Thune Rumor Dispelled

Posted December 3, 2004 at 6:20pm

It started as a murmur. And then slowly last week it escalated to a fever pitch. Democrats in Washington, South Dakota and elsewhere spread a rumor like wildfire that John Thune, who defeated Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle (D-S.D.) on a moral values platform, was getting divorced. [IMGCAP(1)]

Some said Thune’s wife had already filed for divorce, although there were no signs of court records. Others said she “was going to file” for divorce but that the Thune camp had cajoled her to wait until after the election. Unsubstantiated whispers found their way into the inboxes of e-mail accounts in newsrooms around the country.

Reporters started calling Thune’s transition office and asking whether it was true. Reporters called every political source they could imagine. And pretty soon, reporters started calling each other. The frenzy intensified and the buzz got louder, and nastier.

HOH called Dick Wadhams, Thune’s dogged, take-no-prisoners campaign manager, who is now serving as a spokesman during the transition, to see if there was any truth to the rumor.

“The rumor is totally and completely false. It is untrue. It just shows that there are still a bunch of folks out there who hate John Thune and are believing their own crap,” Wadhams said.

In fact, Wadhams said, the Senator-elect remains “happily married” to his wife, Kimberly, and they “are looking forward to John serving in the Senate — the whole family is.” The Thunes were together at Thanksgiving and this past weekend they were traveling to Oregon together to watch their 17-year-old daughter compete in a national cross-country meet for her Sioux Falls high school.

“It’s no secret that there are those who were involved in the 2002 and 2004 elections who hate John Thune. That hatred is running amok,” Wadhams said.

Outlaw. Joe Milczewski, the press secretary for Rep. Barbara Cubin (R-Wyo.), is no longer on the lam. He says he called the authorities in Casper bright and early Friday morning and agreed to send them a check for $214 to clear his name from the city’s Municipal Court warrant list.

According to a report in the Casper Star Tribune, Milczewski’s was one of 1,068 names on the warrant list, his for failing to appear in court on Sept. 8 “to answer charges of speeding.”

And to think: It was all for a spicy chicken sandwich from Wendy’s.

That’s where Milczewski was headed on Aug. 20 when he got pulled over for allegedly going 46 mph in a 30-mph zone in the city limits of Casper. “I really like the Wild Mountain [sandwich], but that’s only available for a limited time,” Milczewski told HOH. So on that particular day, he went for the spicy chicken sandwich instead. But what he really got was the blue light special.

He got in even bigger trouble when he forgot to pay the ticket. As he told the Star Tribune, “It was just plumb forgetfulness. I got the ticket right outside of the Wendy’s … and I just sort of threw it in the glove box and a week later I sold that pickup.”

Milczewski straightened it all out with a phone call to the courthouse in Casper on Friday morning. “They wanted me to come to Casper. I said I could be there in a couple of hours because I drive so fast. They said, ‘No, just mail us a check.’”

Pot Fight. Rep. Mark Souder (R-Ind.) is very worried about states that support legalizing smoking marijuana for what he calls “so-called ‘medical’ use.”

In a “Dear Colleague” letter sent last week, Souder wrote, “The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has failed to educate the public against a dangerous drug whose dangers have been kept from the public by those promoting its use.

“Vioxx?

“No. Marijuana.”

Souder goes on to bash the FDA for being “reluctant to educate the public about the false claims and real dangers of smoking marijuana,” despite repeated requests by the House Government Affairs subcommittee on criminal justice, drug policy and human resources, which he chairs. So this week, Souder plans to introduce a bill directing the National Institutes of Health to examine the safety and effectiveness of smoking pot and post the study on its Web site.

The National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, NORML, has another idea.

“I suggest that [Souder] and the NIH start by looking at their own 1999 report by the Institute of Medicine, which found that marijuana is an effective medicine for terminally ill patients as well as other studies using whole-smoked marijuana, like the ones being conducted by the Center for Medical Cannabis Research at the University of California,” says NORML’s associate director, Kris Krane, adding that his organization would be happy to post the results of that study on its Web site. “To paraphrase President Bush, ‘Bring it on.’”

Lounge 201 Forgotten. The owners of Lounge 201 are sick and tired of answering the question: When are you going to reopen? The answer is: They never closed and they’re serving up some mighty fine wine and martinis.

Ever since a fire destroyed an apartment above Lounge 201 last month, many have assumed the bar was damaged, too. “Every day I have people calling and saying, ‘Are you guys open?’ ‘I heard there was a fire.’ ‘When are you planning on reopening?’” complained owner Matt Weiss.

Weiss says people apparently have assumed that the dramatic fire, which injured one person and gutted an entire apartment, ruined the popular drinking hole. The awning of the lounge was damaged, but that’s it.

The confusion and dwindling business forced him to put a sign out front of the windowless joint reading, “Unaffected By Fire. We’re Open.”

Off the Market. Congratulations to Sen. Jack Reed (D-R.I.) and Julia Hart on their engagement. The Senator popped the question the day before Thanksgiving over lunch at a restaurant on Madison Avenue in Manhattan. Her answer (yes, big time) ended one of the Senate’s staunchest — though not wildest, we suspect — bachelorhoods in Congress.

“It was the right thing to do at the right time and I did it,” Reed told HOH.

The lucky woman works in the Senate’s Interparliamentary Services Office, where part of her job is to arrange Congressional delegations to foreign legislatures. Hart met Reed on a trip to Afghanistan in January 2002. No romance there.

But more than a year later, in August 2003 when she was visiting her stepbrother in Rhode Island, Hart ran into the Senator at a restaurant. They agreed they should get together sometime back in Washington.

They did. They fell in love. They met each other’s families. They got engaged. The lovebirds have not decided on a wedding date yet but Reed said, “I don’t anticipate a long-term engagement.”

Asked what attracted him to Hart, Reed described his fiancée as “a very attractive, charming woman” who is “fun to be with.” Then he laughed (yes, Senator Reed laughed) and said, “If I knew what attracts people together I would be doing a much more lucrative job.”

Reed, a veteran of the Army’s 82nd Airborne Division, seems to think his future wife will bring a lighter touch to his brainy, workaholic, West Point-inspired personality.

“Most people are more lighthearted than I am,” he joked. “By default she’s an absolute dream. I’m a pretty serious guy. She’s much more cheerful than me.” He sighed and added, “I’m getting better.”

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