Foot-in-Mouth, Redux

Posted September 9, 2005 at 6:34pm

Rep. Richard Baker (R-La.) insists that the Wall Street Journal misquoted him when the paper wrote that the Congressman was overheard telling some lobbyists: “We finally cleaned up public housing in New Orleans. We couldn’t do it, but God did.”

Baker says what he really said was: “We have been trying for decades to clean up New Orleans public housing to provide decent housing for residents, and now it looks like God is finally making us do it.” The Congressman said in a statement that he was “taken aback and perturbed” by the Journal’s “Washington Wire” item. His statement went on at length about his commitment to the residents of public housing in his Baton Rouge district.[IMGCAP(1)]

House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas) also got caught making Barbara Bush-esque comments in the Houston Astrodome. A Houston Chronicle reporter blogged on the paper’s Web site Friday that DeLay stopped to chat with three little boys resting on cots. He compared their stay to “camp,” according to the reporter, and asked, “Now tell me the truth boys, is this kind of fun?”

The Chronicle reporter wrote, “They nodded yes, but looked perplexed.”

DeLay spokesman Kevin Madden said his boss’s comments were misconstrued. “Mr. DeLay was doing his best to put a smile on some children’s faces,” Madden told HOH. “He and his wife work with foster children and have a very personal understanding that kids need to be comforted in tough situations like this one. It’s odd that their reaction was portrayed as ‘perplexed.’”

Of course, it was former first lady Bush who led the pack with her cheery comments about the evacuees at the Astrodome. In a public radio interview, she said, “Everyone is so overwhelmed by the hospitality. And so many of the people in the arena here, you know, were underprivileged anyway, so this, this is working very well for them.”

Dems Cheer Cheney Getting “Cheneyed.” Democratic aides have been howling about the heckler who interrupted Vice President Cheney’s news conference in Louisiana when he finally landed in the hurricane-ravaged region on Thursday.

The heckler calmly but repeatedly yelled, “Mr. Cheney, go f–k yourself.” When a reporter asked, “Are you getting a lot of that?” Cheney said no and suggested the heckler “must be a friend of John … er, ah, never mind.”

One Democratic aide familiar with Cheney’s famous f-bomb comment to Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) on the floor of the Senate told HOH, “Just like the vice president said before, I’ll bet that guy — and millions more in the Gulf states — feels better right about now for getting that off his chest.”

Another senior Democratic aide joked, “The administration finally broke through the media filter and heard from the people directly.”

No word back from Cheney’s folks on what they thought of the incident.

Baseball and … Friday was a day of baseball and romance for Sen. Johnny Isakson. The Georgia Republican gave a tour of the Capitol to the hottest rock-star rookies in Major League Baseball — five stars of the Atlanta Braves, including 21-year-old right fielder Jeff Francoeur, who recently graced the cover of Sports Illustrated.

The Senator was supposed to be presiding over the Senate, but talked Sen. John Sununu (R-N.H.) into subbing for him so he could go meet his new heroes. Hands were shaken, baseballs were signed, pictures were taken and the bleary-eyed Senator was on cloud nine. “We are very proud of you,” he told the rookies, in town to take on the Washington Nationals. “I got all my heroes here. I couldn’t go to sleep last night thinking of them coming over today.”

Isakson won some cool points with the players when he told him he played baseball for two years back in his Bulldog days at the University of Georgia. “Then I decided girls were more important,” the Senator winked. (Indeed, he met his wife, Dianne, in college.)

Francoeur joked to his teammate Brian McCann, the catcher, “See, Brian? He was a catcher and now he’s a Senator.”

Besides the hot-hitting Francoeur and McCann, Isakson hosted pitchers Macay McBride and Kyle Davies, and left fielder Kelly Johnson for about a half hour before taking them over to the Capitol for a staff-led tour while he returned to the chair.

… Love. Presiding over the Senate wasn’t his last official act before leaving town on Friday. Isakson had some serious business to tend to up at the top of the Capitol dome, where one of his aides needed the Senator’s assistance.

Since you can only go to the top of the Dome accompanied by a Member of Congress, Legislative Assistant Tucker Shumack asked Boss Isakson to take him and his girlfriend up there so he could pop the big question.

The girlfriend, Kristine McCarty, had just flown in from Nashville, thinking she was about to take a special tour of the Capitol. Oh, it was special all right, a Tiffany’s-diamond-ring kind of special.

Isakson and his chief of staff, Joan Kirchner, pulled the Capitol tour guide — who was clueless to the plan — over to the other side of the Dome. Shumack, 32, got down on one knee, asked his gal to marry him and placed the ring on her finger. And then he almost had a heart attack. Because she shook her hand pretty furiously, from what we’re told, to make sure the ring fit. “Tucker had visions of the ring flying off her finger and over the edge of the Dome,” Kirchner told HOH.

But the ring fit, and McCarty, 29, said yes. The Senator gave his LA’s new fiancé a kiss, then scooted back down the 300 steps by himself to catch a flight back home to Georgia.

Congratulations to the lovebirds.

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