Levin’s Homeland Insecurity

Posted March 14, 2003 at 6:01pm

It turns out that the office of Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.), who has been a sharp critic of the Bush administration’s handling of terrorism issues, gave out the pass that allowed two people to make it into the Capitol and spark a major bomb scare.

Capitol Police spokeswoman Jessica Gissubel confirmed to HOH that Levin’s office gave Senate gallery passes to Olabayo Olaniyi and Reena Patel, who entered the Capitol on March 6 with several objects strapped to their bodies with duct tape.

“From what we understand, they did obtain those passes from that office,” Gissubel said when asked about the office of Levin, who is ranking member of the Armed Services Committee. “They did have Senate gallery passes. That is why they entered through the north side of the Capitol.”

Capitol Police officers feared the duo might be suicide bombers and quickly shut down the Crypt area after Olaniyi and Patel got past the metal detectors and were spotted chanting and dancing in odd costumes.

It turned out that Olaniyi had strapped empty glass jars and gobs of newspaper — which were harmless — to himself. But he and Patel were arrested and charged with interstate transportation of an explosive device. That charge can be used in a bomb hoax case.

Olaniyi and Patel hail from Michigan, which is why they went to Levin’s office for the passes. “In order to obtain a gallery pass you have to go to your Member’s office,” noted Gissubel.

While it’s relatively easy for constituents to obtain gallery passes, it’s unclear whether proper procedure was followed in this case. “That is something that would be part of an investigation,” she said.

Levin has been critical of the Bush administration’s handling of the Iraq situation, suggesting that it could spark more terrorism. “We shouldn’t be treating the U.N. as an obstacle, but as an opportunity to rally the world against terrorist threats and not take unilateral actions which could fuel the terrorist response against the United States,” he said recently.

Levin’s office declined to comment on the case in the Capitol by telling HOH that “because that’s an ongoing investigation we’ve been told to refer inquiries to the Capitol Police.”

Congressional Boy Genius. It didn’t take Rep. John Shadegg (R-Ariz.) long to tout the fact that he is one of 150 key people in the Rolodex of top White House adviser Karl Rove.

In an e-mail marked “Political Influence,” Shadegg’s campaign committee sent around a note reminding everyone that the lawmaker is one of “only” 35 House Members listed in a Washington Post story about Rove’s unofficial board of advisers.

“As you may know, Rove is referred to by President Bush as his ‘boy genius’ and is credited for the rapid political ascension of the president,” said the Shadegg e-mail. “He is considered Bush’s most trusted political advisor and at the very center of power in Washington.”

As one Republican who got the e-mail noted: “How tacky.”

Shadegg’s folks did at least graciously note — at the end of the e-mail — that two other Arizona Republicans, “Congressman Jeff Flake and Senator Jon Kyl were also listed in Mr. Rove’s Rolodex.”

Shadegg had a ready response for HOH. “Forwarding my supporters interesting information from The Washington Post is a lot cheaper than buying them all subscriptions,” he said.

Santorum’s Slip-up. Senate GOP Conference Chairman Rick Santorum (Pa.) got a little carried away last week during the heated debate over whether to ban what opponents call partial-birth abortions.

On Tuesday evening, Santorum said on the Senate floor that the abortion procedure occurs “in an area of the woman’s body that is very, very lush.”

The statement was heard by at least two people who passed information on to HOH. And the word “lush” was included in the immediate transcript of the floor action available to all Senate offices.

That was not exactly the phrase that Santorum wanted to use, especially given the fact that Webster’s defines the word “lush” as “tender” and, well, let’s just say you’ll have to look up the rest of the definition.

Sure enough, the word in question did not appear in the next day’s copy of the Congressional Record. But Santorum’s office would not admit to scrubbing the word in question.

“I did not hear the Senator say that,” Santorum spokesman Robert Traynham told HOH. “And the official Record does not reflect what you just claimed that he said.”

Edwards’ Continental Divide. Some Democrats were a little surprised about the details for an event that Sen. John Edwards (D-N.C.) was scheduled to attend in Beverly Hills on Friday night.

The presidential candidate was the headliner at a fundraiser for DL21C— aka Democratic Leadership for the Twenty-First Century — at The Continental, a restaurant and martini bar.

When you go to the bar’s Web site, there’s an interesting question that people booking a private party have to answer: “Guests’ Ethnicity.”

The potential answers are even more interesting, ranging from “Mostly Caucasian” to “Mostly Persian” or “Mostly Mexican” or an “Even Mix” for the bash.

It turns out that the bar, which is in the famed Melrose Place area, wants to get a better sense of its customers to market the restaurant to certain segments of the population.

David Ginsberg, communications director for the Edwards campaign, said the Senator had nothing to do with picking the venue.

“I think the Senator is happy to be attending an event sponsored by the DL21C,” he said.

As for the marketing practices, Ginsberg said of the Senator: “He’s not familiar with that.”

Spies Like Us. Julie Doolittle, the wife of Rep. John Doolittle (R-Calif.), is doing some trash talking with Washington Redskins owner Dan Snyder.

But she’s not slamming Snyder over the performance of his football team. Mrs. Doolittle is gearing up for a major battle with Snyder at a March 26 charity event called “The Spy Game.”

Unlike the usual black-tie events that get pretty boring, this one will feature some of Washington’s biggest celebrities forming teams to compete in an interactive spy game created by the writer of the “Lord of the Rings” video game.

