Huggate Update

Posted July 26, 2004 at 5:28pm

Until this shining moment, the matter of “The Hug” boiled down to a he-said, he-said.

Provocateur of the year Michael Moore made headlines in South Dakota when the liberal gadfly said he hugged Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle (D-S.D.) at the Washington premiere of “Fahrenheit 9/11.” Daschle, who was disparaged in the film for not being a stronger opponent of the right, denied hugging Moore, again, making headlines in flyover country, where his GOP Senate opponent, John Thune, tried to capitalize on Daschle’s alleged tender moment with the liberal rabble-rouser. (Thune this week sent Daschle a convention “care package,” including among other wacky items a “Please Don’t Hug Me” T-shirt.)[IMGCAP(1)]

We now have solid proof: Daschle, who has been fighting 10 ways to Sunday to distance himself from Moore, was telling the truth; Daschle and Moore never hugged.

It turns out that Moore had the wrong guy and was grossly mistaken when he told the Rapid City Journal after the premiere that Daschle “gave me a big hug and said he felt bad and that we were all gonna fight [Bush] from now on.” Moore went on to say, “I thanked him for being a good sport.” (Moore, wearing his signature green baseball cap, was on the convention floor Monday surrounded by cameras, reporters and fans.)

So who did Moore hug in the haze of his euphoria as he walked up the aisle to a standing ovation at the premiere of his film at the Uptown Theater?

The envelope, please.

The real hugger, the man who really said those words, is Cam Cowan, a K Street securities lawyer with Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe who does look remarkably like Daschle.

Cowan, who went to the Uptown premiere with his wife PJ, has been secretly laughing about the hug ever since.

A Democratic loyalist who says he’s a big fan of both Daschle and Moore, Cowan broke his silence Monday when he finally wrote a letter to Moore recounting what really happened.

“After your final comments, you walk up the aisle to a standing ovation. [Producer] Harvey Weinstein is standing next to me. As you approach, PJ reaches out and shakes your hand. I then extend my hand and congratulate you … To my great delight, you step forward and hug me, saying a few words including, “Thanks for being a good sport.”

Cowan said he was “flummoxed” but managed to respond with something like, “We still have a long fight ahead of us.”

“What was that all about?” Cowan thought. His wife told him Moore must be confusing him with someone else. And, of course, that turned out to be the case. When Cowan read The Washington Post on July 14, a pickup of the South Dakota news story, he said in his letter to Moore, “I realized that PJ had been correct and that there is now a good faith misunderstanding between you and Senator Daschle.”

And no one could be more relieved to lay the misunderstanding to rest than Daschle himself, whose spokesman, Todd Webster, joked: “While things have not yet reached the point that we need a stunt double, it’s good to know there is one available.”

Cowan is due to arrive in Boston sometime today. He says he’ll be looking for Moore and will “be happy to give him another hug.”

HOH just hopes that Moore’s film was more accurate than his recollection of a hug.

Reagan Democrat (Not). Sources had told HOH a week ago that Ron Reagan Jr.’s, opening line in his speech at the convention this week might be, “I’m Ron Reagan Jr. And I am a Reagan Democrat.” Envisioned scene: The crowd goes wild, tears flow, some break chairs with delight and the newly united Democratic Party saves the world.

But Ron Junior shot that scene down Monday when HOH asked him about the rumored opening line. Smiling and rolling his eyes, he shook his head, almost furiously, side to side and said, “Uh, no.”

Lyndon Youth Take On DNC. Seemingly immortal presidential candidate Lyndon LaRouche’s youth followers are upset that they’re having to stay in youth hostels. At a Democratic National Convention Committee briefing Sunday, a young man stood up during the Q&A session and asked Democratic Party Chairman Terry McAuliffe why the DNC had canceled contracts for the LaRouche Youth Movement’s hotel rooms.

McAuliffe said he had no idea what the guy was talking about, but the young man pressed further, accusing the DNC of colluding with the Homeland Security Department to squelch criticism of Vice President Cheney, who, according to the Youth Movement’s press release, is one of “LaRouche’s leading enemies.” (The release goes on to note that “McAuliffe is aware, of course, that, if Cheney were to be removed before or during the Democratic convention, all the credit would go to LaRouche.”)

After listening long enough to the tirade, McAuliffe finally said, “I think Dick Cheney was behind the cancellation of your rooms.”

Still Fighting the Fight. Some Democrats are forever being accused of trying to refight the 2000 presidential election, four years after the fact. Now the same can be said about The Washington Post.

In a special edition of the paper circulated to conventiongoers on Monday, a section, featuring a photo of the smiling Johns (Kerry and Edwards) carried the banner logo, “Election 2000.”

Those of us in the news biz can’t help but feel sympathy, even if we’re chuckling a little.

Pacing Themselves. At the California delegation breakfast Monday morning, state Chairman Art Torres boiled the convention down to its bare essence.

Quieting down a packed hotel ballroom with the most effective “shhh” we’ve ever heard, Torres reminded the delegates, elected officials and their families of the business ahead.

“We have to run an efficient ship,” he said, “because there are 23 pages of public events” to go to.

Couric’s Fenway Connection. Attendees of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee’s $5,000-a-head reception at Fenway Park Sunday night received a surprise visit from a real celebrity — NBC “Today” host Katie Couric.

Couric is anchoring the “Today” show’s coverage from Boston for the week and had more connections than most politicos who turned out for the finale of the three-game series between the Red Sox and Yankees.

She dates Tom Werner, one of the co-owners of Beantown’s most beloved sports team and a major donor to Democratic candidates.

Couric joined Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee Chairman Jon Corzine (N.J.) as well as Sens. Debbie Stabenow (Mich.), Patrick Leahy (Vt.), Jack Reed (R.I.) and Byron Dorgan (N.D.). Louisiana Sen. Mary Landrieu also attended the game.

An obviously starstruck Brad Woodhouse, communications director for the DSCC, called Couric “one of America’s most beloved celebrities.”

“She is as lovely in person as she is on TV,” Woodhouse added.

Manner of Speaking. Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright was one of many former Clintonites holding forth for the television cameras on the floor of the Fleet Center on Monday morning. Most were waxing poetic about their favorite soon-to-be Democratic nominee and his running mate; and how great Democrats are, in general. But Albright — her words were totally unintelligible!

Turns out, she was doing an interview with a Czech news network and speaking Czech — her native language (she grew up in Czechoslovakia). A spokesman for Albright said the former Grand Dame of Diplomacy often does interviews with Czech journalists.

Congress Mourns. It is with great sadness that HOH reports the death of Luke Tiahrt, the teenage son of Rep. Todd Tiahrt (R-Kan.), who died early Saturday morning.

A “Dear Colleague” letter sent from the Kansas delegation to Members of the House said a public funeral will be held at 10:30 a.m. Wednesday at Westlink Christian Church in Wichita, Kan. A private burial service will be held following the funeral.

Condolences can be sent by e-mail to Tiahrtcondolences@mail.house.gov or by regular mail to Congressman Tiahrt’s Wichita office, 155 N. Market St., Suite 400, Wichita, KS 67202.

Emily Pierce and Josh Kurtz contributed to this report.

Please send your hot tips, juicy gossip or comments to hoh@rollcall.com.