It's Stewart for the 'Congressional 500'
NASCAR is not just for the Dukes of Hazard set anymore. Lots of big-shot politicians dig the noise and dirt. And with a new racing season underway, what better time to get those congressional grease monkeys to handicap the 2006 championship? While some hope the more seasoned drivers like No. 31 Jeff Burton or No. 88 Dale Jarrett win the Nextel Cup, many think Tony Stewart, No. 20, will repeat as champ and that No. 11 Denny Hamlin will be rookie of the year. "I like the old guys," says Sen. Jon Kyl, whose Arizona Republican colleagues have dubbed him "Mr. NASCAR." He says Stewart "is a bit too intense for me," though Georgia Sen. Saxby Chambliss, after consulting his 9-year-old grandson John, backs Stewart. Texas Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison likes home-state favorites Terry and Bobby Labonte. "Lone Star State drivers take a back seat to no one," she cheers. Virginia Sen. George Allen, the grand marshal at the upcoming Food City 500, who sports a No. 3 sticker on his car in memory of Dale Earnhardt, also goes for locals: Hamlin, Burton, and Hermie and Elliott Sadler.
Indiana Rep. Mike Sodrel counts Stewart as a constituent. "He's our office favorite." Rep. Marsha Blackburn promised Sterling Marlin's wife she would cheer his No. 14 car. She even wants a NASCAR stamp and a national NASCAR holiday. What's more, she says, "I wouldn't resist an invitation to ride in the pace car--not that I'm asking."
Who Doesn't Want to Be a Spook?
War and terrorism aren't hurting applications for the Central Intelligence Agency. Insiders say applications have jumped an amazing 40 percent in one year alone. The CIA now gets some 2,800 applications a week. And most come in online applications.
Democrats Look West for 2008
Howard Dean's Democratic National Committee this week will formally solicit bids from cities eager to host the 2008 presidential convention August 25 to 28. We hear that the party would like it in the West or Southwest. Dean's unusually early announcement has irked the GOP, and there are rumors that the Republicans might try to spoil the Democratic event by choosing the same dates. But Republicans insist that's unlikely.
Dressing Down and Dissing the Fans
Remember "Flip-flop-gate," when a few casual members of Northwestern University's national championship women's lacrosse team visited the president last summer while wearing the sandals? Well, some administration types are wondering why University of Texas star quarterback Vince Young didn't face the same type of critical coverage when it was his turn to visit the White House for the championship team's victory lap. While his teammates wore suits to the event earlier this month, Young forgot his and dressed in jeans and zippered sweatshirt. President Bush even made a joke about it. But here's what really torqued those who welcomed the team. While every other player gladly signed autographs for Bush aides, the future pro refused most and even hid from some staffers. "Our crowd was all UT, but he didn't want to give us anything," says one glum Longhorn fan.
OnStar? Help, I'm Lost in Baghdad
General Motors' little blue OnStar button might find its way into military vehicles if the Defense Information Systems Agency gets its way. It has asked GM for info about OnStar, the GPS-aided emergency response system in cars. DISA thinks OnStar might be able to help track vehicles on the battlefield for less than lots of fancy military technology. "It's not a market we've been pursuing," says OnStar President Chet Huber, who got to know some Pentagon players when he spent a year studying at National Defense University. "But we're happy to talk to them." That's no surprise: GM lost $8.6 billion last year and needs all the business it can get.
A Glorious Road to the White House
When President Bush and wife, Laura, want to get into a new movie, they don't just queue up a flick in the White House theater. In the case of Glory Road, the movie about the first all-black starting squad to win the NCAA championship, they invited the original team, the film producer, and some stars for popcorn and dinner. It happened last week, and we hear producer Jerry Bruckheimer and star Josh Lucas, who played Texas Western University coach Don Haskins, attended.
A False Start for the Wrong Dogs
Here's the weird moment of the week. White House photographers, affectionately called "photodogs," were called Wednesday to snap pictures of NASA's Return to Flight space shuttle crew as they visited with the president. As the photographers waited outside in the Colonnade for the call to the Oval Office, a staff aide kept them entertained by playing with Barney and Miss Beazley in the yard. Then they heard a loud whistle from President Bush and hustled to the Oval. But a laughing Bush turned them back: "Hey, I was only calling the dogs!"
Beauty and the Media Beast
What's the best training for handling a bunch of pushy reporters? Scarlotte (Deupree) Kilgore thinks she has the answer: the Miss America Pageant. "It was a fabulous and interesting experience," says the Miss Alabama and 2003 runner-up who just took a job in the Senate Periodical Press Gallery. "And interestingly enough, it was the perfect preparation for dealing with a little bit of everything, which comes in handy with this job!" The elegant 25-year-old isn't just a pretty face in the office that serves congressional reporters for weekly magazines and newsletters. She totally revamped the gallery's website and helped organize press coverage of the Hurricane Katrina hearings and President Bush's State of the Union address. But her pageant days are most likely over: Kilgore laughed off our suggestion of a Congressional Pageant. "I don't think so."
With With David E. Kaplan and Richard J. Newman
This story appears in the March 6, 2006 print edition of U.S. News & World Report.