See Jane Legislate

Posted June 4, 2008 at 6:46pm

One question often posed to celebrities and potential dates — perhaps because of what it reveals about a person — is: “What book is on your bedside table?”

[IMGCAP(1)]And if you ask Democrats on the House Homeland Security Committee a version of that question, you might be surprised at the answer. An HOH spy tells us that among the reference books on the bookshelf of the committee’s majority staff conference room, there’s an unexpected tome: “The Complete Idiot’s Guide to National Security.”

The book, part of the “Complete Idiot” series, which aims to demystify for the Average Joe topics ranging from real estate to sex, is clearly meant for a much more elementary audience than the experts crafting homeland security policy. The Democrats use the conference room, located in the Ford House Office Building, for meetings with staffers, Members, lobbyists and others. And Democratic staffers say it’s not their folks who need the occasional remedial brush-up.

“We keep the book on hand for the countless political appointees at [the Homeland Security Department] who visit our office and sometimes need a refresher on the ABCs of national security,” countered Dena Graziano, the committee’s communications director.

A GOP source, asked for reaction, laughed and gave HOH the old “no comment.”

“I think the book speaks for itself,” the GOP-er said.

While “The Idiot’s Guide to National Security” isn’t exactly the kind of title that inspires a lot of confidence — no matter who in the conference room uses it — Penguin, the “Idiots” series’ publisher, wouldn’t label anyone on the committee a dolt. It commends its readers for being “smart, curious, at ease with yourself, and interested in learning.”

Now, if there was an Idiot’s Guide to writing gossip columns, HOH might have to pick one up.

PDA for a Cause. There’s nothing like a beautiful, famous and obviously-in-love couple — who also care about the children! — to warm HOH’s otherwise icy-cold heart.

Comedian couple Jim Carrey and Jenny McCarthy were on Capitol Hill on Wednesday to take part in the “Green Our Vaccines” rally, which pushed lawmakers to move to eliminate toxins like mercury from vaccines and re-evaluate vaccine schedules.

McCarthy — who apparently is “one of the most well respected public figures in America,” according to her official speaker biography — has long been involved in the cause, arguing toxins in vaccines gave her young son Evan autism. Since Carrey hooked up with McCarthy a few years ago, he also has joined the fight.

Both spoke at the rally, with Carrey giving a particularly touching tribute to McCarthy. “Without Evan, I might not have seen the greatness of Jenny’s spirit,” he said. “Learning to love them has made me a man.” The lovefest continued after the event, when the couple worked the media line together, locked in a tight embrace during interviews with folks from places such as Inside Edition and Access Hollywood.

Carrey told HOH that Members should view the Green our Vaccines campaign as “a winning issue,” and urged them to work to completely eliminate toxins in vaccines. The actor also criticized drug companies for not taking the vaccine issue seriously.

“God knows they are busy fighting the terrible surge that is restless leg syndrome, also known as lazy ass disease,” Carrey quipped during the rally.

Also on hand for the event were Reps. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) and Robert F. Kennedy Jr., although HOH didn’t notice that duo embracing as tightly.

An Obama-McCain Bill. There’s plenty that Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Barack Obama (D-Ill.) don’t agree on. That war in Iraq, for one. Foreign policy in general. Taxes, the economy… the list goes on and on. But the unlikely duo — who are the all-but-certain presidential nominees of their respective parties — apparently agrees on one issue, and agrees enough to co-sponsor legislation.

Obama introduced legislation this week, along with Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), that builds on a previous law they wrote establishing a Web site to better disclose the sources of federal spending. McCain and Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.) are original co-sponsors of the new bill.

The “Strengthening Transparency and Accountability in Federal Spending Act of 2008” would beef up the website www.usaspending.gov with things like better formatting and searchable text, disclosures of whether the spending was the result of an earmark, and details about competitive bidding.

OK, so it’s not exactly landmark legislation, but the mere fact that it’s co-sponsored by two Senators who will be publicly bloodying one another strikes us as a wee bit significant.

And Obama’s folks are proud of the moment of bipartisanship. “The fact that Senator McCain is an original cosponsor of the Obama-Coburn bill is a testament to Senator Obama’s proven ability to work across party lines to address important issues,” Obama spokesman Michael Ortiz tells HOH.

HOH can only imagine the photo op the signing ceremony for this one would create.

Conrad Wants Blood from Turnips. Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad (D-N.D.) has a novel proposal for offsetting federal spending, but it’s not one that HOH thinks is going to yield much in the way of bucks. Conrad was leaving a meeting with the Senate Finance Committee on Wednesday when he revealed his plan to get Republican support for offsets. “The seizure of reporters’ property has very broad support,” he announced to one scribe in what we can hope was a deadpan tone. “The place where it gets hung-up is how your goods would be auctioned,” he continued. “And I think that is the only thing standing in the way.”

Knowing what HOH knows about reporters’ salaries and concomitantly less-than-luxurious property, we weren’t so much alarmed at the Senator’s plan as we were amused. We can only wish the Senator good luck in that meager endeavor.

Clinton’s Affairs of the Heart. Plenty of armchair psychologists have questioned why former President Bill Clinton has been so dang moody lately. His outbursts on the campaign trail for his wife, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) have attracted plenty of ink.

Enter Dr. John McDougall, an actual physician out in California who specializes in nutrition and who claims to have diagnosed Clinton’s ills long-distance. The good doctor has written an op-ed arguing that Clinton’s recent erratic behavior is due to “post bypass surgery cognitive dysfunction” — basically brain damage that’s the result of being hooked up to life-support equipment during his 2004 heart operation.

The doctor, apparently not content to share his theories at cocktail parties, has hired a public relations firm to send the piece to journalists and others. McDougall tells HOH he believes his article was used as a basis for this month’s blockbuster Vanity Fair piece on Clinton’s post-White House life, which also argues the heart operation had an effect on the president’s behavior.

Press releases aside, McDougall insists he isn’t out for glory.

“I’m a Bill Clinton fan, and to watch him humiliate himself in public was very difficult for me,” McDougall said. “I kept watching this man’s behavior, and I knew what it was.”

Jay Heflin of CongressNow contributed to this report.

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