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September 27, 2006
Some might call it cocky, others smart planning. But I've stumbled across the latest evidence that Democrats are preparing to take back the House of Representatives after 12 years in the minority. They're hiring! What started about a month ago with lists being drawn up by some Democratic House committee staffers of Republican jobs they'd fill if the GOP loses badly on November 7 has turned into a résumé-collection operation by some. And minority staffers from at least one committeethe House Science Committeehave posted a want ad on the internal House employment website. It reads:
House Science Committee is seeking experienced Science Policy Professionals for possible expanded Democratic committee staff in the 110th Congress. Desire to build a nonpartisan staff of experienced and highly motivated professionals. Good communication skills and ability to work effectively with a team of credentialed and experienced existing committee staff more important than past Party affiliation.
The complete ad is here.
The number to fax a resume, 202-225-3895, is the fax for the committee's Democratic staff. A minority staffer said that the plan right now is to prepare for the change by collecting résum és. And she said that the bipartisan tone of the language is real. "That's the way the committee always operates," she said. But that tone isn't being followed on other committees. One House member told me that Democrats would be just as merciless in firing Republicans as Republicans were in dumping Democrats when the GOP took over after the 1994 election. Naturally, some Republicans are chortling over the confident want ad. "Now that's what we call putting the House before the carriage," said one GOP insider. In fact, the ad is being used by Republicans to motivate some House staffers who are a bit too confident of re-election.
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September 26, 2006
Dan Glickman, chairman of the Motion Picture Association of America, told us today what a lot of us already feared: "The MPAA has gone to the dogs."
No, no, not the movies, but the MPAA's war on piracy. Glickman's gang has enlisted the help of a Northern Ireland dog teamLucky and Flo in the pictureto show U.S. Customs, UPS, and FedEx officials how to sniff out pirated movies on CDs and DVDs. And apparently the government is listening. Trainer Neil Powell, who owns NarcoDogs of New Castle, Ireland, and pictured below with Lucky, demonstrated at MPAA HQ how the Irish Labs can smell the plastic CDs and DVDs in boxes.
No, they can't tell the difference between real and pirated disksthat's up to the authorities. But they are proving to be pretty good investigators.
"If this works out, we can expand it," said Glickman, a beagle owner and fan of the dog teams. MPAA says the theft of intellectual property in stuff like movies costs the world industry $18 billion yearly. And it's a big profit: Most movies are recorded in theaters with hand-held camcorders, put on disks for a few cents, and then sold at up to 10,000 times profit. The camcorder theft is so bad that MPAA has even set up a $500 reward program and website to fight it.
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September 26, 2006
New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson showed up this morning at the regular newsmaker breakfasts put on by the Christian Science Monitor. He's a funny guy with a pretty good political résumé: He was a Democratic House leader and Clinton-era energy secretary and United Nations ambassador. Now he's head of the Democratic Governors Association.
But more important, he's leaning toward running for president in 2008. With just an hour to speak, he shoved aside the yummy bacon and eggs in the Capital Hilton conference room to talk about the political situation Democrats face in the upcoming midterm elections and 2008. Among his views:
- Democrats will take back control of the House and a majority of governorships.
- His party will get the benefit of a "2 percent wave" of voter support over Republicans this year.
- Immigration isn't a vote winner but instead just energizes the political base.
- Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean is right to keep spending money to install party offices in all 50 states despite complaints from House Democrats that they need the cash to take back the chamber.
All good stuff, but the two dozen political reporters around the oval table wanted to know if he was running for president. This is what he had to offer: Yes, he's considering a bid. Yes, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton can win despite concerns she's too polarizing. No, none of the other likely governors planning to runVirginia ex-Gov. Mark Warner and retiring Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsackwill have the political machine to lock up the support of the party's governors like George Bush did in 2000.
Richardson said that "bread and butter" issues like healthcare and education will dominate the campaign, but he said the situation in Iraq will also weigh heavily over the election. And on that front, he offered a troop withdrawal plan: He'd set up a timetable for withdrawal over a year. It would be coupled with a political deal to split power among the warring sides. He'd call for a Middle East peace conference to win help and money for rebuilding Iraq. He'd keep a small U.S. security force in Iraq and redeploy some troops to neighboring countries to fight the broader war on terrorism. He'd defer military numbers and timelines to military commanders. And he'd use the savings from withdrawing troops to enhance U.S. homeland security.
"We are not concentrating on the real threats to the country," he said.
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September 25, 2006
It was big news in Washington's media world last week when Fox Vice President and Washington Bureau Chief Kim Hume announced she was retiring at the end of November. She and hubby Brit Hume set up the bureau in 1996 and have watched it become a dominant cable bureau. Now she's leaving to take time off to figure out her next move. And, she swears, it was her choice.
Paullyblog: When are you leaving?
Hume: I'll be here through the end of November.
Hume: I am very peaceful about this. When I made the decision in May I didn't know how I would actually react, and I've surprised myself.
