Heard on the Hill: Candidate’s Chances Take a Dive

Posted February 2, 2009 at 6:43pm

Charlie Wheelan recently plunged into the race to replace former Illinois Rep. Rahm Emanuel (D) in Congress.

[IMGCAP(1)]But so far, his campaign has been all wet. Literally.

Wheelan, one of 14 Democrats vying for the seat left vacant when Emanuel resigned to be chief of staff at the White House, is an economist by trade. His big message is that Americans are drowning because of the financial crisis — and that he hopes to be the “breath of fresh air in Congress” that will improve things.

Hence, in a new 30-second advertisement, Wheelan delivers his message underwater. “It’s gimmicky, but it’s on message,” Wheelan told HOH.

Opting to wear a white shirt, black tie and black slacks instead of the more traditional swimsuit, Wheelan appears fully submerged underwater, spouting through cascades of bubbles that he’s “not a professional politician” but “can help taxpayers like your family and mine recover our investments.”

Shooting the spot took three and a half hours at a local pool — Wheelan said he had to come up for air about every 15 seconds, which delayed things a bit. And because the crew had to film at night (when the pool was closed), Wheelan was exhausted by the end of the shoot.

“This is not studio animation. I’m underwater,” Wheelan said. “I was wrinkly, and my eyes were stingy.”

But Wheelan, considered by political observers to be a long-shot candidate, said the attention the ad has received made the pain of the shoot worthwhile. “I’m not the traditional candidate … but I feel like we’re doing what we need to,” he said.

Still Nuts About Georgia. Georgia peanuts are the new toxic mold: the scary, stealthy killer sure to frighten old people everywhere. But — cue the creepy music — Rep. David Scott’s office is still doling out little bags of the maligned snacks.

In the grand tradition of Congressional offices stocking home-state treats, visitors to the Georgia Democrat’s office are given bags of Peach State peanuts — despite a nationwide peanut scare caused by a salmonella outbreak in a Georgia peanut-processing plant.

A Scott staffer assured HOH that the legumes (yes, peanuts are in the pea family — thank you, Google) are perfectly safe. They’re grown in Georgia but shipped to a facility in Illinois, he told us, where they’re shelled and bagged.

The salmonella outbreak is “a processing issue,” the staffer said, unrelated to where the nuts are grown.

Scott’s sticking by the scandal-plagued crop might be just the kind of PR that it needs.

Ann Coulter Praises … Obama? Here’s a surprise: Conservative commentator Ann Coulter praised President Barack Obama on Monday for keeping his pledge to make his administration transparent.

We know — we’re shocked, too.

See, Coulter thinks the fact that the tax troubles of Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and Health and Human Services Secretary nominee Tom Daschle have become public is a big step for government openness.

“Before we merely suspected Democrats were hypocritical crooks,” Coulter argued, appearing at the National Press Club. “Now we can see that they are. That’s transparency.”

Ba-dum-bum.

The right-wing firebrand hit the press club to promote her latest book, “Guilty: Liberal ‘Victims’ and Their Assault on America.” Sponsored by the conservative Claire Booth Luce Policy Institute, the event featured a friendly, mostly female audience (Coulter called them “my Sarah Palins”).

Predictably, Coulter released her patented brand of venom on an array of topics, from single motherhood (she’s not big on it) to her hatred of the mainstream media (apparently, she thinks the New York Times leans left!).

Coulter dismissed the proposed economic stimulus plan, urging Senate Republicans to put up a fight similar to that of House Republicans. “I’m so proud of our little fellas,” Coulter said of Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Co.

Coulter also took Caroline Kennedy to task, calling her aborted run for Senate “a complete disaster.”

“I definitely think [New York Gov. David] Paterson said to her, ‘You’re not getting it,’” Coulter said. “And showing a profile in courage, she said, ‘You can’t [do that], I quit.’”

She did have legitimate praise for one politician — newly elected Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele. “All of our best conservatives are women and blacks,” Coulter said.

Town of ‘Lies.’ If you believe the hype, Washington, D.C., is a much cooler place of late. Our new president listens to Jay-Z, celebrities are flocking to town and we’re finally in on the cupcake boom.

And now there’s a new TV show set in Washington — although it seems the city still can’t shake some of its lingering stereotypes because the series is all about lying.

Fox’s “Lie To Me” stars Tim Roth as Dr. Cal Lightman, a behavioral scientist hired in each episode by the FBI, local police or similar agencies to study whether a suspect, witness or person of interest is telling the truth.

“D.C. is the nexus of all of the most important decisions that are made about the welfare of the country,” show creator Samuel Baum told HOH. “The institutional lies that exist in government and in business make D.C., you know, a prime setting for the show.”

The series premiered a few weeks ago, and the fictional Lightman’s already grilled the chairman of the House ethics committee (who was linked to a prostitute).

Viewers shouldn’t expect to see a Congressman depicted on every episode, Baum said, but the city’s various agencies and power players will be continually referenced in the series. Lightman has a mysterious D.C. past — he used to work at the Pentagon, but what exactly he did there isn’t clear.

Baum was tight-lipped about other potential plotlines. “I will tease that perhaps President Obama will be making a brief appearance,” he said.

But the biggest lie on “Lie to Me” is that the D.C. that viewers see isn’t our city at all — the series is filmed in Los Angeles. (Although Baum did say he hopes to eventually film some scenes in Washington.)

Girls Rule. Rep. Patrick Tiberi is sooo outnumbered. The Ohio Republican and his wife, Denise, welcomed newborn triplets — all girls — on Jan. 18, and the babies finally came home this weekend. The couple already has a five-year-old daughter, Angelina, meaning the Congressman is officially destined for life in what amounts to a sorority house.

A spokeswoman told HOH the Tiberis’ family doctor recommended that the Congressman at least adopt a male dog, just to give himself some male companionship.

Good luck, Congressman!

Overheard on the Hill. “I feel like a mosquito in a nudist colony. There are so many targets that I don’t know where to start.”

— Sen. Kit Bond (R-Mo.), on MSNBC’s “Hardball” on Monday, talking about the stimulus by evoking images we would rather not picture.

Jennifer Bendery and Alison McSherry contributed to this report.

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