Heard on the Hill: The Prodigal Spokesman

Posted June 25, 2008 at 6:43pm

Bad boys have it made. Girls love ’em, and guys want to be them. The nice guys? Well, they finish last, or at least that’s what we’ve heard.

[IMGCAP(1)]Former White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan has certainly been labeled a bad boy — at least in GOP circles — since he released “What Happened,” his seething memoir chronicling his years working for President Bush. The controversy has led to a slew of high-profile media engagements across the country and even a special appearance before Congress.

Meanwhile, Ari Fleischer, the former White House press secretary who remains staunchly loyal to Bush, is taking on far less glamorous gigs these days.

Fleischer spoke on Tuesday evening at the Scottish Rite Center, run by the free masonry group up in Columbia Heights. He was there to talk about how he overcame a childhood lisp (the Scottish Rite runs a center to help kids with speech disorders).

It might not have been the “Daily Show” or even the Senate Judiciary Committee, but Fleischer says he has no desire to follow in the steps of his former protégé. Fleischer even took a few digs at McClellan, who was his deputy during those early Bush administration years.

“Poor Scott has lost his way,” Fleischer told HOH, adding he was “shocked” when the book came out because McClellan initially had told him it would paint a mostly positive picture of the administration.

McClellan’s reasoning for writing the book is baffling, Fleischer said.

“The fact is, I’m a staffer. President Bush has hundreds of staffers,” Fleischer said. “I wouldn’t write a book about the things I disagreed with. I’d keep that in private.”

And while McClellan is getting attention now, Fleischer — who runs his own sports public relations firm in New York — thinks the memoir might actually become a hindrance down the road.

“I don’t know what Scott’s next act is going to be,” Fleischer said.

Check, Please. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) might have only been drinking a mock-tail, but it seems it was a pricey one. Cocktails and fancy finger foods for Reid’s splashy book party, held May 13 in honor of his autobiographical tome, “The Good Fight,” cost a whopping $56,359.33, according to a new Federal Election Commission filing.

About 600 (by Reid’s count) journalists, Members of Congress, staffers and other FORs (that stands for Friends of Reid) lapped up hors d’oeuvres at the party, held at The Source, celebrity chef Wolfgang Puck’s chic eatery located in the Newseum. An open bar featuring signature cocktails — including a nonalcoholic one for Reid, who is a teetotaling Mormon — was also a big hit among attendees, who, in the interest of full disclosure, included HOH and other Roll Callers.

The bill was footed by Reid’s Searchlight Leadership Fund, the Senator’s leadership political action committee.

A Reid spokesman says the PAC paid the tab because the book party was part of a “tiered fundraiser,” with the fundraiser taking place in the basement of the restaurant facility.

Baked Alaska. It’s Alaska’s big 50th birthday and the state’s biggest fans are marking the momentous occasion sweetly.

Alaska’s Senators (with the help of a few colleagues) are celebrating the anniversary of the Senate voting the state into the Union with a re-enactment of the floor debate that preceded the June 30, 1958, vote. HOH hears that Sens. Lisa Murkowski (R- Alaska), Ted Stevens (R-Alaska), Patty Murray (D-Wash.) and Mike Crapo (R-Idaho) — all of whom will be playing the roles of Senators from yesteryear — will be greeted with some sugary treats after their performance.

The homemade cookies in the shape of Alaska are likely to be a bigger hit than the geeky re-enactment.

Staffers from Murkowski’s office bought cookie cutters in the shape of the state from a new shop, Hill’s Kitchen, and planned to spend Wednesday evening slaving over a hot oven, all in the name of state love.

“We love Alaska and we’re so proud of this anniversary that we figured why not do a little baking?” Murkowski staffer Anne Johnson said. “Cookies are my specialty, so I figured, why not?”

Hey Alaska: We swear you don’t look a day over 40.

Kiss and Close Up. Those watching their beloved Washington Nationals on Tuesday night fall to the Los Angeles Angels might have been disappointed by their team’s lackluster hitting and six-game losing streak, but at least one performance that night was a standout. The “Kiss Cam” that broadcasts clinching couples on stadium’s JumboTron caught none other than Fox News host Chris Wallace in a liplock with the woman sitting next to him.

A Fox spokeswoman confirmed that the kissyface was indeed Wallace, who appears to have gotten a kick out of putting in an onscreen performance quite different from his usual gig of hosting “FOX News Sunday.” And the woman was (whew!) his wife, Lorraine, the spokeswoman confirms.

He’s Huge in Kiev. The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee is trying to make former Rep. Bob Schaffer out to be a big, fat Slav — and a bit of coincidental timing is helping the cause.

The DSCC ran an ad a while back targeting the Colorado Republican, who is running for the Senate against Rep. Mark Udall (D). The ad hits Schaffer for his efforts on behalf of Ukraine while he served in the House. Schaffer co-chaired the Ukraine Caucus and visited the country several times during his Congressional tenure. Upon leaving office in 2002, he told the Denver Post that he was able to help Ukraine with less effort than it took to help his own constituents.

“Duzhe dyakuyu,” the narrator says, with the Ukrainian flag and a colorful map displayed on screen. “That’s how people in Ukraine say, ‘thank you,’ and they’re saying it to Bob Schaffer.”

The ad continues: “Schaffer has an agenda, just not Colorado’s.”

HOH doesn’t really think Schaffer wants to become a Senator just to help Ukraine.

But the ad ran just before a public showing of Kiev-Schaffer love: A fundraiser is scheduled at the Women’s National Republican Club in New York tonight for Schaffer, sponsored by the Ukrainian-Americans for Bob Schaffer 2008. The Ukraine-themed blog cybercossack.com is even promoting it.

“Through our common efforts, with our ‘Evening’ being a good first step, we can help ensure that Bob Schaffer will have a chance to become ‘Ukraine’s best friend in the US Senate Chamber,’” the site reads.

It’s just too easy for the other side to take another jab.

“Good for Bob Schaffer,” one Democratic strategist quipped. “This will surely … stop his poll numbers from sinking any further.”

A Schaffer campaign spokesman did not return a call to HOH by press time.

This Is a Metaphor. Erstwhile third-party candidate Ralph Nader is having a tough time getting on states’ presidential ballots, scrambling for campaign cash and taking heat for racially charged comments about the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, Sen. Barack Obama (Ill.). And to make matters worse, the guy can’t hail a cab.

Nader was spotted Tuesday night trying unsuccessfully to flag down a taxi while standing outside the Capitol Hill Club. Our tipster didn’t know if Nader had actually been inside the GOP hangout or just happened to be trying to hitch a ride out front, although Nader previously has been spotted inside the club.

At least there’s one speed at which Nader is certainly safe — that’s standing still.

Alison McSherry contributed to this report.

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