’60 Minutes’ of Kennedy Ribbing

Posted October 10, 2003 at 6:14pm

It was billed as a chance to beat up on CBS News’ Don Hewitt, but Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) is the one who ended up taking a good-natured pounding at Wednesday night’s 15th Annual Spina Bifida Roast.

Kennedy, who was supposed to be one of several VIPs roasting Hewitt, was skewered about Arnold Schwarzenegger’s victory

the previous night in California’s gubernatorial recall election.

“The marvelous, enormous Kennedy legacy lives on! Yes!” screamed a jubilant Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge, who was also roasting Hewitt. “A Republican! In California!”

White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card, a Massachusetts native, added knowingly: “I have been to Hyannis Port. And this year’s Thanksgiving dinner is going to be a classic.”

Kennedy took the ribbing in stride, though he nodded his head with slight disapproval when emcee Mark Shields joked that Schwarzenegger had just held a press conference and “categorically denied that he had ever groped Eva Braun.”

The Senator himself told the audience that he greeted Hewitt earlier in the evening by saying, “Who would have thought a guy who dropped out of NYU over 60 years ago would go on to become known as the most influential broadcast journalist of his generation?”

Hewitt shot back, “That’s nothing, Ted. Who would have thought a guy who graduated from Harvard almost 50 years ago would go on to become known as the uncle of an Austrian bodybuilder Republican governor of California?”

The Senator also noted that he first met Hewitt when the gruff journalist produced his brother John’s first presidential debate with Richard Nixon in 1960: “I asked Jack, ‘Who’s that pushy TV guy? I think I’ll give him a piece of my mind.’ Jack said, ‘Cool it, Teddy. He just told Nixon only sissies wear makeup.’”

But Kennedy brought the house down by mentioning the deal the journalist struck with his wife, Marilyn, upon their marriage. “Don would give every Sunday night to ‘60 Minutes,’ and he gives Marilyn 60 minutes every Wednesday night,” revealed Kennedy. “So if Don’s a little more anxious to get out of here tonight than the rest of us, we all know why.”

Hillary’s Favorite GOP Lobbyist? It’s clearly just a matter of time before ex-Rep. Vin Weber (R-Minn.) co-chairs a presidential exploratory committee for Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.).

At least that’s the impression HOH got after noticing that Weber placed the winning bid — a whopping $350 — for a signed copy of Clinton’s book during the silent auction phase of the spina bifida benefit.

Why would the GOP lobbyist pony up so much dough? “I don’t know exactly,” a laughing Weber said the next day. “She’s a hugely impressive person. And if she ever returns to her Goldwaterite roots, just think how much the autograph will be worth.”

Despite the warm words, Weber shot down any idea that he’s jumping on the Clinton bandwagon. “No, I don’t think that’s in the offing,” he said. “I’m not a Clinton hater, but I’m certainly not a great Clinton supporter.”

Since the deal includes Clinton personally inscribing a copy of “Living History” for the winning bidder, Weber has one request after noticing that the charity had mixed up his surname upon announcing the winners last week. “I hope she spells it with only one ‘B,’” he said.

Armey vs. Gingrich. Despite all of the speculation about their private dislike for one another while serving in the House GOP leadership, former Speaker Newt Gingrich (Ga.) and ex-Majority Leader Dick Armey (Texas) always insisted otherwise.

But Armey finally lets loose on Gingrich a bit in “Legacy: Paying the Price For the Clinton Years,” a new book by National Review Editor Rich Lowry.

Looking back on the infamous government shutdowns, Armey rips into both Gingrich and former House Budget Chairman John Kasich (R-Ohio) for setting the GOP up for failure.

“The two people who I think were most harmful to us in that regard were Newt Gingrich and John Kasich,” Armey says in the book, which hits stores this week. “Because they started early talking about if the President doesn’t come around to us, we’ll shut down the government. It was easy to hang the rap on us, because we had two of our most important people talking about it.”

Armey adds tartly: “I always said that Bill Clinton was the most successful adolescent I had ever seen in my life, and Newt Gingrich was the second most successful adolescent.”

Rick Tyler, a spokesman for Gingrich, told HOH that the two former GOP leaders are “friendly” with one another, though he added that “they don’t play golf together.”

Tyler also said that getting hit with the blame for shutting down the government was not Gingrich’s fault. He said it was more a function of Republicans in general miscalculating their own power.

“After 1994 and the Contract [with America] people viewed that the Republicans were in charge,” he said, noting that the president had traditionally worn that collar but the public was then looking for a new scapegoat. “So they blamed Newt and the Republicans.”

He added: “By virtue of the president not signing the budget, the president shut down the government. But that’s not how the American people viewed it.”