Dozens of lawmakers and top Congressional aides are participating in the event. The winning team will snag up to $50,000 in prizes donated by various companies. And the event itself will be held, appropriately enough, at the International Spy Museum.

Everyone will be gunning for the volatile Snyder, who has a difficult relationship at best with his fellow NFL owners for his brash ways, at the event.

“He thinks for some reason that his [spy] team will win,” Doolittle said with a laugh. “But I think they have a little better chance on the field than they will that night.”

HOH tried to get Snyder to respond in kind. Alas, the owner has been so busy snapping up free agents in his desperate effort to restore the Redskins to glory that he had to cancel a scheduled interview to discuss the event.

In any event, the real winner of the event will be the Capital Athletic Foundation, the charity that will be raking in the dough from the event.

Keep Your Eyes on Your Fries. House Administration Chairman Bob Ney (R-Ohio), a part Frenchman, is crowing about the fact that Fuddruckers has joined his crusade that began with “freedom fries” taking a spot on the menu of Congressional cafeterias.

The hamburger chain announced Friday that it has officially replaced “french fries” on its menus in more than 200 restaurants across the nation.

“Our kudos to Neal Rowland, who came up with the idea at Cubbie’s, a restaurant in North Carolina,” said Fuddruckers President Bryce King. “We are proud to become a part of his effort, and the effort of Congressman Bob Ney of Ohio who has succeeded in changing the menu item in three Congressional cafeterias.”

Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.), however, called the whole situation “childish” in a biting floor speech.

“This episode would be funny if it weren’t so sad,” said McGovern. “Because of this stunt, the image of this House in the eyes of the American people and people around the world will diminish once again.”

He added, “I hope the Members who staged [Tuesday’s] circus enjoyed the publicity. I hope it was worth it. We are about to go to war, Mr. Speaker. Let’s have a real debate about the real issues that affect the lives of real people, and leave the jokes to the comedians.”

First One’s on Joe. While it’s illegal to serve alcohol at voting places on Election Day, it might not be unethical to serve up beers at presidential campaign endorsements on St. Patrick’s Day.

Sen. Chris Dodd (D-Conn.), one of the Senate’s proudest Irishmen, will endorse his Nutmeg State colleague, Sen. Joe Lieberman (D-Conn.), today at an event in the Washington Court Hotel at New Jersey Avenue and F Street Northwest. Of course, the release that went out Friday didn’t say Dodd’s announcement would be an endorsement, but he’s made no secret that if he didn’t run for president, Dodd would support Lieberman.

Dodd recently announced he wouldn’t run for president, and Friday’s press release promised a “special announcement” at 1 p.m. today.

Not only that, the release promised “festive St. Patrick’s Day beverages will be served.” Asked if that meant supporters would get free pints of Guinness, one Lieberman confidant demurred, suggesting more than one Irish beer might be made available. “I wouldn’t want to get the Harp people upset,” he joked.

Lloyd’s Last Waltz. The Rev. Lloyd Ogilvie, the Senate’s retiring Chaplain, has been there every morning for Sen. Trent Lott (R-Miss.) — literally.

Just after waking — even before he goes to brush his teeth, he says — Lott reads a passage from “One Quiet Moment,” a book of daily prayers published in 1997 by the just-retired Senate Chaplain.

And Ogilvie was also there for Lott in his darkest political hours in December, as the lawmaker dealt with the racially tinged crisis that would end his reign as Republican leader. Ogilvie frequently reached out to Lott, offering his words of religious wisdom to Mississippian and his wife, Tricia.

“I know he prayed for me when I was going through a very difficult time,” Lott recalled Thursday evening after a stellar crowd of Beltway heavyweights turned out to pay tribute to Ogilvie.

After eight years of overseeing a turbulent Senate — which battled through impeachment, three deaths, the Capitol shootings, the Sept. 11, 2001, tragedies and the anthrax attacks — Ogilvie’s last day as Senate Chaplain was Thursday, precisely to the day in 1995 when he delivered the first prayer to open the chamber. Ogilvie is returning to the Los Angeles area to be with his wife, Mary Jane, who has been ill.

Dozens of Senators, their wives and chamber officers turned out for a Thursday-evening reception in the Mansfield Room honoring the retiring Chaplain, as did several notable figures: Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, Attorney General John Ashcroft and Gen. Richard Meyers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Senators and aides say a bipartisan search committee, headed up by Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.), has narrowed the potential replacements to a handful of candidates and that a final decision is likely within the next two weeks. But Thursday was a day to look back at Ogilvie’s tenure and thank him for his work, which even included some strange twists, according to Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.), who called the Chaplain the “spiritual leader of the entire Senate family.”

“He even filled in at the last minute when my office needed a third baseman on our Senate softball team,” Frist joked.

“It is Senators who get most of the headlines. But for many of us for the last eight years it is Lloyd Ogilvie who has been there to remind us of the important lessons,” Minority Leader Thomas Daschle (D-S.D.) added just before the chamber passed a resolution honoring Ogilvie.

In his last official words to the Senate, Ogilvie ended his final prayer as Chaplain with a bit of gratitude:

“Lord I thank you for the privilege of serving as Chaplain of the men and women of this Senate. As you have called them to lead our Nation and the world, you have opened their minds and hearts to receive your guidance and care. It is with profound gratitude that I reflect on these years with them. You are our Lord and Saviour. Amen.”

Paul Kane contributed to this report.