH a quote about the party or any details about the event. Shhhh!

Also on Tuesday, the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States is getting an early start on the Presidents’ Day weekend by throwing a bash on Capitol Hill in honor of George Washington, who distilled whiskey at Mount Vernon.

The reception in the Rayburn House Office Building will feature a display of a rare letter written by the nation’s first president, as well as plenty of booze. But interns should know upfront that the invitation states that “all guests must be 21 or older.”

House Stork. Rep. Mike Ferguson (R-N.J.) and his wife, Maureen, welcomed a new baby into the world early Friday morning.

Rose Chiaviello Ferguson, the couple’s third child, weighed in at 8 pounds, 11 ounces and is 21 inches long.

On the Mend. Eager to show that he’s got the vim and vigor to run for president, Sen. Bob Graham (D-Fla.) was doing media interviews from his hospital bed last week at the Bethesda Naval Medical Center.

Graham is expected to be released from the hospital this week after his recent heart surgery. On the day that Secretary of State Colin Powell revealed evidence that Saddam Hussein is evading U.N. weapons inspectors, Graham beat up on the Bush administration for allegedly not paying enough attention to al Qaeda.

“I am outraged that four months have passed with little effort having been made to increase the security of our people,” he told the Sun-Sentinel of Fort Lauderdale.

Senate Majority Whip Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who was released from the same hospital on Friday a week after his own heart surgery, has been keeping a slighter lower profile as he now recuperates at his D.C. home.

“I am feeling great and am happy to be home,” McConnell said in a prepared statement. “I am touched by all the well wishes I have received from my friends in Kentucky and across the nation. I look forward to getting back to work soon.”

Men at Work. Stealing a page from Graham, Sen. Mark Dayton (D-Minn.) has instituted a new program — dubbed “Put Mark to Work for You” — in which the lawmaker will toil in average jobs.

Graham has worked as everything from a garbage man to a referee at this year’s Orange Bowl to connect with the voters back home. Dayton kicked off his program on Sunday by serving meals to constituents at a veterans’ facility and washing the dishes.

“I told him that if you don’t make it to Minnesota, you can come to my house and vacuum,” Debra DeShong, Dayton’s new spokeswoman, told HOH. “He declined.”

Since he made his millions as an heir to the Target retail fortune, maybe they have an opening as a cashier?

“That’s not really charity,” said DeShong. “Besides, I don’t think they need him right now. They’re doing great.”

When Nature Calls. When WWE’s “Monday Night Raw” came to D.C. last week, a bevy of Hill staffers flocked to the MCI Center to see wrestlers like “Nature Boy” at a reception before the show.

Brian Walsh, spokesman for House Administration Chairman Bob Ney (R-Ohio), was yukking it up with Rick Flair, otherwise known as “Nature Boy.”

“Next to The Rock, he’s easily one of the biggest Republicans I’ve ever met,” Walsh told HOH. “But with guys like that, you don’t talk politics — you just make sure you nod your head and agree a lot.”

Jonathan Grella, DeLay’s spokesman, was pressing the flesh with wrestlers like Bradshaw and Victoria. “We needed a distraction from Omnibus Mania ’03,” joked Grella, who noted there are many similarities between the “sports” of pro wrestling and lawmaking.

“They both involve good versus evil, eccentric and absurd personalities and meticulously staged drama,” he said.

And then there was Doug Heye, spokesman for House Resources Chairman Richard Pombo (R-Calif.), who knows a little something about meticulously staged drama. He’s most famous for belting out a rendition of “Danke Schoen” in front of Wayne Newton to cheer up a ballroom of weary Republican aides who had trekked down to Florida during the 2000 election recount.

Since at least some of his colleagues thought his singing needed some work in Florida, Heye didn’t belt out any tunes at the WWE event. “There were no requests unfortunately,” Heye said, though he had a blast anyway. “I’m a lifelong fan of Rick Flair, being from North Carolina and a Republican — which he is both.”