Pelosi: Tough but With a Sweet Tooth
If-and let's capitalize that-IF the Democrats take back control of the House in the fall elections and put San Francisco's Nancy Pelosi in the speaker's chair, there are going to be a lot more changes than a wholesale firing of GOP aides by gleeful new committee chairmen. In fact, the stylistic changes the first woman in that job would inaugurate could be the biggest story of the November 7 midterm election should Democrats win the needed 15 seats to take charge.
First, she's a lot tougher than many think. In fact a top Republican member tells us that he wishes Dennis Hastert, the likable speaker from Illinois, was as hard on GOP crooks and goof-ups as Pelosi has been on her misfits.
Then there's the woman's touch. Gone would be the clubby feel of the current mostly male leadership. Instead, look for lots of flowers, bowls of San Francisco's Ghirardelli chocolate, and good art mixed in with photos of her grandkids. What's more, meeting-goers would be greeted with fruit and muffins for breakfast, sandwiches for lunch, and maybe a sit-down dinner at her Georgetown condo at night. "Food shows people respect," says an aide. Fashion might also return to Washington, but she doesn't get all the credit: Pelosi's husband buys her threads. And finally, the hours would be much longer, as the 60 Minutes crew following her around for an upcoming October feature story are finding out the hard way.
Not Just Yahoo! Getting 'Face' Time
The closest the social networking site facebook.com usually comes to politics is grainy photos of candidates' inebriated kids. Not anymore. For the same reason Yahoo! is looking to blow nearly $1 billion to buy Facebook, politicians are moving in: It's where the kids are. Facebook has just started tallying the number of users who list support for candidates. They're mostly lefties, but Maryland Republican Senate candidate Michael Steele is a fave. Some candidates work the site, like Indiana Democratic Sen. Evan Bayh, a likely 2008 presidential bidder. His bio is very Facebook: It links to another site that calls him a hot senator.
At the White House, a Full-Service Flack
He's done print, TV, and radio, so when new White House Press Secretary Tony Snow doesn't have the info he needs, the former newsman knows how to get it. Reporting, he says, "makes the job fun." And beyond liking reporters, Snow's working to make it easier for them to get answers out of the White House. But has his press coddling gone too far? At a briefing last week, he flipped over the tapes of two recorders that had clicked off. "This is part of my obligation as a press secretary. For those who regularly attend, that is a service we provide."
After 10 Years, Time for a Cookie Break
What could be better than baking Christmas cookies? How about having no job and unlimited time to devote to the batter and oven? That's exactly what Fox News Washington Bureau Chief Kim Hume has planned. The better half of the bureau's on-camera star, Brit Hume, Kim is leaving after Thanksgiving. And why? "I'm just done," she says. "Most times when this happens, people always think there's a back story," she says. "In this case, there really isn't," she says, adding: "Now's the time, and I want to finish well." The Humes, who worked together at ABC before Fox, set the bureau up in 1996 and get credit for making it a powerhouse. Brit asked her to stay but caved in. "He gets husband points galore for this," she says. Her future? "I'll do something," says Hume, 51. But first, those cookies. "My cookies are famous," she says. "I can bake my Christmas cookies at leisure. I know this sounds stupid, but you have no idea how good that sounds to me."
Pollster to GOP: Shut Up and Leave
New midterm election polling shows that the Republicans ought to adopt the Las Vegas motto with a slight change to: "What happens in Washington, stays there." That's because the few voters-just 29 percent-who are paying attention to the GOP message hate it. A majority-53 percent-of those who've seen, read, or heard about Republican initiatives tell Fabrizio, McLaughlin & Associates that they are less likely to vote Republican. Even fewer Democrats are paying attention, but those who do are more likely to vote D. Tony Fabrizio has the answer for Republicans: Go home and stop bragging on GOP initiatives. "What they think is helping them is actually hurting them," he says.
Setting a Record With TV 'Gets'
We watch cable TV so you don't have to, but the truth is that CNN's Wolf Blitzer has nailed so many star newsmakers lately that we haven't had a chance to watch his competitors. "Oh yes, Wolf is hot and having fun," says a CNN exec. How hot? In just the past three weeks, his daily Situation Room and Sunday Late Edition have featured key senators, foreign leaders, President Bush, Secretary of State Condi Rice, and Central Command Gen. John Abizaid. And it was Blitzer whom Sen. George Allen tearfully told of his mother revealing her Jewish heritage then swearing him to secrecy. Why Wolf? Aides to some of those "gets" say he's about as fair as they come.
Age Takes the Edge Off George's Hooch
It's had some three years to age, and the master distillers who've re-created the first president's rye whiskey are hoping for the best this week when they pour a few wee drams at the official dedication of Mount Vernon's George Washington Distillery. "It's aged a while," says a spokesman for the Distilled Spirits Council, "so it's going to be pretty good." This isn't a goof: Prince Andrew will cut the ribbon at the September 27 dedication, and little bottles of the GW rye will be auctioned off. Why Andrew? It was actually a Scottish farm manager at Mount Vernon who suggested building GW's distillery, once one of the largest in America. Andrew will talk about the Scottish roots. As for the taste, it ought to be smoother than the original: GW didn't age his 'shine.
With Will Sullivan
This story appears in the October 2, 2006 print edition of U.S. News & World Report.