Rummy’s Fish Story

Posted April 1, 2003 at 6:31pm

While Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld isn’t too popular with uniformed officers at the Pentagon or on the front lines in Iraq these days, he seemed to be having a pretty cozy conversation with Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Richard Myers at Sushi-Ko on Friday night.

Rumsfeld and Myers took their wives to dinner at the popular Japanese restaurant just about 36 hours before both men fanned out to hit the Sunday morning TV talk shows and insist that

everyone’s getting along famously at the Pentagon these days.

At the restaurant, Rumsfeld made a command decision and demanded that the general let him pick up the whole check — perhaps in a gesture showing that there is indeed civilian control of the military.

The grateful Myers, who as a man living off of a government salary undoubtedly had no problem letting the wealthy former business executive take the tab, was overheard joking, “Thanks, boss.”

Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman told HOH the duo has a “very close and personal, as well as professional, relationship.”

David Zhang, one of the manager’s at Sushi-Ko, told HOH that the extra security was no bother at all. “We love him,” he said of Rumsfeld. “He’s a regular customer.”

Zhang added that the man who has become the Washington version of a matinee idol because of his televised briefings is a big fan of sushi. But he refused to get too specific: The secretary’s favorite dishes are apparently a state secret.

“He likes a lot of stuff,” Zhang said. “I normally order for him depending on what fresh stuff we have. I shouldn’t talk about what he likes.”

But Zhang had no problem revealing that Rumsfeld is a very good tipper. “Oh yes — 20 percent,” he said.

Primary Deferment. While Rep. Tom Tancredo’s (R-Colo.) has faced a new round of messy questions about his draft status during the Vietnam War, the controversy ended with some good news for the embattled Congressman.

Mike Coffman, the Colorado state treasurer who was mulling a GOP primary challenge to Tancredo, has apologized for reviving the draft issue and declared that he will not seek to oust the Congressman after all.

The controversy erupted at a recent support-the-troops rally. Coffman, a military veteran who served in the first Persian Gulf War, stormed off declaring that he didn’t want to be on the stage with Tancredo — who had a Vietnam War draft deferment because of mental health problems.

The 57-year-old Tancredo decided to address these complex issues in his weekly e-newsletter to constituents by referring to the fact that he experienced panic attacks in his teens.

“I was given a 1Y classification because I suffered from depression, a condition that afflicts millions of Americans today,” wrote Tancredo. “I have never attempted to hide these facts.”

He added that “no one has the right to judge the sincerity and commitment I have for our troops.”

The Denver Post, which has been no friend to Tancredo in whipping up various mini-scandals that have landed him in hot water, actually editorialized in his defense on this matter.

“Mental illness is just that: an illness,” the Post wrote on Friday. “It would be nonsense for Coffman to disdain someone for not being drafted due to diabetes or another physical condition. It’s equally medieval of him to get huffy because someone didn’t serve due to mental-health problems.”

Coffman promptly expressed regret and indicated that he will not challenge Tancredo next year. Tancredo accepted the apology and said the whole issue seems “trivial at a time when young Americans are risking and sacrificing their lives for our country.”

French Twist. It was with great fanfare that House Energy and Commerce Chairman Billy Tauzin (R-La.) became the first Member of Congress to create English and French versions of his official House Web site in an effort to appeal to his Cajun constituents last year.

Tauzin abruptly pulled the plug on the French version of the site this week, however, in just the latest Congressional attempt to beat up on the nation that didn’t back war in Iraq.

“You can call it a silent protest,” Tauzin spokesman Ken Johnson told HOH. “There was no press release, no wine poured down the drain and we didn’t rename any French cuisine. It was just Billy’s way of saying, ‘Tu devrait avoir honte.’ You should be ashamed.”

While Johnson acknowledged that the boss has French roots, he said Tauzin has been “stressing his Spanish roots” of late.

Meanwhile, Rep. Phil Gingrey (R-Ga.) held a press conference outside of his Longworth office Tuesday to announce that he is now displaying the British flag in the hallway to honor one of America’s strongest allies. He’s also planning to display a Union Jack in his office for the duration of the war.

“The United States has no truer friend than Britain and its courageous leader, Tony Blair,” said Gingrey, who has signed on to the effort led by Sen. Elizabeth Dole (R-N.C.) to award the prime minister a Congressional Gold Medal.

“I want, in some small way, to show Americans’ appreciation for the leadership that Britain has shown.”

Final Two. There are just two tickets left for Rep. David Vitter’s (R-La.) big fundraiser tied to this weekend’s NCAA Final Four in New Orleans.

According to a Vitter invite making the rounds, lobbyists could get an “NCAA premiere package” for $5,000 that snagged them two tickets to all three of this weekend’s games (Saturday’s two Final Four games as well as the championship two days later) in a fully catered corporate suite.

All that’s left, however, is the “NCAA Monday package,” which costs $3,500. It comes with one ticket to Monday’s game.

“We’re sold out for Saturday,” Carolyn Machado, Vitter’s chief fundraiser, told HOH. “We’ve got two tickets left for the championship game on Monday.”

Honoring, and Dishonoring, Frist. While Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) has started stumbling a bit at his day job, he’s still getting high marks for his moonlighting efforts as a medical doctor.

Frist didn’t exactly see that move to slash President Bush’s tax cut coming, which has sparked just a wee bit of whispering about whether the White House’s golden boy is letting things slip off track.

But he can at least take heart in the fact that he is getting the “Court TV Heroes Award” today. The honor comes in the wake of a highly publicized incident in January, when Frist pulled over to the side of the road to aid victims of a terrible car crash during his own family vacation.

Back home in Tennessee, meanwhile, there’s a controversy brewing about whether a Democratic invite for Frist to address the state General Assembly was merely a political ploy to embarrass the Majority Leader.

The fun started when Lt. Gov. John Wilder (D), who also serves as Speaker of the state Senate, pushed though that chamber a non-binding resolution asking Frist to come deliver a speech to a joint session about such thorny issues as the state’s budget crisis.

Some in the Tennessee GOP smelled a rat as word spread that maybe Democrats merely wanted to set up the good doctor by getting him to offer up some potentially unpopular prescriptions for the state’s woes. As a result, several Republicans in the other state chamber voted against the resolution, which passed anyway.

So will Frist speak or not? The word is that he would love to talk, but he’s a very busy man and, well you know, he may not be able to carve out the time.

“He welcomes the invitation,” Frist spokesman Nick Smith told HOH.

That was not a “yes” or a “no,” just for the record.

Linder to the Rescue. It’s starting to look like Frist will have Rep. John Linder (R-Ga.), a former dentist, to work with as a first responder if there’s ever a terrorist attack on the Capitol.

Proving that Hill officials are taking these threats seriously — or at least that some Members take themselves very seriously — Linder told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that he and Rep. Charlie Norwood (R-Ga.), another dentist, have been asked by the Attending Physician’s office to help sort out victims if there’s ever an attack on the Capitol.

“Dentists have to go through all the health sciences,” said Linder, adding that he and Norwood “could sort the most difficult injuries.”

While Frist has been given the smallpox vaccine and is being trained in how to help treat people who might get hit with the virus, maybe his Georgia colleagues could at least hand out some lollipops.