Sen. Joe Lieberman (D-Conn.) was spotted Monday lunching with AFL-CIO President John Sweeney in a quiet section of the Phoenix Park Hotel, becoming just the latest presidential candidate to court organized labor in advance of the 2004 race.
Lieberman and Sweeney, who were joined by several international union presidents, spent two hours chowing down (there was a choice of steak or salmon) and chewing over issues ranging from the economy to health care to retirement security.
While the labor bosses are expected to steer clear of endorsements — and Lieberman would be unlikely to get such a nod anyway given his New Democrat roots — both sides felt that the session went well.
While most candidates measure the drapes when they have designs on taking over the Oval Office, the Orthodox Jewish candidate is apparently eyeing the White House kitchen as he gears up for the presidential campaign.
New York Post gossip maven Cindy Adams reported Monday that the Senator’s wife, Hadassah Lieberman, has been telling friends that she would make the White House kitchen “Glatt kosher,” as in super kosher, if she gets the chance.
That means no pork or shellfish and the food would have to be examined by not one, but two, rabbis. In addition, there would be two kitchens, two dishwashers, and two sets of dishes (one for meat, one for dairy).
“That means two sets of your everyday cheapo stuff and two of the expensive state banquet jobs,” wrote Adams. “Plus a whole special set used only during Passover. All would extend to Air Force One and Camp David.”
Adams added that White House guests would not be able to “splash regular milk” into their after-dinner beverage. “It’ll be coffee with soy milk,” she added. “As in, soy vey.”
Lieberman presidential exploratory committee spokesman Jano Cabrera told HOH that he could not top the Adams quip.
“Trying to trump ‘soy vey’ is a fool’s errand,” he said. “My yarmulke is off to the quipsters at the Post.”
Butt Seriously. It felt like a night at the Improv when House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas) met with reporters for his first dugout session in his new leadership post.
DeLay had his staff lay out a pink tablecloth in his conference room with Valentine’s Day cookies and candy. And he arrived with a teddy bear wearing red boxer shorts (the bear, not DeLay, who was in a traditional suit) embroidered with “From the Bottom of My Heart.”
“I know that I have a reputation for hating the press, and that is not true,” DeLay began. “So I came in to wish you all a happy Valentine’s Day, and it says, ‘From the Bottom of My Heart.’ No buts about it.”
DeLay also took aim at French opposition to a potential war in Iraq by trotting out an old joke about the heroic efforts of America to help save France from the Nazis in World War II.
“Nothing to do with what I did, but in Houston I was at a celebration of India’s Independence Day, and a Frenchman came walking up to me and started talking to me about Iraq, and it was obvious we were not going to agree,” he said. “And I said, ‘Wait a minute. Do you speak German?’
“And he looked at me kind of funny and said, ‘No, I don’t speak German.’ And I said, ‘You’re welcome,’ turned around and walked off.”
GOP pollster Frank Luntz, who’s always feeding message ideas to Members, tried the same joke on HOH at a press dinner last week. And Sen. Norm Coleman (R-Minn.) used that old saw during an appearance on Fox News Channel on Tuesday morning.
Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), meanwhile, tried to stop himself — but just couldn’t — from insulting the French during a Monday night appearance on MSNBC’s “Hardball with Chris Matthews.”
“I don’t mean to try to be snide, but the Lord said the poor will always be with us,” said McCain. “The French will always be with us, too.”
When Matthews pointed out that the French helped during the American revolution and “fought amazingly, courageously” in World War I, McCain backtracked a bit.
“You know, that’s why I probably shouldn’t have made the remark that I just made before because the French have contributed enormously, and not only to our defense, but to our culture and I think we’re grateful for that.”
Snow Storm. The always-volatile House Ways and Means Chairman Bill Thomas (R-Calif.) has not exactly gotten off on the right foot with new Treasury Secretary John Snow.
At the GOP’s Greenbrier retreat over the weekend, Republican tongues were wagging about an incident involving Thomas, who has not quite gotten on board with President Bush’s $674 billion economic package.
When Thomas walked into a strategy session with members of Ways and Means and the Senate Finance panel and other lawmakers, he was less than pleased to find out that the order of speakers had been quietly changed without the chairman being notified.
Snow had been moved to the front of the line, allowing him to speak before members of the two tax-writing panels would be able to talk about the economy. Since the Treasury secretary had addressed the entire GOP Conference the night before, Thomas felt there was no reason to let Snow speak first.
With lawmakers feeling like there was about to be another legendary eruption of Mount Thomas, there was some quick maneuvering and the chairman got his way, with Snow’s comments being moved to the end of the presentation. “It’s not some raging, problematic thing,” insisted one person familiar with the incident.
It’s still unclear whether Thomas will push hard for the president’s program. “Thomas has not said he’s not not in favor of the president’s plan,” said one close observer.
Not exactly a ringing endorsement.
Divine Intervention. Who knew that it took “God-sized strength” to serve on the House Rules Committee?