Graham Cools His Heels. The final indignity for Sen. Bob Graham (D-Fla.), whose presidential campaign never quite caught fire, came on Larry King’s CNN program last Monday.

That afternoon, Graham’s campaign Web site touted that he would be making a “major announcement” at 9:30 p.m. EST on “Larry King Live.” Since the program starts at 9 p.m., that meant CNN was spending the first half hour on some major international news, right?

Well, not exactly. King kicked off the show with a discussion of Las Vegas legend Roy Horn, who had been mauled by one of his white tigers a few days earlier. While it was a horrible development, it was not exactly breaking news.

But King kept rolling for the first 30 minutes with color commentary from Wayne Newton, Penn Jillette and Jack Hanna. When the show reached the half-hour mark there was still no sign of Graham.

One Democratic strategist noted that it had to be humiliating for the Senator “to have to sit and wait for Tippy Hedren to finish talking about tigers.”

Now it was about 45 minutes into the show and there was still no Graham, while King was throwing out such scintillating questions as: “Jack Hanna, do you show anger at animals?”

One wag suggested that King should have tried this segue to get the candidate on screen: “Senator, I think it’s safe to say that you’ve been mauled in the press lately over your low fundraising numbers and your complete lack of traction anywhere in the country. Tell us what Roy is feeling tonight.”

Graham finally appeared on screen with about 10 minutes left in the show, and he looked less than happy about having to cool his heels for so long. King, who got his start in Florida, greeted the Senator by noting their long friendship — which left viewers wondering how long the host would string along an enemy.

But Graham’s displeasure was probably nothing compared to the fury that some campaign staffers — who had been insisting that no “major announcement” was imminent — must have felt about being kept in the dark by the Senator about his own plans.

The Gospel According to Paul. Sen. Joe Lieberman (D-Conn.) is known for pulling the plug on politics for the Sabbath, but at least one California voter was surprised to receive a phone call from the presidential candidate on the sacred Jewish holiday of Yom Kippur.

A tongue-in-cheek item in the San Francisco Chronicle reported that Lieberman was among the many pols — including former Vice President Al Gore and Bill Clinton — who taped phone calls in an attempt to beat back the recall effort against Gov. Gray Davis (D).

The paper quoted “Paul from Los Angeles” as saying that he was “dumbfounded to receive an anti-recall robo message from a devout fellow Jew” like Lieberman on the high holiday. “And,” said Paul, “it wasn’t even sundown.”

Lieberman spokesman Jano Cabrera told HOH that the campaign would of course extend an apology to “anyone who was bothered on the holiday” by the candidate’s taped calls, but he had a little rejoinder for ol’ Paul.

“You can rest assured that Senator Lieberman’s live voice was heard in his synagogue and nowhere else on Yom Kippur,” said Cabrera. “Unfortunately for us, the robo-caller appeared to be less devout. But what can you do? Clearly in California, machines, be they terminators or robo callers, are not held accountable for their actions.”

Kennedy to Cowboy Up? They’re normally joining one another in filibusters of Bush judicial nominations, but Democratic Sens. Charles Schumer (N.Y.) and Kennedy are locking horns over the big Boston Red Sox-New York Yankees series.

After the Yankees defeated the Sox in the 1999 American League Championship Series, Kennedy had to recite “Casey at the Bat” on the Capitol steps. With the two teams facing off in the ALCS again, the loser this time will have to sing “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” at the same venue.

“The bottom line is that the Bambino still hovers over Fenway and Yankee Stadium. The curse continues,” Schumer said of the fact that the Sox have not won a World Series since trading Babe Ruth to the Yanks in 1920. The Bronx Bombers, meanwhile, have secured 26 titles.

Kennedy, however, is joining the Red Sox Nation in insisting that this year’s club — with the motto “Cowboy Up” — is going to finally rise to the occasion. “Enough’s enough. Even the Bambino is smiling down on Boston this year,” Kennedy cracked. “I can’t wait to hear Chuck serenade the Sox.”

Not to be outdone, Illinois and Florida lawmakers are betting on the Chicago Cubs-Florida Marlins battle in the National League Championship Series.

Illinois GOP Reps. Mark Kirk, Judy Biggert and Jerry Weller — along with Michigan Rep. Fred Upton (R), who grew up a Cubs fan — are wagering with Florida GOP Reps. Lincoln Diaz-Balart, Mario Diaz-Balart and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen.

Cubs fans are offering Chicago pizza and Eli’s Cheesecake, while the Marlins fans are putting key lime pie and roasted pig on the line.

There has to be a pork project joke in there somewhere.