Paullyblog: So you're going to leave Brit and marry whom?
Hume: (Laughs) No, no, no. Do you know what my favorite thing about this? You know how in Washington they always say it's because they're going to spend more time with their family? Well, I've always wanted to say I'm leaving Fox to spend less time with my family.
Paullyblog: What's the future?
Hume: I've always been so intense in this job. I'm the kind of person who wakes up at 3 a.m. and says, "You know, we have got to do something for that producer. He's so good, and we need to move him." I'm constantly thinking about this place. And I really feel like I'm going to need to get away from it and rest for a bit before I figure out what my next step is. The way I look at it is you know how some people can look beyond the furnishings to some newly decorated room? I can't do that. I need to get away. Once I have some time away, I think I'll do something. I just don't know yet what it is. When I was a producer, I thought I'm never going to be able to translate this to any other kind of thing. The only thing I've ever done is TV. And when I became a manager, and I seem to have some talent at managing, then I thought, ah, this is a skill that translates. I've got something more to do; I just don't know what it is yet.
Paullyblog: In the media?
Hume: I really don't even know. Clearly, the only thing I know is media. But I honest to God don't know.
Paullyblog: You're leaving because?
Hume: I'm done. I know that sounds really amazing. When I think about it, that's the phrase that comes to mind, is that "I'm done." Also, I've had this wonderful career and Fox has been the pinnacle of it. I have one thing left to do and that was to finish well, and that's really what I'm trying to do here, to finish well.
Paullyblog: So you won't be joining former CNN anchor Daryn Kagan bringing good news to the Internet?
Hume: No, although I think the Internet is a fascinating thing and I think the whole YouTube thing is fascinating. But I feel like a dinosaur. I couldn't figure that out. I've got one foot in the grave when it comes to that.
Paullyblog: This is a pretty big move for you, but it's got to be a pretty big blow for the bureau.
Hume: Well, this is how I think about that. I have always been a good delegator and I have always been the kind of person who let other people make decisions. I've got a terrific team here, a management team, and all the journalists who work here, everybody from the person who answers the phone on up, are terrific. But the management team is completely able to take over. They don't need me. I may be an important part of the management in the sense of leadership and guidance, direction, that kind of thing, [but] I am not an essential employee. I may be important, but I'm not essential. I think they'll be just fine. I don't think they'll miss me for long.
Paullyblog: It's the business, isn't it?
Paullyblog: So you are staying through the 10th anniversary of Fox?
Hume: Yes, I'm going to be here through the end of November. This is kind of funny, but I promised that I would work on Thanksgiving so that my deputy, who is now going to be the acting bureau chief, can have Thanksgiving off. So I'm going to be here through Thanksgiving.
Paullyblog: Aren't you sweet?
Hume: Well, when you make a promise, what am I going to do, say hey, buddy, sorry? Breaking that promiseit's not my way.
Paullyblog: So what happened in May, and what was Brit's reaction?
Hume: May was my own internal deadline, because my contract was up at the end of June. It was the fair thing to give them notice. If I decided that I wasn't going to renew my contract I wanted to give them plenty of notice to think about how they would replace me. And I did, and the initial reaction was please stay through the election, and I said no problem, I'm happy to do that.
As you search, here was this point where I had to make a decision about my renewing my contract, and I just asked myself a question and the answer was I think you're done. And that's really what it was. I thought it would be a big seismic, emotional, upsetting thing and it wasn't at all. It just seemed like the right thing to do from the beginning.
And Brit's reaction: Initially Brit tried to talk me out of this. He and I have been working together for decades; we would read each other's minds; we're a team. He tried to talk me out of it. And then I think he recognized that "I'm done" thing. He knew it was a decision that was not defiant in any way or done in anger in any way or for any reason. I just knew it was the right thing to do. He gets husband points galore for this. I mean, he has been so good about this, so kind to me about it. I really do think if it was the other way around, I would be really mad at him. But it's not and he's not mad at me.
Paullyblog: Would you ever go to work for another competing cable channel?
Hume: I really respect what Fox has done and I really like the idea of running counter to the mainstream media. I think it's the right thing to do. I think it's good for the viewers. I think it gives people an alternative. I so respect that. I think it would be very hard for me to go back to; I worked at ABC for years and years and years, and I respect ABC too. But I might move forward in some way, but I don't think that I would return to a network situation.
To me, clearly I'll do something. I've got a lot of energy and ideas, and I've always been that way and I don't think I'd be that happy recreating if you willmaybe. But I think that there will be something else that I do, and I think when it comes it will find me. That's been my experience in the past.
Paullyblog: Anything else?
Hume: The only thing is as I said when most times something like this happens, people say things and there's always a back story. And in this case there really isn't. It really is someone who's lucky enough to be able to make the decision that now is the time. I want to finish well, and this is the opportunity to do it. I'm at the top of my career, and Fox is at the top of its success, and to be able to say isn't this great, and I've had so much fun and I'm done.
