Senor Service

Posted October 29, 2003 at 6:38pm

Rep. George Nethercutt (R-Wash.) has gotten plenty of media attention in the past few weeks — most of it unwanted — for remarks he made at a town hall meeting about conditions in Iraq.

Speaking to Evergreen State residents, Nethercutt, a candidate for Senate in 2004, suggested that the media are overemphasizing casualties among American soldiers while underplaying reports about the progress the U.S.-led occupying force has made in restoring order to the war-torn country.

But lost in all the uproar over whether Nethercutt appeared to minimize the importance of the deaths in Iraq — or at least whether he expressed himself indelicately — was the fact that Dan Senor was with the Congressman at the town hall meeting. Senor is the top communications aide to Paul Bremer, the man leading the U.S. reconstruction efforts in Iraq.

Well, actually, Senor wasn’t there in person. He was supposed to be there, but a last-minute injury prevented him from catching his flight from the East Coast Washington to the other Washington. So instead, through the miracle of modern technology, he appeared virtually at two of the four town meetings Nethercutt hosted in mid-October.

Was Senor’s appearance at Nethercutt’s town meetings unusual? Are other members of Bremer’s staff taking time from their busy, important work in Baghdad to show up at district meetings hosted by powerful Members of Congress — particularly those who happen to be Republican candidates for Senate?

April Gentry, Nethercutt’s spokeswoman, said that because her boss had just returned from a Congressional delegation to Iraq and had scheduled four town hall meetings in mid-October, he contacted White House officials to see if they could send anyone to participate in the meetings. They supplied Senor for two of the events, Gentry said, and a midlevel White House staffer for the other two.

Senor had been in D.C. for the previous few days on an array of assignments, including appearing at the morning meeting formerly known as the Sperling breakfast for leading D.C. print journalists.

A spokesman for the White House referred questions about whether members of Bremer’s team were appearing with Members of Congress to the Pentagon.

A Pentagon spokesman said there was no way of knowing whether Bremer’s people were making appearances similar to Senor’s with Nethercutt, because no one was keeping any such list. The spokesman allowed that given all that is going on in Iraq, it isn’t likely that such joint appearances are happening very often, if at all (besides the two with Nethercutt, of course).

’Tis the Season. No doubt there have been others around town. But at least three Halloween-themed fundraisers this week came to our attention.

And all involved Republican House Members — take that for what it’s worth.

On Wednesday morning, Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.) hosted a $1,000-a-head “trick or treat” breakfast at Charlie Palmer Steak.

This evening, Rep. Jerry Weller’s (R-Ill.) REFORM PAC has scheduled a “Nightmare on 1st Street” fundraiser on Capitol Hill for $500 a person.

And Rep. Eric Cantor (R-Va.) has a reception tonight that promises tricks and treats at the Capitol Hill Club for $1,000 per PAC and $500 for individuals. The special guest — the treat? the trick? — is Rep. Jim McCrery (R-La.).

Hoss Sense. Ron Hostetler, one of a quartet of Republicans seeking to challenge Rep. Tim Holden (D-Pa.) in the 17th district, has just launched his new campaign Web site. That in itself is hardly extraordinary.

But the site, which the Hostetler campaign promises has “more panache, more color and a whole lot more useful information about the 17th district’s Republican frontrunner” has one of the more amusing Web addresses around: www.hossusa.com.

The Hostetler for Congress site was designed by Trowbridge Communications, the Virginia-based Web-design firm.

Brown Sugar. Throughout his colorful, 30-plus-year political career, no one has called Oakland Mayor Jerry Brown (D) stupid. So it was perhaps no surprise to see Brown, a former two-term California governor, back in Sacramento last week on a recruiting trip to entice staffers of recalled Gov. Gray Davis (D) to fill vacancies at Oakland City Hall.

According to the San Francisco Chronicle, Davis — Brown’s chief of staff when Brown was governor — lent Brown office space so he could meet with some of the 100 or so people who are due to lose their jobs when Gov.-elect Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) takes office in mid-November.

“I think what Brown did was exceptional,” Davis spokeswoman Hilary McLean told the Chronicle. “He opened his schedule to anyone who might want to talk to him, met with them in small groups and was looking for folks that might be a good fit for his office.”

Of course, Brown does have some key vacancies in City Hall, having ousted former City Manager Robert Bobb and some of his top lieutenants in July. Bobb has just started as city administrator right here in Washington, D.C., after six years in Oakland.

Amy Keller contributed to this report.