Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) said Friday that he’s “clinically depressed” by his decades-long and thus far futile battle to open up the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil drilling. But later, the Senator’s aides scrambled to call reporters and explain that he is not medically depressed, just depressed.
Stevens sure sounded like he was ready to join the Prozac Nation when he said at a news conference, “I’m really depressed. As a matter of fact, I’m seriously, I’m seriously depressed. Unfortunately, clinically depressed. And I’ve been told that.”
Just prior to that, on the Senate floor, Stevens said he was “near depressive” over Congress not keeping its promise under the 1980 Lands Act to open ANWR to drilling. He said if he loses the fight next week, when the Senate is expected to revisit drilling and exploration during the budget debate, he will “seriously” reconsider running for re-election.
The Senator himself explained to Alaska reporters after his news conference that he was “not to the point” where he’s taking medication for his depression but said, “I really am very, very disturbed.”
He went on to say he was tired of people in his own party challenging him, which, he said, “I don’t think is fair.” In the next breath, saying that he’s worked too long “trying to get Congress to keep its word” to allow drilling in ANWR, Stevens said, “I’m not depressed, I just feel guilty.”
The Senator’s spokeswoman, Courtney Boone, clarified that Stevens was not actually clinically depressed over the ANWR issue. She said what he really meant to say was that he was “depressed, saddened in his heart, truly depressed.”
Nuzzy the Fuzzy. House Budget Chairman Jim Nussle (R-Iowa) loves all God’s children, even Democratic committee staffers who would love to rip his budget resolution to shreds.
Filled with a kind of bipartisan spirit rarely felt these days, Nussle decided the night before the Budget Committee markup, when staffers on both sides worked very late into the night, that he would have dinner not with his staff, but with the minority staff.
Tom Kahn, the Democratic staff director, tells HOH he got an e-mail from Nussle saying something like, “I hope things are going well. I hope you’re not working too hard.” Kahn then responded with an e-mail inviting the chairman to join the minority staff for Chinese and pizza.
“To our surprise and delight, 10 minutes later, Jim Nussle appeared on our doorstep alone. We were very happy to see him,” Kahn said. He said the chairman “stayed for a while and schmoozed” the staff before returning to the dark side to finish writing his budget mark.
Cynics might say Nussle was just buttering up the Democratic staffers before devouring them the next day in markup. But Kahn said although Budget Committee Democrats and Republicans disagree “profoundly over policy, it’s done in an agreeable way.”
Sean Spicer, Nussle’s spokesman, referred to the recent hug-a-thon that may have ended an intense feud between two famous rappers: “If 50 Cent and The Game can get along, then so can we,” Spicer said.
Barrel of Laughs. It’s not your typical cookie-cutter fundraiser. But then again, neither is the politician. Instead of an expensive dinner or golf outing, Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.), the lefty, bow-tie-wearing bicyclist, will throw his ninth annual comedy fundraiser next month.
Though the event is not until April 20, the hype has begun.
This year’s show is called “Privatize THIS! A Lockbox Full of Laughs.” Tickets start at $1,000, climb to $2,500 and max out at $5,000. But once inside, everyone is treated the same — no VIP section for top donors. These are egalitarian liberals after all.
Blumenauer will be the emcee of the comedy show, introducing the entertainers he has chosen and doing a little of his own schtick on “what’s actually happening in our world,” as he put it.
“Some of this stuff around here you can’t make up, like what just happened at the White House with the porn star blogger under whatever name he’s using this week,” he said, adding he anticipates plenty of sketches on that subject and more about the White House. “The Bush administration. God love ’em.”
Between the White House, the Republican Congressional leadership and what Blumenauer called the “Democratic tendency to form circular firing squads,” the jokes should keep on rolling.
The list of lawmaker-comedians includes Reps. Barney Frank (D-Mass.), Brian Baird (D-Wash.), Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.), Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.), George Miller (D-Calif.), Ellen Tauscher (D-Calif.)., and the Sanchez sisters, Loretta and Linda, both California Democrats. Former Rep. Chris Bell (D-Texas) is also making a special post-defeat appearance.
One Member whose name does not appear on the list of entertainers this year is Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-N.Y.), whose racy joke last year went over like a lead balloon.
Playing the part of a macho guy from Brooklyn, Weiner said he had found some lawmakers to be “hot,” including Tauscher. “I wouldn’t mind having sex with Ellen Tauscher. But I’m afraid that it would be like a praying mantis deal and she’d bite my head off when we were done,” he said, apparently offending some folks at the show.
And that gets HOH wondering: Will Members keep their jokes to the same decency standards they are imposing on broadcasters?
Poor House. Sen. Wayne Allard’s (R-Colo.) responses to Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee Secretary Debbie Stabenow (Mich.) in the Senate Budget Committee markup last week struck some Democratic observers as outrageous.
Stabenow offered an amendment Thursday to ensure that Medicare Part D premium increases in the prescription drug plan would not lower Social Security payments to low-income seniors and the disabled. Allard disagreed with the amendment, saying, “We’ve already done a lot in Part D for poor people. … Personally, my view is I don’t think that we ought to be extending this to part D because we’ve done so much for the very poor people in the prescription drug plan.”
Allard added, “We’ve already taken care of the poorest of the poor with our prescription drug plan. … I just think we’ve taken care of the poor already who are in the prescription drug plan put in place.”
Phil Singer, communications director for the DSCC, charged Allard with “contempt for the poor.” He said Allard “might as well have said, ‘Let them eat cake.’”
He added, “One sentence you won’t hear from a Republican: We’ve done enough for the rich.”
Allard’s spokeswoman, Angela de Rocha, thought the Democratic criticism was unfair. “On the contrary. It was very important for him that the prescription drug benefit be provided for poor people,” she said, explaining the Senator thought the problem had already been remedied.
“He’s certainly not unsympathetic to poverty and to people who are poor,” she said.