I-69

Posted November 15, 2004 at 6:39pm

Rep. John Hostettler’s office was inundated with inquiries Monday about the Indiana Republican’s bill to change the name of Interstate 69 to a more moral-sounding number.

The calls, which arrived from news organizations all over the country, came in response to a story on

[IMGCAP(1)] the Hoosier Gazette Web site that said religious conservative groups had convinced Hostettler to propose changing the name of an extension of I-69 to something less risqué, such as I-63 — or anything, good Lord, anything, other than that dreadfully vulgar “69” number.

Hostettler was quoted in the Web site’s story saying, “Every time I have been out in the public with an ‘I-69’ button on my lapel, teenagers point and snicker at it. I have had many ask me if they can have my button. I believe it is time to change the name of the highway. It is the moral thing to do.”

The Web site went on to quote him saying that I-63, by comparison, “doesn’t have the sexual undertones that I-69 has.”

When HOH called Hostettler’s office to find out what the Congressman had against 69, his press secretary, Michael Jahr, shrieked and said, “This is driving me nuts! I’ve been getting calls from all over the place.” CBS radio in Dallas called. So did a station in Detroit, and another in Fort Wayne, Ind., not to mention one in Austin, Texas. Meanwhile, members of the public sent nasty e-mails, each of them asking in one form or another, “Don’t you guys have better things to do than mess with the Interstate?”

Well, apparently they do. Hostettler, it turns out, is very pro-69. The Gazette story, Jahr says, is “ridiculous, bogus and absurd.” And Hostettler is a “fervent supporter of I-69.”

If visitors to the Hoosier Gazette had bothered to look more closely at the rest of the Web site, they would have discovered that it is one big spoof. The site’s other lead story is about Indiana Gov.-elect Mitch Daniels’ (R) first 100-days plan to cut taxes by 80 percent, decriminalize prostitution, create an Office of Gay Affairs and postpone building a new stadium for the Indianapolis Colts until the teams gets a better defense. Further down, the Web site’s disclaimer says, “The reader should suspend belief for the sake of enjoyment.”

Just one question, though. Why was it so easy to believe that Hostettler would actually introduce a bill renaming I-69?

Reid His Mind. There’s a lot more to Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.) than meets the eye. Behind those unassuming glasses, underneath that gentle, soft-spoken, grandfatherly manner lurks a hardened fighter — a man the Las Vegas Review-Journal calls “Ruthless Reid.”

Reid is about to become the most powerful Democrat in Congress. (Sorry, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), but can you say “Supreme Court confirmations”?) So as he prepares to take the reins as Senate Minority Leader, HOH thought readers would like to hear Seven Things You May Not Know About Harry Reid:

1) Gun Nut. He owns 10 guns, including a shotgun, a couple of rifles and a few pistols.

2) Music Nut. You may see Reid walking the halls listening to his iPod. He loves his vintage country, including George Jones and Ernest Tubb. He also likes the Texas Tornadoes and digs the Wilco/Billy Bragg album “Mermaid Avenue,” which features lost lyrics and unfinished songs by Woody Guthrie.

3) Fitness Addict. Reid jogs and lifts weights every morning. (The former House Member has maintained his loyalty to the House gym.)

4) Mob Target. He spent a year turning on his car with a remote control after the mafia tried to rub him out. That was because Reid took on organized crime when he was chairman of the Nevada Gaming Commission in the 1970s. Apparently, his decisions bothered some mobsters, who responded by putting a bomb in Reid’s car. (He and his family were unhurt.)

5) Tough Guy. Reid is a former amateur middleweight boxer, as well as a former Capitol Police officer.

6) Grandfather. He has 15 grandchildren.

7) History Nut. Reid read all 10 volumes of “The Story of Civilization” by Will Durant.

Movin’ On Up. Eric Ueland, a veteran Republican aide known for his bow ties and clever quips, is being promoted by Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) to chief of staff in Frist’s leadership office.

Ueland is taking the reins from longtime Frist confidante Lee Rawls, who is taking a much-deserved break after working for 33 years in some of the most high-profile, pressure-filled jobs in the nation’s capital.

Bob Stevenson, Frist’s communications director, said Rawls is turning his attention to honing his skills in knocking a little white ball up and down the fairways.

“Lee will be greatly missed, but we will all be looking forward to watching him on TV as he transitions to the Senior PGA Tour,” Stevenson joked.

Rawls has had a storied career in D.C., most recently serving as chief of staff to FBI Director Robert Mueller before Frist lured him back to Capitol Hill last year when he was tapped by his GOP colleagues to replace Senate Minority Leader Trent Lott (R-Miss.).

It comes as no surprise that Rawls is moving on. He even hinted at it in an interview with Roll Call during this year’s Republican National Convention, saying that he and Frist, his fellow Princeton alum, would “probably have a chat at the end of the year at some point.” Rawls also noted that he would be turning 60 this month, a weighty milestone. “I mean, 60’s up there. But I’m having a good time,” he said.

Ueland, who currently serves as deputy chief of staff, is a partisan respected for his acumen and wizardry of the arcane rules and precedents that govern the Senate.

“He is an extremely talented Senate veteran who understands the rhythms of the body and the needs of its Members,” Stevenson said of his new boss. Democrats, too, grudgingly acknowledge that Ueland is a worthy adversary.

Now that he is in power, HOH wonders if Ueland will change the office dress code to require staffers to shun their neckties for the more traditional bow-tie look.

Inaugural Hangover Remedy. The inauguration is coming, and for most folks in power — i.e., Republicans — that means partying like it’s 1999, or at least like it’s 2004 and your party has just won big time.

For all you guys out there who will be hung over after all the inaugural balls celebrating W’s second coming, there is hope. The new and trendy L Street Grooming Lounge, a spa for men, is offering an Inaugural Ball Morning After Package. The spa, which one would think is in cahoots with the liquor lobby, says it “can help a guy recover from even the most atrocious of hangovers.”

The $300 package includes a morning wake-up call; town-car service; black coffee; full body massage; hangover eye therapy; slumber mask and ear plugs; Alka Seltzer; and the “multifunctional” Grooming Lounge bucket.

Mark Preston contributed to this report.

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