Paullyblog: How old are you?
Hume: September 30 I'll be 52.
Paullyblog: What's the first thing you're going to do on your first day off?
Hume: This is going to sound weird, but I'll probably bake cookies.
Paullyblog: What kind?
Hume: I do this thing at Christmas where I do this amazing array of cookies. All my career I've had to do this, sometimes baking until three in the morning. During the recount, the 2000 recount, I had the radio on, the television on, and I'm sitting in my kitchen baking cookies — my cookies are famous. I couldn't not bake them. I couldn't use an excuse. So what I think is that I've got December where I can bake my Christmas cookies at leisure. I know this sounds stupid, but you have no idea how good that sounds to me.
Paullyblog: Hume's Bakery?
Hume: Believe me, if I could make money doing that, I'd do it in a second.
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September 22, 2006
It's been a hard month or so for foot-in-mouth Sen. George Allen. First he utters the word "macaca" at an Indian-American worker for political foe Jim Webb. The press raps him for being a bigot. Then this week, hit with a couple of questions about his mom during a debate, he fumbles in revealing that his mother is of Jewish heritage. The press suggests he's embarrassed to have Jewish blood in him.
It was probably the short few words uttered to him by Jewish Sen. Joe Lieberman on the floor of the Senate this week that helped him see a way to turn the latest controversy positive.
Lieberman's words: "Welcome to the tribe."
Funny, but meaningful, and now I hear that Allen plans to use the controversy over his mother to build a positive "diversity campaign" as he runs for re-election and eyes a 2008 presidential bid. Just what such a campaign is isn't clear, but look for him to expand his support for African-American initiatives and religious groups.
"This was a life-changing event," says one insider of the revelation by Allen's mother. "He'll be more forceful on issues of opportunity and diversity."
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September 21, 2006
It's been almost five months since Fox Radio's Tony Snow became President Bush's press secretary, and it seems he's settling in just fine. In fact he's become the face of the White House to some, which may explain why people gravitate toward him when the president is on the road. Like when Bush went to Shanksville, Pa., this month to memorialize those killed on United 93 on 9/11. There, the family of pilot Jason Dahl gave Snow a green memorial bracelet stamped with the words "Dahl Peacebuilder." He now wears it right beside his cancer survivor bracelet.
At a Christian Science Monitor newsmaker breakfast just two blocks from the White House today, Snow talked about that emotional moment and his brief tenure. The bottom line: He loves his job. "The most pleasant surprise is how much fun it's been," he says. While Snow says he sometimes feels like he's studying for a quiz, his reporting background is a plus because he knows what questions to ask top staffers so he can sound smart during his daily briefings.
"It makes the job fun," he says of quizzing aides for answers. He adds that he has an advantage previous press secretaries didn't have: Snow was a print, TV, and radio reporter, so he gets what each industry wants and how fast it needs it.
"I do think it helps," he says.
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September 20, 2006
Let's face it, black-and-white photographs in politics never mean good news. They're used for one reason: to portray the subject as dark and sinister. Take the new Democratic National Committee hit job on Vice President Dick Cheney and Defense Secretary Don Rumsfeld. The "Fear and Smear Tour," the party's creative way to chart speeches and appearances by the war duo, uses a press release that shows a black-and-white collage with two recent photos of Cheney and Rumsfeld and another of the two from when they toiled in the Ford White House. That's history, like 30-plus years of it.
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September 20, 2006
Who would have thought that a Democrat would use a church and a Republican a puppy for election ad backgrounds? Well it's happened, and both the TV ads are the talk of Washington. What the GOP is calling one of the best ads this season comes from a Democrat: Tennessee's Rep. Harold Ford. "Man, it's good," a Republican admitted. In the ad, Ford walks through a church, ending up in a pew to talk about how he learned life lessons in church, even though he didn't want to go. "I started church the old-fashioned way. I was forced to," he says, before knocking Republican opponent Bob Corker for mislabeling him. Interestingly, Corker has his own church ad. Then there's the Democratic praise for a TV ad from a Republican: Maryland's Lt. Gov. Michael Steele, also a Senate candidate. Steele's ad is his second offbeat attempt to portray a nonpolitical agenda. In it, he predicts he'll be attacked by his opponent, Rep. Ben Cardin, and Washington Democrats for a bunch of stuff, even hating puppies. "For the record, I love puppies," he says. A Democrat strategist tells me, "It's a brilliant bid to sound like he's just one of us." Republicans agree but hope Steele next tries to take on Cardin a bit more.
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September 18, 2006
I just realized that "Paullyblog" offers a chance to answer one pet peeve some have with Washington Whispers: Except for one large drawing, we don't run pictures or images of the people and things I write about. Well, gripe no more. On Mondays, I'll try to put up those images from the column. So let's start today with the Bush Sharpie, along with pictures of the glamorous actress and former House page Courtney Fine and the curvy cohost of the new Air America Radio drive-time show, The Young Turks.
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