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Peeking Inside Washington This Week

What your presidential candidates and national leaders are up to.

The quote of the week was overheard by Inside the Beltway as the media fawned over Senators John McCain and Hillary Rodham Clinton upon their arrival at the Senate Armed Services Committee hearing room to hear the recent testimony of Army Gen. David H. Petraeus and U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Ryan C. Crocker.

Remarked Republican Sen. Mel Martinez (Fla.) to Republican Sen. John Thune (S.D.): “We could be naked or juggling and no one would even notice.”

Who for No. 2?

We see several supporters of Sen. John McCain are on the list of those hosting a private reception to be held at the Washington, D.C., home of Republican stalwart Ken Mehlman for incumbent Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, who, word is, remains in the running as a vice presidential prospect.

“If you look at McCain’s latest FEC [Federal Election Commission] filing, you will see an airline-ticket payment to Pawlenty’s campaign manager, Michael Krueger,” hints a source to Inside the Beltway, perhaps trying to deflect some of last week’s hype about Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice being on Mr. McCain’s shortlist.

Among the hosts for the April 23 fundraiser at the home of the former Republican National Committee chairman and campaign manager for President Bush’s 2004 re-election campaign are senior McCain adviser Charlie Black; financier Fred Malek, who was the 1992 campaign manager for President George H.W. Bush; as well as Ronald Reagan’s one-time White House Chief of Staff Ken Duberstein.
 
Go back to bed

“Got experience?”

That’s the question asked by the new black-and-white bumper sticker being peddled for $3 each by Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton’s official presidential campaign store. It’s a reference, obviously, of Mrs. Clinton’s famous television ad, “When the phone rings at 3 a.m., who do you want answering?”

We overheard one Washington political observer suggest that whoever answers the phone at 3 a.m. come January, he or she had better wait for the sun to rise, put on a pot of coffee, get the cobwebs out of his or her head, then assemble White House advisers for their expertise, rather than making any split-second decisions in the middle of the night.

Knock for Hillary

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton is confident enough about making a comeback in her bid for the presidency that she’s looking beyond April 22’s crucial make-or-break Pennsylvania primary, the last major delegate prize in a hard-fought Democratic primary campaign that Sen. Barack Obama continues to lead.

On the heels of Mr. Obama’s “bitter” voters remark, Mrs. Clinton’s campaign is appealing for volunteers to travel to several additional states holding primaries after the Pennsylvania contest to “knock on doors” on her behalf, including Indiana and North Carolina on May 6, West Virginia on May 13, and Kentucky and Oregon on May 20.

It’s McCain, stupid

It’s been one month since Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) wrote a letter to Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean warning that the party faced the “biggest train wreck you’ve ever seen” because of the unresolved issue of seating Florida and Michigan delegates to the national convention.

Now Mr. Nelson has told colleagues that the DNC “has completely rejected all the attempts” he has made to seat the delegates, and as a result the party is now living the ugly “drama we see playing out in front of our eyes.”

Still, the senior senator from Florida, who wound up suing Mr. Dean and the DNC over the slight — the lawsuit was eventually dismissed by a federal court judge on constitutional grounds — is now predicting that “reason” eventually will prevail and the delegation “will be seated. Because at some point, the party chieftains are going to understand that if you want to win the election in November, you can’t ‘dis’ the delegations from Florida and Michigan.”

Spending spree

“Here we go again,” reacts the Project on Government Oversight to the new Senate report on fraudulent use of government-issued credit cards by federal employees, which POGO first investigated in 2002.

“Over the years, purchase card holders have bought Atlanta Braves tickets, Victoria’s Secret merchandise, jewelry, cell phones, tires, escort services, and in one instance we found an inventive federal employee who purchased breast enhancement surgery for his girlfriend.”

Delivery rate

More incentive perhaps for U.S. government gals to get pregnant.

We see that a bill was forwarded to several House committees this week that would provide that eight of the 12 weeks of parental leave made available to a federal employee shall be “paid leave.”

No expectations

What was Texas Rep. Ted Poe’s reaction when the Republican learned that his daughter Kara Alexander delivered him a grandson the other day named Payton Poe Alexander?

“My hope for my new grandson is that he grows up embodying the spirit of truth, justice and the American way, and that he plays football for the University of Texas and not Texas A&M.”

Pope’s left turn

The big news in Washington this week is the arrival of Pope Benedict XVI, whose busy schedule includes a conversation with President Bush and celebrating both Mass and his 81st birthday.

Rep. Thaddeus McCotter (R-Mich.) says he’s been hearing too many “inane questions” about how the pope will be received by the American people. He counters that Americans of every faith understand the pope’s role and the purpose of his visit, especially during these “trying times.”

“You know, I remember back when I was growing up there was a movie,” he says, “called ‘A Hard Day’s Night.’ This was at the height of Beatlemania, and the Beatles had obviously been wildly popular and well-received when they first hit our shores. And yet in the movie, there is a scene where a reporter, seemingly unaware of this, asked John Lennon a question.

“And the question was this: ‘How did you find America?’

“And Lennon said, ‘I turned left at Greenland.'”

Written By

John McCaslin pens the award-winning Inside the Beltway column for The Washington Times. His column has been syndicated by the Los Angeles Times Syndicate and Tribune Media Services.

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