Largent Hangs ’Em Up.

Posted April 18, 2003 at 5:06pm

Former Rep. Steve Largent (R), the surprise loser in last year’s Oklahoma gubernatorial race, tells HOH that he’s through running for office.

“I don’t anticipate or expect to get back in it as an elected official,” the 48-year-old Pro Football Hall of Famer said in a telephone interview.

Amid speculation that Senate Budget Chairman Don Nickles (R-Okla.) may decide not to run for re-election next year, Largent said his name

should be taken out of the mix for that potential race.

“I think there’s a lot of other people in Oklahoma who are already queued up for that so I won’t be in that group,” he said.

Largent said he’s perfectly content for now staying active in politics as an advocate, serving as spokesman and fundraiser for the Wheelchair Foundation. The nonprofit group has distributed 127,545 wheelchairs to needy people in dozens of countries.

“The Wheelchair [Foundation] is just raising as much money as we possibly can for people who need some more hope and mobility,” he said. “When you go to a country and help the poorest of the poor — people who literally cannot get out of their own rooms — when you offer them a wheelchair, just tremendous goodwill is generated.”

The foundation was started by Kenneth Behring, former owner of the Seattle Seahawks, the team Largent once played for. Largent had included himself in a long list of candidates for the Seahawks’ general manager job after losing the governor’s race, but he and the team went their separate ways.

“It turned out to be a different job than I thought it was going to be,” said Largent, explaining that the team wanted a player personnel guy — someone who was not as powerful as he envisioned.

He’s no longer interested in a job with a sports franchise and said that he looks back fondly on being part of the Republican Revolution of 1994.

“If it was ’94, even knowing what I know now, I would do it again,” he said. “I made some lifelong friends. And I became a better citizen, more patriotic.”

Follow That Car! Reps. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) and Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) raced to the rescue when a motorist tried to flee the scene of a car accident.

Blumenauer spokeswoman Kathy Eastman was driving the two lawmakers back to Portland International Airport after DeLauro spent some time in Blumenauer’s district at public events and a fundraising lunch for her colleague.

They witnessed a nasty two-car accident right outside the airport’s entrance and then watched in awe as the person at fault — a guy in a red car — sped away.

“Follow that car!” Blumenauer instructed his staffer. The lawmaker proceeded to dial up the authorities on his cellphone and bark, Kojak-style, “We’re in pursuit!”

The suspect ditched his car and the police converged on the scene. Eastman told HOH she was just thankful that Blumenauer wasn’t riding his signature bicycle at the time because “we never would have caught” the guy in that case.

Leahy’s Hero? Luke Albee, chief of staff to Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), emerges as one of the stars in the Capitol Hill sections of a harrowing new book focusing on the anthrax scare of 2001.

Author Marilyn Thompson, a highly regarded editor at The Washington Post, praises Albee as one of the Hill staffers who helped cooler heads prevail during the crisis. But she raps the FBI in “The Killer Strain: Anthrax and a Government Exposed.”

Thompson told HOH it’s “really kind of disturbing” that the FBI has still not charged anyone with a crime and appears to have made little progress in its probe — despite the fact that Leahy, Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle (D-S.D.) and their staffs were targeted with the biological weapon.

“I get the impression that if Leahy and Daschle were not holding the FBI’s feet to the fire, [the agency] wouldn’t have half the stuff” it has collected in the probe, Thompson said. The Post’s investigative team has won two Pulitzer Prizes on her watch.

She noted that the government still has Steven Hatfill under 24-hour surveillance because “very compelling circumstantial evidence” exists in the case.

Albee wins plaudits for the fact that he instantly realized the threat to Congress once NBC News anchor Tom Brokaw and the Florida offices of the National Enquirer were targeted.

“It seems quite plausible to me that a Member of Congress could be on their mailing list,” Albee wrote in a memo to Leahy titled “Taking Security in Our Hands.”

Albee immediately stopped mail delivery to the office and eventually took the bold step of carefully opening the office mail himself at a time when some Hill offices were simply letting interns continue opening the mail with little regard for health concerns.

“Instead of the lowest-paid person on the staff, he would have the highest-paid person on the staff go through it,” Thompson said.

Albee’s concern would be vindicated when Daschle and Leahy were both targeted. The Leahy letter, however, never reached Capitol Hill because a ZIP code error sent it to a State Department annex instead.

Another lead character is John Ezzell, a top scientist at Fort Detrick, the Maryland lab where the Daschle letter containing anthrax was immediately brought for analysis. He was the first person to describe the material in question as “weaponized anthrax,” which inadvertently fueled yet more fear.

“John Ezzell’s comment ignited a fire that spread around the world,” writes Thompson. “The term weaponized, which was quickly leaked to the media, implied to many that the material had been prepared as an agent of war by a hostile nation. This fanned fears that [Osama] bin Laden’s followers were behind the attacks, possibly using anthrax developed in Iraq.”

She adds: “Ezzell was stunned by the furor he had created, but felt no regrets. In his view, he needed to sound the alarm that the powder contained in the Daschle letter was a killer, capable of leaving a trail of bodies in its path.”

Honoring Byrd. One doesn’t expect to open the pages of Vanity Fair and find a full-page spread on 85-year-old Sen. Robert Byrd (D-W.Va.).

Sure enough, however, Byrd is nominated for the magazine’s “Hall of Fame” in a glowing tribute written by Dee Dee Myers, who served as spokeswoman for President Bill Clinton, someone for whom the Senator never had much use.

One reason for his nomination is that on the eve of the war in Iraq, Byrd “stood virtually alone in condemning the administration for its saber rattling — and his colleagues for their haunting silence.”

The mag airbrushes history a bit, meanwhile, by cheering that “despite briefly aligning himself with racists a half-century ago, he has changed not just in word but in deed: In the last Congress, he scored a 78 percent rating from the NAACP.” (That “brief” alignment was Byrd’s membership in the Ku Klux Klan, and let’s not forget the derogatory term he used on national television a couple of years back.)

On the lighter side, the mag justifiably gives Byrd credit for the fact that he once recorded a fiddle album “and appeared on ‘Hee Haw,’” a rare feat indeed for a Senator of his stature.