French Connection

Posted March 12, 2003 at 6:39pm

While House Administration Chairman Bob Ney (R-Ohio) has instituted “Freedom Fries” in the cafeterias to express his displeasure with a certain country, it turns out that the lawmaker’s own French roots are pretty deep.

A House Democratic aide decided to do a little Internet research into the lawmaker’s family tree and e-mailed to HOH that the Ney stunt of changing the name of french fries really “dishonors his family heritage.”

The digging turned up the fact that Marshal Ney was one of the best generals for Napoleon at Waterloo. Napoleon conferred the title of “Le Brave des Braves” upon Ney, who led the attack on the British and only stopped at nightfall after five horses had been killed beneath him.

In addition, there is apparently a Boulevard Ney in the 18th district of Paris which features a statue of the Congressman’s kin.

“He’s familiar with him,” Ney spokesman Brian Walsh told HOH. “He’s very proud of his French heritage. He’s made it clear that his displeasure lies with the French government and not their people or their culture.”

With Democrats slamming Ney for allegedly wasting time on the french fries deal while the nation is dealing with the serious business of a potential war, Walsh couldn’t help but note that some of his colleagues seem to have a little time on their hands.

“They seem to be doing a lot of research on it,” he said. “I don’t know — what’s French for hypocrisy?”

Another Democratic aide, meanwhile, claims that some House cafeteria workers were overheard complaining about how they had to remove pro-peace buttons from their clothes the very morning of Ney’s press conference.

“They were not supposed to take sides,” said the staffer. “So if you’re in favor of the war, you get to take sides. But if you’re against the war, you can’t take sides.”

Walsh said Guest Services Inc., not the House panel, oversees the restaurants. “I can’t speak to what their policies are,” he said.

Meanwhile, Rep. Ginny Brown-Waite (R-Fla.) has now introduced rather gruesome legislation that would allow family members of those Americans who fought and died in wars in France and Belgium to have their remains dug up and returned to the United States.

Where will it end: No more French kissing?

Bathroom Break. When former House Majority Leader Dick Armey (Texas) dropped by a GOP leadership meeting on Tuesday, Speaker Dennis Hastert (Ill.) revealed that he had finally come up with an appropriate way to honor his old colleague’s service to the nation.

“Dick, we just named a room after you,” Hastert said in reference to room H-236 of the Capitol.

Armey did not appear to immediately catch on to the fact that there’s a men’s room in that particular area of Hastert’s suites. But Armey broke into laughter as Hastert added a little bit of detail that gave it away.

“Spend as much time in there as you want,” Hastert said as laughter spread in the private meeting. “Bring all the reading material you like.”

Armey’s successor, House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas), left the table later and disappeared. When he returned, several people looked up, as if “The Hammer” had been away for too long.

“Sorry,” DeLay quipped, “I had to go visit the Armey Room.”

Hoyer’s Dolls. There was an awkward moment or two when the rock band Goo Goo Dolls played at a fundraiser for House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) on Tuesday night.

A good time was had by all during the concert at the 9:30 Club, even though this is not the kind of band you’d normally see at a Washington fundraiser.

The wacky moments came when one of the band members noticed a sign in the audience that said, “Goo Goo Dolls Fans For Peace.” One singer said he was proud to be with so many Democrats who were against a war in Iraq.

Attendees, however, couldn’t help but notice that there was one little problem. “Hoyer’s our biggest war hawk,” one Democrat noted of the leadership team.

Lloyd vs. Imus. Columnist Lloyd Grove is firing back at shock jock Don Imus, who told his national radio audience that the Washington Post’s “Reliable Source” gossip column is usually pretty weak.

Grove told HOH on Wednesday that Imus is a “grumpy old man” who needs to get his facts straight about the Post column.

On Wednesday’s show, Imus called Grove a “likeable loser” and a “weasel” who writes a “dopey” column four times a week. He added that Grove is a “butt-boy” for Democrats like former President Bill Clinton and Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (N.Y.).

“That’s his fair comment,” Grove told HOH on Wednesday. “But I doubt that if you canvassed various Democrats, including Bill Clinton and Hillary Clinton, they would agree with that assessment.”

Imus went on to say the New York Post’s “Page Six” gossip sheet blows Grove’s column away. The I-Man noted that he uses just about every “Page Six” item on his show, while the radio yakker finds only about one Grove item a year newsworthy.

“They would know better than I because I have no knowledge of what’s on the Imus show day to day,” shot back Grove. “I’m listening to Howard Stern.”

Imus also poked fun at the fact that Grove’s column is going to be syndicated nationally, though not by the Washington Post Writers Group. “Syndicated to who?” Imus sneered.

“That’s a fair question,” Grove told HOH. “I’m waiting with baited breath for an answer.”

Grove noted that he is unaware of any newspapers picking up his column for syndication just yet. “I haven’t heard of any [buying it] and anything Roll Call and you can do to goose it would be appreciated.”

Irish Eyes Aren’t Smiling. There may be some tense moments today when Hastert hosts the Speaker’s annual St. Patrick’s Day luncheon with President Bush and Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern in the Capitol.

Democrats note that while Hastert has helped lead the fight to make sure that the International Fund for Ireland got about $25 million a year in recent times, Bush’s new budget is going to cut the funding down to about $8 million per year.

But Hastert spokesman John Feehery, who has become actively involved in the Irish peace process and spent a recent Congressional recess there on an official trip, said the budget cut reflects the fact that unemployment is way down in Northern Ireland.

“That reflects that things are going pretty well over there,” Feehery said, adding that the European Union has also cut back on its contribution to the IFI to reflect the brightening situation.

“The fact that the president will be there [at the lunch] and that they have continued to be actively engaged in the peace process shows there’s still a commitment” from the administration, he said.

Home Improvement. It’s only natural that Kent Knutson, a top lobbyist at Home Depot, has a new addition to his house.

And just like the others at Home Depot, Knutson and his wife, Karen, took care of this project on their own. But this “project” came wrapped in a little blue blanket, because the addition is of the human variety: They’re the proud new parents of Matthew Oliver Knutson.

“Unfortunately nothing at Home Depot can help me fix the leaks we’re dealing with now — leaky diapers,” said the proud Dad, a former Congressional GOP aide who is vice president of government relations for the home-improvement giant. “I’ve considered duct tape, but Karen didn’t like that idea.”

Karen is an aide to Vice President Cheney on energy and environment issues.

In keeping with the Home Depot theme, here are the measurements: The baby weighed in at 8 pounds, 3 ounces and measured 21 inches long.

Call Anytime. After toiling for nearly two years as a press aide to Office of Management and Budget Director Mitch Daniels, veteran Senate aide Amy Call has returned to Capitol Hill.

Call, who worked for six-plus years for then-Senate Budget Chairman Pete Domenici (R-N.M.), will still draw a paycheck from OMB, but is now the department’s top Senate lobbyist.

“It is good to be home and see so many familiar faces,” Call said.