Mistaken Identity

Posted September 30, 2003 at 6:51pm

Could it really be that columnist Bob Novak, the man in the middle of the furor over the leaked name of a CIA operative, was spotted Tuesday morning sharing a laugh with a man named Joe Wilson at the Army-Navy Club?

Yes, but the man in question was the Republican Congressman from South Carolina, not former Ambassador Joe Wilson — and therein lies a story that’s been driving the lawmaker just a bit crazy.

It all started when the Congressman returned from an official trip to Iraq to find a pile of phone messages from South Carolina constituents flabbergasted at comments that Vice President Cheney had made on NBC’s “Meet the Press” while the lawmaker was out of the country.

“I do not know Joe Wilson,” Cheney insisted to host Tim Russert. “I never met Joe Wilson.”

“Some of my constituents who heard that out of context were somewhat startled,” said the lawmaker. “They remember that I flew down [to South Carolina] on Air Force Two last fall to chair the Cheney dinner” that raised money for the campaigns of new Sen. Lindsey Graham (R) and new Gov. Mark Sanford (R).

But the Congressman quickly pulled a transcript of the show and figured out that Cheney was referring to the former ambassador, who investigated allegations of uranium sales to Iraq. After Wilson shot down that thesis, he allegedly became the target of angry administration officials seeking to discredit him for not backing up President Bush’s claim about the threat of weapons of mass destruction.

The lawmaker was also called “Ambassador Wilson” in the makeup room before an appearance on MSNBC, while CNN teased an interview about the Congressman’s Iraq trip by running a photo of the ambassador. Then on Monday night, the House Member returned to his home in South Carolina to find his son Hunter waiting for him.

“My 15-year-old grilled me and said, ‘Dad, is it true that Mother is an undercover CIA agent and not a schoolteacher,’” he recalled.

Roxanne Wilson is indeed a sixth-grade teacher in South Carolina, and the lawmaker quickly realized his son was just pulling his leg about the fact that the ambassador’s wife, Valerie Plame, was outed as a CIA operative in a column by Novak.

The Congressman flew into D.C. early Tuesday morning and immediately headed to a breakfast speech by Gen. Buzz Moseley, the vice chief of staff of the Air Force.

“The very first person that I ran into as I headed into the Army-Navy Club was Bob Novak,” recalled the Congressman. “He knew who I was and we yukked it up because I told him I’ve been running into a lot of misidentification. He thought it was pretty funny.”

Roving Trouble. Karl Rove may have more to worry about than just Democratic insinuations that he was the alleged leaker of a CIA operative’s identity.

When HOH tried to get Sen. Trent Lott (R-Miss.) to discuss the incident — comparing it to the leaks that came out during his fall from grace in December — the Senator brought up Rove’s name without any provocation.

“You’re trying to get me to be critical of Karl Rove. I’m not ready to do that yet,” Lott said with a wide grin.

Yet?

Lott quickly tried to backpedal and downplay the use of “yet,” but acknowledged that Rove might figure prominently in the book the former Majority Leader is writing, which is expected to include his first-hand recounting of the December demise, leading many to wonder what words he’ll have for White House insiders whose comments helped cement his fall.

“I haven’t written that chapter yet — yet,” Lott said.

Again, attempting a quick backpedal (which quite frankly sounded half-hearted), Lott indicated he had no idea what role Rove has played in any leaks from the administration. “I have no reason to believe he was involved at all,” he said.

Things Are Tough All Over. Some fellow passengers on a flight from Hartford to Baltimore on Sunday night were surprised to spot Hadassah Lieberman boarding with everyone else as part of Southwest Airlines’ famous “cattle call” boarding system.

The whispers quickly spread about why the wife of Sen. Joe Lieberman (D-Conn.), the former veep candidate and current aspirant for the White House, would be in the back of the “C” block with everyone else.

But of course, all of the presidential candidates have been desperately trying to trim costs in advance of Tuesday’s deadline for third-quarter fundraising. With candidates who are on the bubble desperate to show a lot of cash in the bank, nobody should be travelling first-class these days.

As one fellow passenger blurted, “Her husband must really be trying to save money.”

Jano Cabrera, Lieberman’s minister of information, told HOH: “We’re at the stage where every single penny counts. Though we’re not at the point where we’re considering sending anyone via a freight box. Yet.”

There’s that word again.

Party Down With Bill. Taking a break from promoting his wife’s potential presidential candidacy (whether she likes it or not), former President Bill Clinton is hosting a fundraiser at a hip-hop club for the Democratic National Committee this month.

The small-dollar event aimed at attracting more young professionals to the Democratic Party will be held at the ultra-hip Dream nightclub, which The Washington Post once called a “four-floor luxury oasis of marble and mahogany in a dead zone of warehouses off New York Avenue NE” in D.C.

The club gets so crowded that New York Avenue tends to become a parking lot in the wee hours of the night, with the Post story noting that one tends to find women at the club wearing skirts that are “short, tight and asymmetrical” and say “sexy and runway haute couture at the same time.”

DNC spokeswoman Debra DeShong told HOH that the party has been reaching out to young professions in recent years. “What better draw than Bill Clinton?” she asked.

DeShong added that she and DNC Chairman Terry McAuliffe will also attend the bash. While the spokeswoman admitted that she has never been to the hot club (too much traffic outside), she will be cutting the rug at the Oct. 27 event.

“People don’t know it, but I’m a hip-hop goddess,” DeShong said. “People were shocked when I came here and I knew who 50 Cent was.”

As for whether these young professionals may turn out to be foot soldiers for Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.), she replied, “I’m not going to touch that one.”

Not So Cool? Ever wonder whether lawmakers like Sen. Norm Coleman (R-Minn.) actually know the greatest hits of artists like Chuck D who testify before their committees?

Before Coleman’s hearing Tuesday on file sharing in the recording industry, HOH pressed the Senator on whether he could name a song by LL Cool J.

Coleman offered up the song “Paradise,” which suggested that he had passed the test.

But the Senator good-naturedly confessed later that he had to check with one of his key advisers — “Had to ask my son,” he said — to get the answer.

Paul Kane contributed to this report.