Heard on the Hill: If You Can’t Say Something Nice …

Posted September 15, 2008 at 6:48pm

Sen. Russ Feingold has often praised colleague Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), with whom he famously crafted the sweeping Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002.

[IMGCAP(1)]But during an appearance at Georgetown University on Monday, the Wisconsin Democrat said he’s recently been forced to downplay his relationship with the Republican presidential candidate, since these days, he’s stumping for the Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama (Ill.).

Feingold insisted that all the nice things he’s said about McCain in the past remain true, but played it cool when a student asked what it was like to work with the Republican nominee on campaign finance reform.

“I’ve had to place something of a moratorium on saying good things about John McCain because I’m trying to get Barack Obama elected president,” Feingold told the audience, who applauded his remark.

Feingold insisted that both McCain and Obama had records of working across party lines; that was not his concern.

“My concern has to do with the direction [McCain’s] looking to take the country, which I find entirely unconvincing,” he said.

Feingold shouldn’t feel bad about his self-imposed McCain moratorium, however. McCain also has downplayed the duo’s friendship in recent weeks. During a campaign stop in Feingold’s home state of Wisconsin, for example, McCain told supporters his relationship with Feingold does not take away from his conservative credentials.

Chin Up, Mr. President. It’s been a rough couple of months for President Bush. Aside from the challenge of overseeing the ongoing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, he’s had to grapple with a crumbling economy, several hurricanes and those historically low approval ratings.

With all that stress, it’s safe to say that the prez needs the occasional pick-me-up. And that’s exactly what Ghanaian President John Agyekum Kufuor offered during an appearance at the White House on Monday morning.

Kufuor told reporters and gathered guests that he traveled to Washington, D.C., to celebrate the growing partnership between Ghana and the United States. After praising that relationship and thanking the U.S. for its support of the African Union, he turned to Bush, wishing “a successful ending to your tenure as the leader of this superpower nation.”

“Your tenure has been full of events and challenges, some very mind-boggling and hair-raising,” Kufuor said, drawing laughter. “Through them all you have been strong, forthright, consistent and faithful. You are a survivor, and my hope is that history would prove kinder to you.”

Kufuor then wished Bush “a restful and useful retirement, within your society and beyond,” to which Bush replied, “Yes, sir.”

Like Bush, Kufuor came to office in 2001, and his term will expire in December.

Perhaps the duo can partake in some retirement activities together?

Members Hit the Links. Democrats and Republicans went head-to-head during the First Tee Congressional Challenge on Monday, battling it out at Columbia Country Club in Chevy Chase, Md., to see which party rules the golf links (all for charity, of course).

But much like their recent battles over energy and appropriations and nearly every other piece of legislation, the two parties wound up in a stalemate in the event, of which Roll Call is a sponsor.

The competing teams tied at 10, tournament commissioner Dan Tate tells HOH. Per Ryder Cup rules, the team that came into the tournament with the the cup retains it — meaning the Democrats ultimately walked away with the win.

Disappointed Republicans took the result in stride, Tate said, adding that “it was accepted in the spirit of the competition.”

“There was not a cross word exchanged or cross word spoken,” Tate said.

Tate singled out Reps. Chet Edwards (D-Texas) and Zach Wamp (R-Tenn.) as the most valuable players of their respective teams. Edwards, he noted, filled in at the last minute for Rep. John Yarmuth (D-Ky.), who had to drop out to tend to official duties.

“It was a wonderful expedition,” Tate said of the tournament. “There was some awful golf played today, but there was some outstanding golf played as well.”

Animal House. Capitol Hill often has been described as a zoo, so it makes sense that a Member of Congress would seek to honor one of America’s most famous zookeepers.

Rep. Patrick Tiberi (R-Ohio) introduced a resolution last week honoring animal expert Jack Hanna, famous for bringing his furry friends on shows such as “Larry King Live” and hosting his own programs, “Jack Hanna’s Animal Kingdom” and “Jack Hanna: Into the Wild.”

Hanna is celebrating his 30th anniversary working at the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium, which he helped transform from a run-down facility into an internationally recognized complex during his years as director (he’s now director emeritus).

“Jack Hanna has spent a lifetime educating people around the world about wild animals and conservation,” Tiberi said. “Jack Hanna’s work allowing others to enjoy the wonders of the animal kingdom, and his involvement in health advocacy and other nonprofit organizations, should be commended.”

Hanna’s honor isn’t the only animal- related news on Capitol Hill this week.

The Animal Health Institute is scheduled tonight to host its 11th annual Pet Night on Capitol Hill in the Cannon Caucus Room, which spokesman Ron Phillips describes as an “annual celebration of the bond between people and their pets.”

On hand will be Boris, the famous feline who starred in “Prince Caspian” and will appear in the upcoming “A Thousand Words” with Eddie Murphy, along with Clyde, the canine star of the soon-to-be- released Owen Wilson/Jennifer Aniston flick “Marley & Me.”

“It’s basically just a Congressional reception,” Phillips said. “We invite Members of Congress to send us pictures with their pets, and we post the ones we get.” That probably cuts down on the snarling and leg biting just a bit.

Briefly Quoted. “It is important Texans follow the rules. Stock up on food, water and ammo for an event like this.” — Texas Rep. John Culberson (R), offering his Houston-area constituents advice for preparing for Hurricane Ike during a weekend MSNBC appearance.

Casey Hynes and Bill Clark contributed to this report.

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