Demand a Recount, er, Re-park

Posted October 20, 2003 at 6:02pm

A Hill staffer on the way in to work early Friday morning was jarred awake when he noticed a woman in an SUV smash the taillight of another car as she tried to parallel park along Sixth Street Northeast.

When the dust settled, “Katherine Harris walks out in a white tae kwon do outfit,” the amazed eyewitness told HOH.

A gracious Harris, the former Florida secretary of state, called HOH very late Friday night to plead her case. “It really freaked me out,” she said of the fender-bender (or light-smasher). “But I lived to tell.”

The Republican Congresswoman revealed that she likes to train at 6 a.m. with Jhoon Rhee, the well-known martial arts master who has tutored scores of current and former Members. “He’s very inspiring,” Harris said, adding that she’s in line for a “triple belt” this week. “It helps me keep a healthy balance.”

When teased about whether she may have been letting out some aggression during the parking episode, Harris dropped the sugary voice. “Not even a little bit,” she declared. “I don’t have any aggression.”

Harris explained that she normally heads straight from tae kwon do class to the House. But on Friday, she had to stop home to pack. Since it was now rush hour, Harris was not used to seeing so much traffic on her street.

“It made me nervous, so I cut it close,” she said. “I felt horrible.”

Harris immediately sought out her neighbor, who was not in the parked car, to apologize and kindly offer to pick up the tab. If that doesn’t satisfy the neighbor, of course, she could always appeal the case to the Supreme Court.

Things Are Tough All Over. While President Bush keeps insisting that the economy is turning the corner, there may be evidence right underneath his nose that the recession is still hitting even the high-priced correspondents covering the White House pretty hard.

The White House Correspondents’ Association recently circulated an e-mail list showing that about 150 of its members — including MSNBC’s Chris Matthews and Paul Bedard of U.S. News & World Report — had not yet ponied up $35 in annual dues.

Some famous folks were not ecstatic that the association listed all the names of the people who had not yet paid.

“It’s odd that they ran all the names,” said one recipient of the e-mail. “Why couldn’t they ‘BCC’ the names?”

But most insiders were simply amused about being included in the rogue’s gallery. “I am Deadbeat Number One and I won’t pay my bill until they take me to court,” Bedard told HOH with a laugh.

“Your call prompted me to pay my bill,” the author of “Washington Whispers” added. “I’ve been embarrassed long enough.”

Also on the list of alleged miscreants was none other than TV talk show host John McLaughlin, who apparently fired off a quick “Wrong!” to the association. It turns out his check was already in the mail.

Kennedy Gets Hannitized. The next time Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas) asks Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) for a favor, he’s probably going to think twice.

Unbeknownst to even Kennedy’s staff, Hutchison dragged the liberal lion into an epic clash with conservative radio talk show host Sean Hannity that reverberated from Texas to Massachusetts on Friday afternoon.

Hutchison was supposed to be at Southern Methodist University on Friday for a live broadcast of Hannity’s show to help boost a charity. But she got stuck in the Senate working on the supplemental, so Hutchison had to appear on the show via phone from the GOP cloakroom.

Irate about Kennedy’s Thursday speech trashing Bush over the war in Iraq, Hannity asked Hutchison whether she could see her colleague walking around the Senate floor. The host offered $1,000 to one of Hutchison’s favorite charities, the Frontiers of Flight Museum, if she could get Kennedy to come on the show.

Within a moment, jaws in the GOP Cloakroom dropped as Kennedy burst through the doors and picked up the phone to declare to Hannity, “Listen, when are you going to have me on your program?”

Kennedy continued that he wanted to have some fun. “I don’t want any of these softballs that you give to all these other conservatives,” he tweaked.

But the yuks stopped when Hannity — drawing cheers from his live audience in Texas — tore into Kennedy by declaring it was “beyond the pale” for the Senator to call Bush a liar over Iraq.

It was time, as they say in Boston, for the Senator to “Cowboy Up.”

“There you go,” shot back Kennedy. “What I’ve taken issue with is the false assumption on which our policy toward Iraq has been developed. As you remember, we were told we were going to find nuclear weapons. We haven’t.”

As Kennedy added that al Qaeda has not been found in Iraq, the crowd jeered him. “Well, they may not want to hear it, but they haven’t found it,” he retorted.

“Senator, Senator, you called the president a liar,” said Hannity.

“Now you listen to me, Sean,” yelled Kennedy. “You may have it with other [people on the show] but you don’t interrupt me when I’m talking.”

“Oh no, I couldn’t do that,” mocked Hannity.

When Hannity demanded to know why Kennedy has dropped the rhetoric “to a new low,” the Senator finally handed off the phone to Hutchison and vanished.

Hannity’s fans then started burning up the lines in Kennedy’s office, griping that he was mean to their guy. Hannity told HOH Monday that the Senator was the aggressor.

“He came out of the box huffing,” said the host, adding that the Senator has been spouting “black helicopter theories” about Iraq.

“That’s so over the top,” said Hannity. “Ted Kennedy is not part of the civilized debate [over the war]. He owes the president an apology.”

But this scrape will undoubtedly help the Senator with his allies, so all is well in Kennedyland. “He always enjoys jousting with his friends on the right,” spokesman Jim Manley told HOH. “He gave as good as he got.”

And Hutchison gave Kennedy some credit for being willing to mix it up. “A few weeks ago when I heard Senator Kennedy say the war was a fraud ‘made up in Texas’ I took to the floor to let him have it,” she noted. “But, as I told Sean, you have to give him credit for being a good sport” on Friday.

Nevertheless, Kennedy may be ducking another showdown. On Friday’s broadcast, the host offered $2,000 to Kennedy’s favorite charity if he would appear for a full hour at a future date — perhaps Hannity’s Nov. 11 broadcast from the Heritage Foundation’s studios in D.C.

“They haven’t approached us yet,” said Manley. “But we’ll take a look at the schedule.” (Translation: Has a certain place frozen over yet?)

Hannity insisted that his people have contacted Kennedy and will do so again. “They’ve heard from me — that’s another lie,” he said. “You can be the intermediary. I’ll up it to $5,000 to his favorite charity if he comes to the Heritage Foundation for an hour.”

Senator?