Congressman Numero Uno

Posted April 6, 2005 at 6:51pm

All those decades of wheeling, dealing and backslapping in smoke-filled rooms over high-stakes poker games — consider them history. These days, it’s apparently Uno that brings the mighty together in Washington, D.C., to broker big deals.

Sure, some men play poker. But not Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-Fla.). This man’s man plays Uno, Mattel’s card game for ages 7 and up. And so must his donors and truckers everywhere. Diaz-Balart is holding his first annual Uno tournament fundraiser April 27, sponsored by the American Trucking Association. [IMGCAP(1)]

For a minimum donation of $500, or $1,000 per PAC, you can join what will doubtlessly become a raucous Uno showdown. And the raucous part is no joke. “As an adult, it’s a lot more fun,” Diaz-Balart said. “If you do it right as an adult it’s actually kind of nasty. You have to be obnoxious about it.”

He learned the game playing against his brothers, including Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart (R-Fla.) and Jose Diaz-Balart, a journalist in Miami who hosts a show in Spanish on Telemundo and anchors the local news in English on Miami’s NBC affiliate.

How obnoxious do the Diaz-Balart brothers get when they play Uno? “So obnoxious that I refuse to comment on it,” the reigning family champion, Mario Diaz-Balart, told HOH. “It gets really obnoxious.”

Watch out for his next fundraiser. We predict hopscotch and dodge ball.

First Lady Sighting. Before jetting off to Vatican City to attend the pope’s funeral, first lady Laura Bush took in one of the racier plays around town with a few friends Tuesday night.

An HOH informant spotted the first lady and “a few of her lady friends” at the end of “I Am My Own Wife,” a one-man show about a German transvestite who survived the Nazis. Bush was seen exiting the National Theatre and ducking “pretty quickly” into the black suburban that awaited her outside.

The play, which won both the Pulitzer Prize and the Tony Award, is “definitely not a conservative play,” our informant tells us. Actor Jefferson Mays, who plays more than 40 characters, talks about his (or her) “black lace panties” and his encounters with sadomasochism, and makes references to going to “Café Anal,” which he says affectedly as “Café aNAHL.”

One of the characters played by Mays grew up gay in the Bible Belt. He says, “I can only imagine what it was like in the Third Reich.”

We’re not sure what Bush thought of the play. She had already left for Rome and her office did not return calls to HOH seeking the first lady’s review.

Hurry, Pray! Just as more bad press started piling up this week on House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas), the Capitol Hill Prayer Alert sent out an urgent alert to its members, warning: “Christian Statesman Targeted.”

The nonprofit group, founded by Harry Valentine, urged members to pray for DeLay’s victory over “liberal hate,” explaining that the charges of ethics violations against DeLay are the result of a “vicious attack” by a “long time ‘Common Cause’ liberal activist.”

On his Web site, Valentine writes:

“Let Us Prevail in Prayer for Tom DeLay:

“Father, we call upon You to VINDICATE Your servant & to DELIVER him from those who hate him. EXPOSE every lie. Cause TRUTH to PREVAIL. GIVE our brother WISDOM. PROTECT him from the deadly poison of his enemies. What the enemy intends for evil, turn to good. In Jesus’ Name, Amen. (Ps 35:24-36; 57:3-4; 64:all; Pr 18:17; Rom 8:28).”

Dan Allen, a spokesman for DeLay, said the Majority Leader’s office was unaware of the prayer alert but added, “Congressman DeLay always welcomes prayers and support.”

Good Sport. For those who say bipartisanship is dead, HOH offers you Texas Republican Rep. Ralph Hall and his former nemesis, Jim Nickerson.

Nickerson was Hall’s Democratic opponent last November; it marked Hall’s first race as a Republican after switching parties earlier in 2004.

The race was not much to speak of, as Hall took 68 percent to Nickerson’s 30 percent.

But their story ended happily. Hall was one of the chief sponsors of a debt retirement fundraiser for Nickerson on March 28 at the Pilgrim’s Pride New World Headquarters located between Mount Pleasant and Pittsburg, Texas.

It turns out that Nickerson, the owner of a recycling company and former minor league baseball player, dipped into his pocket to donate nearly $150,000 to the campaign. At the end of 2004, his campaign account was $146,500 in the red. To paraphrase Ross Perot, now that’s just nice.

Cancer Event. On the same evening that ABC News anchor Peter Jennings announced he was suffering from lung cancer, the group Friends of Cancer Research hosted a reception in the Capitol on Tuesday night honoring cancer center directors from across the country.

Jerry Zucker, the Hollywood producer of the classic zany movie “Airplane” and “Ghost” and director of “Rat Race,” showed up, bringing his daughter, Katie, a patient-advocate for stem-cell research.

Sens. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska), Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) and Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) spoke briefly about the need for more funding for cancer research, and were joined by Sen. Sam Brownback (R-Kan.), who put aside his difference of opinion with the Zuckers on stem-cell research to be there.

Chris Cillizza and Lauren W. Whittington contributed to this report.