At least that’s the claim made in an invitation to a lunch today with Rep. Sue Myrick (R-N.C.) that’s being hosted in the Cannon Caucus Room by the Center for Christian Statesmanship.
“It wasn’t arrogance or pride that drove Sue Myrick to run a small business, serve as Mayor of Charlotte, N.C., or even run for Congress,” said the invite. “It was, and is, a simple, yet strong faith in Jesus Christ and His ability to equip her for anything.
“Truly, Representative Myrick needs God-sized strength as a member of the powerful Rules Committee. … Representative Myrick fights spiritual battles too as she helps others learn how to rely on Christ. With Christ, you can be a doer too!”
Myrick has been hammered recently for what seemed like a less than charitable statement by referring to Arab-Americans and then saying, “Look who runs all the convenience stores across the country.”
A Myrick aide provided HOH with a prepared statement from the Congresswoman, who says her comment was an effort to remind people about the threat of terrorism. She was specifically referring to a recent federal probe “regarding the illegal trafficking of food stamps through convenience stores for the purpose of laundering money to countries known to harbor terrorists.”
Homeland Harman. Rep. Jane Harman (D-Calif.), the new vice chairwoman of the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, didn’t exactly help calm the nerves of Americans jittery about the threat of more terrorist attacks.
Appearing on CNN on Tuesday morning, Harman revealed that she has advised her daughter to avoid the New York City subway system. The Congresswoman’s comments came on the same day that the New York Post reported that the city’s police force had been alerted to the potential of chemical attacks underground.
“Just like any parent, she’s worried about all of her kids,” Harman spokeswoman Corey Brown told HOH. “Her comments were not based on any intelligence she’s received. Instead she’s a worried mom concerned about soft targets, which include subways.”
But doesn’t the vice chairwoman’s advice to her own family contradict the counsel of federal and state officials urging everyone to go about their everyday lives? “She’s a concerned mom,” reiterated Brown.
Follow the Leader. Despite his new responsibilities, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) is still trying to put family before politics whenever possible.
While the rest of the GOP leadership had already headed to West Virginia for the Republican retreat, Frist was spotted on Thursday night at the MCI Center taking in the George Strait concert with his son Jonathan.
Frist was sitting close to the stage for the show by Strait, who recently set a country music record by reeling off his 50th No. 1 hit.
Love Is In the Air. In advance of Valentine’s Day, Senate Minority Leader Thomas Daschle (D-S.D.) and House Energy and Commerce Chairman Billy Tauzin (R-La.) will be revealing some of their romantic secrets tonight.
The lawmakers and their wives — along with journalists Steve and Cokie Roberts — will be honored by the Master Chorale of Washington at a black-tie benefit at the Four Seasons.
The three couples will be honored for having marriages that symbolize the “joy of true love,” according to organizers. They will also deliver speeches revealing how they met and fell in love, as well as show off wedding photos and discuss their lives together.
In a teaser sent out of by organizers, Cokie spoke of meeting her future husband at a student political conference at Ohio State University in 1962. “It was a brief flirtation though, because we went back to school and Steve never called,” she said. “Typical guy!”
Linda Daschle, meanwhile, spoke of working in the aviation industry and receiving a call from a South Dakota Congressman who wanted her to speak at a town hall meeting on airline deregulation. The future Senator, however, nearly messed things up.
“One of my clearest memories of that meeting is that I arrived early and he got there late — something I’ve never known him to do since,” she said, adding that about a week later, “I got a very nice handwritten ‘thank you note’ from the Congressman.”
The couple was married three years later and she now has nearly a thousand notes to go along with the first one.
“One reason I write Linda so many notes is because I am always discovering new reasons to be thankful that she was willing to marry me and to stay with me all these years,” explained the Senator. “Another reason, I have to confess, is that I’m a frustrated author and I am never quite satisfied that my words express my feelings.”
Tauzin, meanwhile, gets downright sappy when talking about how he met Cecile in 1988. “Some people, believe it or not, have called me competitive,” he said. “Well, as Shakespeare wrote in Julius Caesar, ‘If it were so, it was a grievous fault and grievously hath [he] answered it.’”
After losing the 1987 Louisiana governor’s race, he was stuck with $2 million and says he was “broken” in spirit. Cecile helped him retire the debt with a D.C. fundraiser.
“Several years later when I found myself single and convinced that no one could ever love me again, I looked around and there she was again — this beautiful Cajun girl,” said Tauzin, who married her in 1993.
“She has made me a better husband than I have ever been and, in the words of Jack Nicholson, she constantly makes me want to be a better man,” he added.
Tauzin spokesman Ken Johnson told HOH that he proofread the heartfelt comments the Congressman wrote. “I was with him on Shakespeare,” he said. “But he lost me on Jack Nicholson.
“Seriously though, he’s still acting like a teenager in love.”
Sara Faiwell contributed to this report.