Note to Self — Get Unlisted Phone Number

Posted May 10, 2004 at 6:52pm

Constituents of Rep. Pete Stark (D-Calif.) better be careful when they criticize the combative 16-term lawmaker.

That’s what Daniel Dow, a 33-year-old law student and member of the California National Guard, found out the other day. Dow, who recently returned from a six-month stint as a peacekeeper in Kosovo, objected to Stark’s vote against a resolution decrying the U.S. treatment of Iraqi prisoners in the infamous Abu Ghraib prison. Stark was one of 49 Democrats who voted against the resolution on the grounds the House GOP leadership didn’t include several provisions they wanted in the measure; 151 Democrats voted for it.

[IMGCAP(1)] Dow’s letter, faxed to the California Democrat’s office on Thursday, slammed Stark for his “contemptuous display of bitter partisanship and your politicization of this War. Your actions are very divisive and destructive to the morale of our troops and the morale of our nation.”

Dow added: “Your ‘NO’ vote today reflects that you are way out of touch with the people of this district.”

Stark, according to a phone message Dow provided to radio station KSFO of San Francisco, lashed out at the guardsman for his letter.

Here’s the transcript of the phone message Stark left for Dow: “Dan, this is Congressman Pete Stark, and I just got your fax. And you don’t know what you’re talking about. So if you care about enlisted people, you wouldn’t have voted for that thing either. But probably somebody put you up to this, and I’m not sure who it was, but I doubt if you could spell half the words in the letter, and somebody wrote it for you. So I don’t pay much attention to it. But I’ll call you back later and let you tell me more about why you think you’re such a great goddamn hero and why you think that this generals [sic] and the Defense Department, who forced these poor enlisted guys to do what they did, shouldn’t be held to account. That’s the issue. So if you want to stick it to a bunch of enlisted guys, have your way. But if you want to get to the bottom of people who forced this awful program in Iraq, then you should understand more about it than you obviously do. Thanks.”

In an interview yesterday, Dow said he was “shocked” by Stark’s response. “My wife and I couldn’t believe what we were hearing” when they played the message back, said Dow. “To be honest, I didn’t expect any response at all. Just a form letter or something in a month.”

The 71-year-old Stark has a history of insulting Congressional colleagues, including allegedly making an obscene statement to Ways and Means Chairman Bill Thomas (R-Calif.) and calling Rep. Scott McInnis (R-Colo.) a “little wimp” and a “fruitcake” last summer. Stark later issued a statement expressing regret for his remarks.

In 2001, Stark got into a heated confrontation that almost ended in blows with then-Republican Conference Chairman J.C. Watts (Okla.) after Stark referred to a “current Republican Conference chairman whose children were all born out of wedlock.” Stark also got in trouble after he accused Rep. Nancy Johnson (R-Conn.) of being a “whore” for the insurance industry.

Stark’s office did not return a call seeking comment on this latest episode.

KSFO is now publicizing the schedule for some upcoming “townhall” meetings with Stark this Saturday. Stay tuned.

Supersize Me. If you know any jokes about Senators and pork, dust ’em off. Senate Restaurants have begun publishing nutritional information on their menus, and what HOH has to report ain’t pretty.

The “Ready To Go” stuff isn’t too bad, although HOH is recommending staying away from the ham & cheese and tuna sandwiches (lots of fat, salt and carbs). The “Home Cooking” line isn’t all that terrible either. It can get a little salty, but the selection is generally fairly health.

HOH insists, however, that you avoid entirely — don’t even look at, keep moving — most of the “Cold Sandwich” line, especially those items with names of their own.

The “Filibuster” is a nightmare for both parties — 1,477 calories, 102 grams of fat and more salt than a grizzled ol’ sailor. The “Great Debate” may qualify as a weapon of mass destruction — 1,547 calories (yet only 28 grams of fat), 2,969 milligrams of salt (bad) and 235 carbs (very bad). The “Overly Optimistic” may make one Overly Weighty — it comes in at a stunning 1,655 calories, 119 grams of fat and 91 carbs. Save your money and don’t develop a need for bigger clothes. The “Joint Resolution” has 3,396 milligrams of salt (you read that correctly) and 84 carbs. Let’s send that back to committee for more work.

The “Grill Line” and “Pizza Line” are predictable — a bacon cheeseburger is not for those seeking to eat healthy, a double bacon burger even worse. Overall, there are some good choices, you just have to look carefully.

Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), who has been big on the nutrition labeling issue, was glad to get the info.

“Obviously some menu choices are better than others, and that is why I think it is important that restaurant customers have this information,” said Harkin. “I love a good ‘Filibuster,’ but I now know I can’t have it every day. I hope this information will be useful to Senate employees and visitors trying to make healthier choices.”

McCrime Boss. Former Senate Sergeant-at-Arms Alfonso Lenhardt is going to be the new head of the National Crime Prevention Council, best known for its mascot, “McGruff the Crime Dog.”

A retired major general and the first black to hold the Sergeant-at-Arms post, Lenhardt spent more than 31 years in the Army before retiring in 1997. That was followed by a four-year stint as executive vice president and chief operating officer of the Council on Foundations, a non-profit group of foundations and philanthropic organizations.

Lenhardt arrived in the Senate in the summer of 2001, and in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks had to help implement a dramatically beefed-up security program for the Capitol. Just a month later, anthrax-laced letters were sent to several Senators, and that bioterror attack, which killed five people (although none working in Congress), further challenged Lenhardt’s leadership skills.

With the Republican takeover of the Senate following the 2002 mid-term elections, Lenhardt was replaced by Bill Pickle as Sergeant-at-Arms in March 2003. Since that time, Lenhardt has been with the Shaw Group, an environmental engineering firm.

“I’m very excited about joining the National Crime Prevention Council team,” said Lenhardt, who will take over as the organization’s new president and CEO.

The Latest Crime Stuff. Lawyers for Wanda Baucus, wife of Democratic Sen. Max Baucus (Mont.), received a postponement until June 2 of her trial on a misdemeanor assault charge.

“We just feel we need more time to gather some additional information and to share some information with the prosecutors,” David Schertler, Baucus’ lawyer, told The Associated Press.

Baucus was arrested after allegedly assaulting another customer in a dispute over mulch at a gardening center in Northwest Washington. The 56-year-old has pleaded not guilty.