Heard on the Hill: Better Than Wesley

Posted November 25, 2003 at 9:57am

All those Washingtonians who jumped on the Wesley Clark for President bandwagon in September will get a chance to show they’re still on board with the retired general next week when he comes to town for two fundraisers, both on Dec. 4.

The first is an old-fashioned money event being held at the Woman’s National Democratic Club Reception on New Hampshire Avenue from 6 to 7:30 p.m. Donors are being asked to pony up between $1,000 and $2,000. The second event will present another chance for the retired general — who earlier sought to shake his stodgy image by donning a slick get-up for a “Rock the Vote” forum — to show his “hip” factor. It’s a low-dollar fundraiser at Club 1223 featuring an acoustic show by Cajun rockers Better Than Ezra, with VIP tickets setting you back $750. With Clark’s campaign seeking to stick to a martial mindset, those who just want to get in the door can buy “C Company” tickets at $150.

Chuck Be a Lady, Tonight. Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) may finally be trying to shake that old hackneyed joke about getting between him and a television camera, at least if there’s a female lawmaker around who’s more deserving of attention. On Friday, after his sudden emergence as the lead Democratic agitator on the filibuster that blocked the energy bill, Schumer convened a press conference of opponents to the legislation.

After taking his turn at the microphone, Schumer introduced some speakers, including Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), who found herself on the receiving end of effusive praise from the senior Senator from New York. Schumer said Cantwell was a lobbying force in the Cloakroom, buttonholing Senators and gaining their backing for the filibuster “with far more charm than I ever could have.”

“That’s for sure,” chimed in Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.).

Schumer’s newfound willingness to share the spotlight came just a week after he had literally jumped out of the way of TV cameras. In that instance, Senate Democrats held a press conference after the 39-hour judicial marathon debate that culminated with three cloture votes on GOP-backed female nominees, all of which failed to receive sufficient votes to turn back the Democratic filibuster. Minority Leader Tom Daschle (D-S.D.) convened a press conference with a handful of female Senate Democrats as well as dozens of female activists opposed to the nominees — an intentional photo-op that juxtaposed nicely in the Senate’s LBJ room with the much-maligned all-male photo-op at the White House signing ceremony for the ban on so-called partial-birth abortions.

Midway through the press conference, however, Schumer walked in the back door of the LBJ room and placed himself smack in the middle of the Daschle-and-all-women photo-op. In what some say may be a Schumer first, he quickly realized he didn’t belong in front of the camera and grabbed a seat in the front row among the assembled reporters.

After witnessing Schumer’s move, Boxer turned to HOH and quipped: “That’s history, kid.”

Amazed and Blue. With a record 112,118 people on hand in the University of Michigan’s “Big House” for Saturday’s crucial Michigan-Ohio State showdown, you can’t blame the Democratic presidential aspirants for having their staffs work the crowd in advance of the state’s Feb. 7, 2004, caucus. But who knew that Sen. John Edwards (D-N.C.), the Southern-born son of a mill worker, was such a fan of Big 10 football?

One of HOH’s spies at the game in Ann Arbor got his hands on literature being distributed by the Edwards folks, who were handing out “College for Everyone” coupons. Emblazoned with the smiling visage of the Senator, the brochure lets prospective voters know that under President Edwards, they’ll get one year of free college education at a state school or community college if the student is willing to work 10 hours a week.

But in a move that’s sure to brighten the spirits of Republican National Committee researchers in the “Edwards as trial lawyer” division, Michigan students who bothered to read the campaign literature (in between tailgating and watching the Wolverines post a 35-21 victory) got a quick lesson in reading the fine print.

Edwards’ “coupon” actually had, in really small print, an explanation of the catch: “Only valid if John Edwards is elected president. This offer can definitely be combined with other Edwards for President policies, such as free tuition for anyone willing to commit to serving as a teacher or nurse in an underserved area; certain conditions may apply.”

And of course, most disappointing to the students grubbing for beer money: “No cash value.”

The Byrd Commandment. Despite his affinity for quoting scripture on the Senate floor, Sen. Robert Byrd (D-W.Va.) was forced to admit that he made a mistake during Saturday’s debate on the future of Medicare after he wandered into a discussion about his age, his next re-election campaign in 2006 and the start date for the new prescription drug plan.

After paraphrasing the Good Book in his speech opposing the GOP-backed plan, Byrd touched on his own mortality in connection with the new benefit. “So, the Lord willing, 2006 is my next Election Day; 86 is not too old. I am 86 years old,” he said. “Abraham lived to be 175, Isaac lived to be 180, Jacob lived to be 147, Moses 160; and so on.”

“He lived to be 120,” Senate Finance Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), who spent the weekend jousting with Democrats opposed to the bill, interjected of Moses.

“Was I wrong on that?” Byrd asked, practically stunned.

“Moses lived to be 120, not 160,” Grassley, a devout Southern Baptist, replied.

“All right,” Byrd said. “The distinguished Senator from Iowa corrected me.

“But he won’t correct me on this bill. He won’t correct me on the tragedies of this bill. But I accept his correction. I will look it up to make sure.”