The Importance of Being Ernest

Posted September 29, 2003 at 7:07pm

Some Oklahoma Republicans are privately chuckling about a Web site that has popped up promoting the potential Senate candidacy of Rep. Ernest Istook (R-Okla.).

Istook is itching to run, but there’s one little problem: His fellow Republican, Sen. Don Nickles (Okla.), hasn’t announced that he’s leaving just yet.

No biggie. Someone has created a site — www.runernest2004ifnicklesretires.com — that urges Republicans to “petition” Istook to run if, and only if, Nickles retires. (It’s almost as tortured as California Democrats declaring, “Vote no on the recall, but yes on Bustamante.”)

Some Republicans believe that Istook’s folks are helping to cook this up. “I’m not sure this is a spontaneous, popular movement — let’s put it that way,” said one GOP source in the delegation. “There’s a lot of jockeying going on.”

But Istook spokeswoman Micah Swafford told HOH that while the Congressman’s campaign staff had heard of the site before it was launched, they had nothing to do with setting it up.

“I don’t know who it is, but it’s definitely not us,” Swafford said.

As for any comparison to California, she joked that in this case, “It’s not a recall, but a pre-call.”

Veni, Vidi, D.C. It appears that Reps. Frank Lucas (Okla.) and Richard Pombo (Calif.), who were elected in the early 1990s at the height of the GOP’s anti-Washington crusade, may have finally contracted Potomac Fever.

A Democratic lobbyist flipping through real estate records published in The Washington Post each week noticed that the two lawmakers recently purchased a $479,000 home together on Capitol Hill.

Young turk House Republicans used to want to sleep in their offices, head home every weekend and pack their bags after a few terms. But maybe the Republican revolution has come full circle, with lawmakers settling down in D.C. after all.

“It’s a new version of [veni, vidi, vici],” cracked the Democratic lobbyist. “We came, we conquered, we bought property.”

Lucas declined comment. Pombo spokesman Doug Heye noted last week that when the Congressman became chairman of the Resources Committee in the past year, he realized it was time to give up his place in Virginia and get closer to the Capitol.

“Now that he is a chairman of a committee, he spends a great deal more of his time on the Hill,” Heye noted.

As for any notion that the boss has changed his stripes, Heye shot back, “Perhaps Democratic lobbyists should have better things to do than to go through the real estate pages seeking weak political attacks.”

Bob’s Brawl. Columnist Bob Novak — who should have enough to keep him busy these days — came this close last week to engineering round three in the brutal political brawl that’s developing between Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) and House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas).

Round one came in July when DeLay cracked to a GOP audience, “I certainly don’t want to see Teddy Kennedy in a Navy flight suit.” DeLay insisted he was just joking, but Democrats quickly noted that at least Kennedy had served in the military.

Former Sen. Max Cleland (D-Ga.), a Vietnam War veteran and triple amputee, fired off a nasty letter to DeLay declaring, “This country deserves more patriots like Senator Kennedy, not more chicken hawks like you who never served.”

Round two came this month, when Kennedy charged that the Iraq war was a fraud “made up in Texas” and that the Bush administration is bribing foreign leaders to send troops to the region.

Last Wednesday DeLay came roaring back, saying Kennedy’s comments were “hate speech” better-suited for Jerry Springer’s show than C-SPAN and asked, “Are they going to be the party of Franklin Roosevelt’s moral clarity, or the party of Ted Kennedy’s extremist appeasement?”

Them’s fighting words. So there was a bit of buzz among Hill staffers Wednesday night when word spread that Kennedy and DeLay were both going to be speaking at a conference arranged by Novak for subscribers to his political newsletter on Thursday morning.

The lawmakers were delivering off-the-record briefings back to back at the conference Novak (who politely declined to comment for this item) has been holding for some 30 years. Was all of this bad blood between The Exterminator and the Liberal Lion going to spill over at the stately University Club?

But Kennedy, who spoke at 8 a.m., threw just a gentle barb at DeLay and then headed off to his next meeting before the Texas lawmaker arrived for his own speech after 9 a.m.

The Majority Leader joked to the crowd, “Despite what Ted Kennedy may have told you earlier, I didn’t cause the hurricane.”

DeLay’s trainer/spokesman Stuart Roy said later that he was ready to hold the boss’ coat: “Tom was about to give him a friendly fist-bump when Teddy got all sensitive and said we were questioning his patriotism.”

Kennedy corner man Jim Manley retorted, “This could have been the inside-the-Beltway version of the Thrilla in Manila. But fortunately, or unfortunately, it was not to be.”

Fashion Police. It looks like Capitol Police Chief Terrance Gainer pays almost as much attention to style as he does to security.

The Capitol Police recently adopted a new look, switching to an all-blue ensemble from its previous mix of blue and white.

“Everybody likes the new uniform,” Gainer said. “There’s less maintenance, less brass, less ironing, and it has a slimming effect.”

The chief has tangled with dress codes before, when, just a few weeks into his tenure, he sought to curtail the department’s policy requiring officers to wear hats at all times.

The uniform change will eliminate any differences in dress between rank-and-file officers and their supervisors, who have worn different color shirts in the most recent incarnation of the department’s uniforms.

Instead,the shoulders of each officers’ uniform will feature standard military stars and bars to denote rank, said Capitol Police spokeswoman Jessica Gissubel. To date, only those serving as sergeants and higher have worn the military-style notations.

Of course, the new uniforms weren’t introduced for style alone, Gissubel noted.

“We’re on our feet a lot, we’re outside a lot, so comfort was an issue,” she said. The new uniforms are made of a cotton blend, unlike the previous polyester duds.

“And,” Gissubel adds, so far, “they hold up very nicely.”

Still, it remains to be seen if the department’s new look will win it any accolades.

The agency, which first issued uniforms to its officers in 1854, took top honors in the National Association of Uniform Manufacturers and Distributor’s 1988 Best Dressed Police Department Competition category for government agencies.

LL Cool Coleman. Adding some star power to his investigation of illegal file sharing in the entertainment industry, Sen. Norm Coleman (R-Minn.) will hear testimony today from LL Cool J and Chuck D.

Coleman, who chairs the Governmental Affairs permanent subcommittee on investigations, is probing the Recording Industry of America’s efforts to crack down on illegal file-sharers. The rappers will undoubtedly overshadow the testimony of new RIAA Chairman Mitch Bainwol, the former Senate staffer who will be making his first major Hill appearance in his new role.

Jennifer Yachnin contributed to this report.