Eat Your Heart Out, Begala

Posted November 19, 2003 at 6:17pm

Despite being known as “Corporal Cueball,” the aging, bald-headed political strategist James Carville made it onto People magazine’s list of the sexiest men in America this year.

“There are a lot of improbable things that have happened to me in my life,” the Ragin’ Cajun told HOH Wednesday. “This is not even improbable.”

He added, “The deal is they say to you, ‘Look, you can’t tell anybody.’ I honestly forgot about it until you called.”

Carville has obviously been busy filming HBO’s “K Street” with George Clooney, but this is still a hard thing to forget. And while the strategist wasn’t miffed that Clooney actually cracked the Top 10 (at No. 3) — “That boy is way ahead of me” — he was peeved that Johnny Depp snagged the cover shot along with the title “Sexiest Man Alive 2003.”

“Damnit, I didn’t make the cover?” he cracked. “It’s like every year I say, ‘They [bleeped] me — no Nobel Prize. Johnny Depp’s ass, huh?”

Ashton Kutcher comes in at No. 2 with the explanation, “In a word: lips.” So what could Carville possibly have going for him?

Wife Mary Matalin tells the mag that running three miles a day keeps her hubby “sexy in black tie and hot, hot in jeans with no pot belly!”

Hearing that read back to him over the phone, Carville said, “There you go — I like that. What a woman, huh?”

The list loses some credibility, however, when you notice that Clay Aiken of “American Idol” fame made it as a “geek treat” this year.

Carville shot back very seriously, “Who is Clay Aiken?”

Senate Submarine? Heavy rains caused a portion of the subway between the Russell Senate Office Building and the Capitol to be shut down Wednesday afternoon.

Architect of the Capitol employees manned sump pumps in an effort to clear water from the submerged tracks after rain flooded the tunnel.

“There’s so much water, it just started coming in the building,” said Eva Malecki, an AOC spokeswoman.

Architect officials closed one of two tracks running between Russell and the Capitol for “safety reasons,” Malecki said.

“We’ve got sump pumps going and the [Capitol Visitor Center] contractors are diverting water on the site,” she said of the massive dig on the East Front, where construction crews have removed 500,000 cubic yards of soil to date.

“Obviously when you’ve got water you don’t want to be running electrical tracks,” Malecki noted, though the water did not otherwise cause damage.

She said that officials will obviously be monitoring the weather. “It’s just one of those phenomenons where you’ve got so much rain coming down at one time,” Malecki explained. “We’ll make sure everything is dry and in working order before we open it back up.”

Of Mice and Men. With Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) kicking off his 80th birthday by presiding over the Senate chamber Tuesday morning as part of his duties as President Pro Tem, Sen. Conrad Burns (R-Mont.) decided to have a little fun at his colleague’s expense.

“Mr. President, this is a special day today,” Burns began, as he demanded some attention be paid to “the birthday of someone Americans all know.”

“When this animated character burst on the scene, it changed our country,” Burns added. “That change was bound to happen because of his appeal to the young and the old. He has changed the way we communicate. He has changed the way we travel.”

Anyone who has seen Stevens gesticulate wildly certainly knows he’s an animated fellow. And after stints as chairman of both the Commerce and Appropriations panels, he’s certainly had a powerful impact on many industries.

“He is just a little fellow, but size has meant nothing to this animated character,” continued Burns. “He has always held that it is not the size of the dog in the fight but the size of the fight in the dog.”

Again, all of that applies to Stevens, and Burns is right that the man who likes to wear Incredible Hulk neckties on the Senate floor has “taught us to laugh at ourselves and lighten up on ourselves.”

But of course that was all just a set-up.

“Today is the birthday of Mickey Mouse,” Burns cracked about the animated character’s 75th birthday. “It is also shared by our good friend, the President Pro Tempore now in the chair, Chairman Stevens.”

Senior Moment. A busload of teeth-clenching (or perhaps denture-clenching) senior citizens gathered outside AARP’s D.C. headquarters Wednesday to rip up their membership cards to protest the group’s endorsement of the GOP-crafted Medicare prescription drug bill.

“I’m mad as hell,” said Pearl Reeves, an AARP member for 25 years. “This card is worthless.”

The protest, organized by US Action, was a brief hiatus for the seniors, who had been rallying all day at the Capitol. Many of the protesters had sent their Members of Congress some lemons to gripe about the “sour” bill.

Reeves, along with dozens of other elderly citizens donning ponchos in the rain, angrily tore their cards to shreds. But some of the seniors had trouble with the scissors because of arthritic-ridden hands, which may or may not have been emblematic of the fact that Democratic efforts to block the legislation seem futile.

The Candi Woman Can. The close of the Congressional session will also end Candi Wolf’s distinguished tenure as Vice President Cheney’s chief liaison to Capitol Hill.

Insiders tell HOH that Wolf will be replaced by Brenda Becker, who currently serves as Commerce Secretary Don Evans’ top Congressional lobbyist.

Wolf, a former Senate aide, is looking forward to spending some quality time at home — but she will undoubtedly fetch big money on K Street when she’s ready to return to work.

Writing Another Chapter of History? Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle (D-S.D.) was feted at Democratic strategist John Podesta’s home Tuesday night to celebrate publication of the lawmaker’s book about the 107th Congress, “Like No Other Time.”

Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and Reps. Rahm Emanuel (D-Ill.) and Ellen Tauscher (D-Calif.) — along with journalists David Broder, Al Hunt, Carl Hulse and Mark Leibovich — were among the insiders who attended.

The author praised Sen. Jim Jeffords (I-Vt.), noting that he literally couldn’t have written the tome without his colleague’s party switch — leading to a warm embrace between the lawmakers.

Daschle joked that given last week’s historic marathon session on judicial nominees, “there might be a sequel” coming soon.

But the lawmaker was probably not laughing about a correction the Cleveland Plain Dealer ran Wednesday about a front-page story dealing with an audiotape purportedly of Saddam Hussein that surfaced this week.

The paper said that because of an “editing error,” the story mistakenly put Hussein’s quotes into Daschle’s mouth: “It was the speaker on the tape, not Daschle, who said, ‘The evil ones now find themselves in crisis, and this is God’s will for them.’”

Train Leaving the Station. Eager to get his presidential campaign back on track, retired Gen. Wesley Clark (D) is launching a 12-day, two-RV tour from D.C. and Arkansas on Friday.

Rep. Charlie Rangel (D-N.Y.), the general’s chief lieutenant in the House, is expected to be on hand to launch the Northern battalion at Union Station. The “Race for America,” which will end Dec. 2, is the brainchild of the “Draft Clark” folks who originally got him into the race.

The Northern battalion will cruise through seven states before meeting up with Clark in New Hampshire. A Southern battalion will leave Little Rock and blaze through four states before winding up in South Carolina with Clark as well.

Each squad will distribute 2,004 pieces of candy — Clark bars — along the way to promote the candidate.

Jennifer Yachnin and Jessica L. Brady contributed to this report.