When in Rome

Posted April 26, 2005 at 6:47pm

Not everyone in the Congressional delegation that traveled to Rome last weekend to attend a Mass for Pope Benedict XVI was happy with the way the Vatican treated a disabled Member of Congress who went on the trip.

Rep. James Langevin (D-R.I.), a Catholic, was unable to take communion because the platform on which the new pope was standing was not readily accessible to people with disabilities. Langevin has been a quadriplegic since he was a teenager, when a police officer accidentally shot him.

An HOH informant who attended the delegation trip said Langevin was within 20 yards of the pope, edging closer to the stage in St. Peter’s Basilica, when Vatican security came over and said he could not go up on stage to receive communion. A few men in the crowd were prepared to lift Langevin and his wheelchair onto the platform, the source said, but Vatican officials said no.

“It was such an affront,” our source said, expressing outrage and contempt for the new pontiff. “The pope didn’t come near anybody with any kind of disability at all,” he said, adding that he saw no other people with disabilities anywhere in sight.

“Had it been Pope John Paul II,” the source said, “he would have been mugging and kissing” everyone in the crowd.

While our source was nearly apoplectic over the episode, Langevin was more peaceful. The Congressman’s chief of staff, Kristin Nicholson, told HOH that Langevin chalked it up to “a language barrier with the ushers” at the Vatican, who she said denied Langevin access to the platform because of concerns for his safety.

“He could have sat there and explained but he decided it was better to keep the lines moving,” Nicholson said. She acknowledged, however, that Langevin has taken communion on that very platform from the late John Paul II. As she described it, there is a stone ramp cut into the steps. “It definitely works, he’s done it before,” she said.

But because of the very long lines and the language barrier with the Italian ushers, Nicholson said Langevin decided not to hold up others by trying to explain to Vatican officials that he had used the stone ramp before to take communion.

“He wasn’t going to make an issue out of it. It was a hugely historic and momentous occasion,” she said.

Good Fellow. Sen. Thad Cochran (R-Miss.) has a real lifesaver in his office. David McClendon, who is taking a year away from his residency in Jackson, Miss., to be Cochran’s health fellow for a year, was driving through Georgetown on Sunday on his way to church when he saw an elderly man with a cane lying belly-up on the side of the road.

McClendon, 28, pulled over, jumped out of his car and went full-on into Doogie Hauser mode. “I quickly assessed him, went through all the usual life support and CPR protocol,” McClendon told HOH.

The young doctor could not tell whether the unidentified gentlemen had a pulse, but “his head was blue,” he was only semi-conscious and a couple of people on the scene said the man had been shaking before Doogie, er, McClendon, pulled up. “It was pretty obvious he had just had a seizure,” McClendon said.

McClendon said he simply cleaned the man’s mouth off and did a “chin thrust movement to help him breathe on his own” until the ambulance arrived. (People on the scene had already called 911.) Within a few minutes, the man’s color returned and he was stable when the paramedics arrived to take him to the hospital.

McClendon refused to reveal any secrets we might want to know about the powerful chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee (doctor-patient confidentiality, perhaps?). Instead, the remarkably diplomatic physician said, with Cochran, what you see is what you get.

“There is an enormous amount of varying personalities on the Hill. Sen. Cochran is an incredibly humble, nice guy. He’s like that every single time you see him.”

Read the Book, Jack. An exposé on the American Indian casino lobbying scandal is coming to a bookstore near you, just in time for the 2006 midterm elections. Peter Stone, the National Journal reporter who has been out front on the hottest story in town, has just signed a deal for an undisclosed sum with Farrar Straus and Giroux.

Stone told HOH in an e-mail that he considers the story “one of the most colorful and controversial” tales in recent years. “I hope to tell that story by exploring the careers of former super lobbyist Jack Abramoff and pr man Michael Scanlon whose work for several tribes earned them at least $20 million each and sparked allegations of misconduct and public corruption that are being probed by a federal grand jury, an interagency task force and two Senate committees,” Stone wrote.

A press release from the publisher said the currently untitled book will expose “parts of the Washington lobbying community and GOP establishment where greed, arrogance, and corruption seem to have run amok.”

The release named Abramoff, embattled House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas) and Ralph Reed, a Bush campaign adviser and former head of the Christian Coalition, as subjects of the book. Stone will surely be interviewing and writing about other Members whose names have been implicated in the Abramoff web as well.

Stone told HOH he will, indeed, be taking a look at how Reed, an old friend of Abramoff’s, “earned about $4 million for rallying social conservative backing to shut down Indian casinos that were rivals of Abramoff’s clients.”

Stone will continue working half time at National Journal while he works to meet an April 2006 publication date.

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