Sleepwalking Through History?

Posted July 18, 2003 at 6:54pm

During British Prime Minister Tony Blair’s speech to a joint session of Congress, a television camera appeared to catch Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio), the anti-war presidential candidate, snoozing away.

But Kucinich called HOH to insist he wasn’t sleeping and stressed that there’s another side to the

story. It turns out that Sen. Bob Graham (D-Fla.) isn’t the only White House candidate who carries around a notebook.

“Let me just tell you, it’s stupid,” Kucinich said Friday of the speculation that he had slept through the speech. “I heard this same thing on the floor today from a Republican Member.”

The Congressman insisted that he was buried in his notebook. “When I take notes my head is down, just like reporters,” he said. “In fact, during every State of the Union I’ve taken close notes.”

Then he added slyly, “I actually have notes from the last State of the Union — they’re annotated about a lack of proof [on WMDs]. Anyone who cares to can come read the notebook. It’s pretty interesting.”

So Republicans are wrong when they claim he was sleeping? “They wish,” he said. “I was taking careful notes on what Mr. Blair was saying.

Kucinich stressed that his jottings are different from the Graham notebooks, which chronicle the Senator’s daily life, including such minutiae as what he had for breakfast.

“I have the same thing every day — oatmeal, a banana, raisins, wheat toast, hot water and lemon,” he said. “I don’t have to write that down.”

Fireworks Fly. Conservative leader Grover Norquist hates it when the details of his vaunted off-the-record Wednesday Group meetings spill, but last week’s session was too explosive not to dribble out.

Rep. Gil Gutknecht (R-Minn.) got savaged as he tried to pitch his drug reimportation bill to skeptical conservatives. He faced a flurry of attacks from fellow Republicans at the rowdy session, with one participant literally accusing the Congressman of trying to murder people.

“Instead of pitching, he ended up dodging,” cracked one insider.

Gutknecht came in to face dozens of individuals from conservative groups in order to win backing for his legislation that would allow the importation of prescription drugs from 26 countries. But the free traders in Norquist’s influential group weren’t ready to swallow that medicine, insisting that the bill would be a travesty for consumers.

Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) desperately promised Gutknecht and Rep. Jo Ann Emerson (R-Mo.) a vote on the reimportation bill as the price for getting them to vote for the Medicare prescription drug legislation, which squeaked through by one vote.

Fred Smith of the Competitive Enterprise Institute charged that the reimportation bill will damage U.S. pharmaceutical companies, who would cut back on research on life-saving drugs.

“Congressman, your bill is going to kill people,” Smith declared.

Gutknecht, whose bill is expected to face a vote this week, decided not to react.

“Sometimes it doesn’t do any good to cast pearls before swine,” Gutknecht told HOH, saying he tried to avoid getting down in the gutter. “But I held my own. It’s sort of a political version” of professional wrestling.

“There are some points that do not deserve a response,” he said.

Smith told HOH, “Yeah, it will kill people. And he doesn’t even seem to give a damn. The demagoguery is shameful.”

The sparring continued in the hallway when Gutknecht left the room, with one source saying that Grace Marie-Turner of the Galen Institute was “literally screaming” at the Congressman.

“It was a very, very energetic conversation,” Turner told HOH, stressing that she was not yelling. “I think he was sorry he came into that room.”

Emerson has crafted a substitute that would try importation from Canada for three years, with drugs from Europe coming in further down the road. It’s unclear whether the House GOP leadership will bring up the original bill or the substitute.

“That’s a good question,” said Gutknecht. “I think the one that comes up will be the one they think they can defeat easier.”

Safe Sax? Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) could not pass on a chance to tweak seven conservatives colleagues who fired off a Dear Colleague last week denouncing “same-sax unions.”

The letter with the miscue was signed by GOP Reps. Todd Akin (Mo.), Roscoe Bartlett (Md.), Wally Herger (Calif.), Steve King (Iowa), Mike McIntyre (N.C.), Mike Pence (Ind.) and Joe Wilson (S.C.).

Frank, who is openly gay, sent a tongue-in-cheek press release expressing his disappointment over how “vehemently” his colleagues are opposing same-sax unions.

“I assume they will be patrolling nightclubs in their districts to prevent any such duet from undermining public morality,” he cracked. “My question is whether they are willing to allow clarinet-saxophone liaisons.”

He couldn’t resist adding that the Senate GOP leadership would undoubtedly oppose “any union consisting of two trumpets and a trombone.”

Santorum on Sodomy, Continued. Senate GOP Conference Chairman Rick Santorum (Pa.) can’t seem to get enough of talking about sodomy.

Santorum was overheard in a Dirksen Senate Office Building hallway Tuesday telling a group of high school students that “the Constitution does not allow sodomy, but the [Supreme] Court has done just that.”

Two days later, Santorum was heard telling another group of 16-year-old students from the National Youth Leadership Conference about his belief that gay marriage is a “scourge on America.”

A Democrat who heard the conversations charged that Santorum seems preoccupied with the subject, especially in the wake of comments to GQ magazine about how the lawmaker would counsel his children to resist the “temptations” of homosexuality. Earlier in the year, the Senator compared homosexuality to bigamy, polygamy, incest and adultery.

“That a Member who thinks that children should be protected from gays would then talk about sodomy to children is very ironic,” the Democratic aide said. “I don’t think I knew what sodomy was at that age, but now those kids have been filled in on it by their Senator.”

