Boxer Brakes for Reporters

Posted September 28, 2004 at 6:50pm

Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) may want to chill out on multitasking while driving. The Senator nearly hit a Roll Call reporter the other day as she barreled out of a Senate parking lot and onto Constitution Avenue, chatting a mile a minute on her cellphone.[IMGCAP(1)]

Luckily for the Senator, a police officer didn’t see her breaking D.C.’s new law against talking on a cellphone while driving. And luckily for our reporter, who requested anonymity because she’s afraid of Boxer, no one was hit.

The reporter, whom we shall call Muffy to protect her identity, was leaving the Capitol after a hard day’s work last Thursday. Muffy was at the traffic light, about to cross Constitution Avenue at Delaware Avenue Northeast, when she saw a silver car pulling out of the Senate parking lot, making a right turn onto Constitution.

At that point, Muffy, who was the only pedestrian at the intersection, did not know who the driver of the silver car was. All she knew was that the car was creeping out of the Senate, trying to beat Muffy into the intersection. Muffy just assumed the driver would wait for her since she, as the pedestrian, had the right-of-way. But the car kept on coming.

“She slammed on the brakes and I jumped and grabbed my heart and looked at her and I was like, ‘Oh my God! That’s Barbara Boxer! Jesus, lady,” Muffy said.

Muffy said Boxer was holding her cell phone in her left hand, driving with her right. When she stopped to let Muffy cross, Boxer waved the reporter along with her right hand.

“Geez, I felt like I was imposing,” Muffy joked. “She was clearly in a hurry to get where she was going.”

Boxer does not recall any particular incident, her spokesman David Sandretti told HOH. “But if the person is upset and wants to talk to the Senator, please call. She’d be happy to talk,” he said.

Go ahead, Muffy. We dare you.

At least Muffy no longer needs to worry about Boxer chatting while driving. Because coincidentally or not, a few days after HOH called Boxer’s office to ask about the incident with Muffy, the Senator had “just” purchased a new cell with a hands-free speakerphone option, her spokesman said.

Capitol Police would not tell HOH how many, if any, citations they’ve given to cell phone violators. Officer Michael Lauer said only, “We’re enforcing it.”

Senator Boehner? On his 26th visit to Ohio, President Bush got a little confused about who’s who in the crucial swing state. The witty New York Times reporter Carl Hulse wrote that Bush may have gone too far “handing Ohio some extra representation in the world’s greatest deliberative body.”

To an applauding audience, Bush said, “I’m proud to be on stage with John Boehner. What a fine man he is, and a great United States Senator.”

Then he got a gold star for knowing that Mike DeWine is “the fine United States Senator from the state of Ohio.” But he continued by saying, “Speaking about Senators, I hope you put George Voinovich back in office. He’s a fine leader, good man.”

Hulse noted that three Senators is one too many “even for a state being courted to the degree Ohio is.”

Steve Forde, press secretary to John Boehner, got a kick out of President Bush’s confusion. “Well, I guess John Boehner does have a more substantial record in the Senate than John Kerry,” he told HOH. “Maybe it was wishful thinking on the president’s part.”

Weeknight With Bernie. Tonight’s 16th annual Roast for spina bifida will turn the tables, as it does each year, putting a chosen journalist in the hot seat for a change. This year’s guest of honor is Bernard Shaw, an icon at CNN of 21 years.

Judy Woodruff, host of CNN’s “Inside Politics,” whose son has spina bifida, is one of the organizers of the party, along with her husband, Al Hunt, a columnist for The Wall Street Journal.

Woodruff told HOH that she’s looking forward to having her old pal Bernie front and center again. “For all those tough questions Bernie put to the politicians over the years, now it’s their chance to have at him,” she said.

Tonight’s roasters include Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Rep. Harold Ford Jr. (D-Tenn.), former CBS News anchor Walter Cronkite and Washington Redskins owner Dan Snyder.

“Now we can find out how much Redskins super-fan Bernie really knows about football!” Woodruff teased.

Former Democratic nominee Michael Dukakis and former President George H.W. Bush will also appear via video. Mighty nice of Mr. Dukakis to come out for the cause, considering that Shaw is the one who asked the damning question of Dukakis in the 1988 presidential debates: Would the former Massachusetts governor approve of the death penalty for someone who raped and murdered his wife?

Happy Trails. HOH bids farewell to Officer Bill Cleveland. After 30 years on the Capitol Police force, he’s hanging up his hat and handcuffs to head off into the political sunset, where he hopes to pick them back up.

Cleveland is that Hollywood-style friendly cop who’s always smiling at the entrance to the Cannon House Office Building at First and C streets Southeast. Perhaps it’s the natural politician in him.

He’s heading home to Alexandria, Va., where he’ll head up the Commonwealth’s “African Americans for Bush” team for the remainder of the presidential campaign.

Next year, he’s running for sheriff of Alexandria in what he hopes will be a victorious comeback after losing the mayoral race last year.

Cleveland, 56, a former Alexandria city council member, told HOH that he has worked “for some of the most influential people here on the Hill to help protect them.” He added, “A lot of the Democrats are really great, too.”

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