A Santorum aide confirmed to HOH that the Senator did talk to both groups of students about the subject. But the staffer said it was “disingenuous” for someone to make an issue of it because Santorum was responding to questions from the students themselves.

“The Senator is a Senator,” said the aide. “He will answer questions from constituents.”

Tripplehorn Continued. Another chapter has been added to the saga of intern Paul Kelly Tripplehorn Jr.

Tripplehorn, of course, hastily left the office of Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas) after penning a caustic e-mail marked “you suck” to one of his female colleagues.

Despite the fact that the e-mail has been forwarded around to thousands of folks around the country, he then landed an internship with Rep. Kay Granger (R-Texas).

Sources tell HOH that Tripplehorn was asked by Granger’s staff to submit his resignation late last week and he quickly did so. He did not return an e-mail seeking comment.

Oxley’s Aces in the Hole. When the 2003 USGA Junior Amateur Championship tees off at Columbia Country Club this week, some of the best young male golfers in the world will have their shot at matching a recent hole in one made by House Financial Services Chairman Mike Oxley (R-Ohio).

Oxley aced the 16th hole at the country club in Chevy Chase, Md., a few months ago. It’s a par three dubbed the “Oh, No!” hole because many players splash their ball in the water in front of the green.

The chairman told HOH that he has now aced two holes in six months after duplicating the feat at hole No. 3 at Castle Pines, the vaunted golf course in New Jersey.

“What a thrill — the number one course in the world,” said Oxley, who was later presented with the flag from that hole along with the ball and a plaque in a big frame. The shrine now hangs in his Hill office.

The best news came when he reached the so-called 19th hole and, as is the custom after nailing a hole in one, was supposed to buy the drinks in the clubhouse.

“It started raining on the back nine and I got out of there” without having to pick up the tab, Oxley said with a laugh. “Hallelujah!”

Columbia will host the July 21-26 amateur championship, which is open to the general public. This is a great chance to see some future stars, with Tiger Woods having won the tourney three times.

The club will also be the site of the Second Annual Roll Call Congressional Cup on Sept. 29. That features 10 Members from each party squaring off in Ryder Cup-style play, with Oxley serving as GOP captain and Rep. Chris John (La.) leading the Democratic team.

Treasury Troubles. Beware all Hill press secretaries: Landing the top communications job at the Treasury Department may result in friendly fire.

Then-Sen. Jesse Helms (R-N.C.) placed a hold on the nomination of Michele Davis, the former House aide, to be assistant Treasury secretary for public affairs over a textile dispute at the beginning of the Bush administration.

When Davis left for the private sector earlier this year, former House aide Rob Nichols was appointed to fill her spot. But Nichols has been stuck in an “acting capacity” since April because another fellow Republican is mad.

Senate Finance Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) has refused to schedule hearings for Nichols and Teresa Ressel, in line to be assistant Treasury secretary for management, because of an unrelated Internal Revenue Service matter. Grassley wants a fellow Iowan, Charles Kolbe, to get another term on the IRS Oversight Board.

“It has nothing to do with Rob Nichols or the position,” Grassley spokeswoman Jill Kozeny told HOH. “It’s about getting the White House’s attention on the IRS Oversight Board member.”

While nothing is resolved, she said there’s a “dialogue” going on. That’s perhaps good news for the Treasury officials, who declined to comment. The “acting” capacity prevents them from staking claims to their new offices or other little perks like pay increases.

Where in the World is Korologos? Last we heard from veteran GOP lobbyist Tom Korologos, he was headed to Baghdad to serve as senior counselor to Iraq viceroy Paul Bremer.

But Korologos has been spotted in recent weeks once again prowling the Capitol hallways, flashing his legendarily easy manner as he chats away with Members of Congress. So is he lobbying again?

Reached at his new Pentagon office last week, Korologos explained that he officially retired from Timmons & Co. this spring and spent six weeks in Baghdad helping to form the new government.

He’s now back in town briefing key people about his travels. “I’m bringing Members up to speed and preparing for the appropriations process,” he said.

While he could undoubtedly afford a pretty swanky summer vacation thanks to his days lobbying for clients like Boeing and DaimlerChrysler, Korologos will be spending the August recess in much less cushy circumstances.

He’s heading back to Baghdad for the entire month. “Ain’t that fun?” he cracked.

Asked to elaborate on what it’s like over there, Korologos deadpanned, “Hot. 137 degrees one day and they serve chili!”

He added, “It’s difficult, but boy, is it exhilarating to see this whole thing come together before your eyes. I love it, but I’m not going to stay.”

Korologos will stay in his post through the fall and then set his sights on less stressful pursuits. “Later this year I’ll retire again and then go play golf or ski or something,” he said.

Pelosi’s Pride. Forgive House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) for gloating a bit about the fact that the film made by her daughter, “Journeys with George,” is in the limelight again.

After a reporter promised to a throw an easy question her way at a news conference on Thursday, Pelosi said she was disappointed that the query turned out to be about her August recess plans.

“When you said it was going to be a softball across the plate, I thought you [were] going to ask me, ‘How many Emmy nominations did Alexandra Pelosi get this mornings?’

“Six Emmy nominations,” added the proud mom. “Isn’t that great? Isn’t that a wonderful thing? That is what I would consider to be a softball across the plate.”