New GOP Boss Brings His Game
Sports has often been the way for Mel Martinez, the Florida senator and new Republican Party general chairman, to prove he's different and a team player. As a kid in communist Cuba, for example, he'd show his rebel side by wearing a Catholic scapular around his neck during basketball and baseball games just to irk the authorities. "When you live in a totalitarian society, those are the little victories," he tells us. The result: His parents shipped him alone to Florida before he went too far. There, he used sports to fit in. "Hitting a line drive or trading elbows under a basket," he says, "makes you like everyone else."
Now, with the congressional GOP in the minority, Martinez is using those experiences to chart a comeback. "We need to be on the same team," he says, joking that he should get some team jerseys for the Republicans. To show the GOP is different, he says he wants to "improve our brand." That means going back to the basics of Reaganism "while understanding that times change." Next: Build consensus on key issues like immigration, spending, and the war. "I hope," he says, "that I will be able to bring some cohesion to our message so that we speak with one voice." And being Cuban, he adds, is a plus: He feels he represents "the new American spirit" and diversity. "You know the most common name in baseball is not Smith, not Jones," he says. "It's Martinez."
Still a Specter on Capitol Hill
It's been over five years since the first anthrax scare on Capitol Hill, but the fallout continues. Not only do letters sent to congressional offices get held up sometimes for weeks for inspection, but several offices ask couriers to open the letters before giving them to receptionists. It happened last week when a U.S. News intern made a delivery to the offices of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and presidential candidates Sens. John McCain, Barack Obama, and Hillary Rodham Clinton. Get this: One even asked him to open the envelope in the hallway. The offices don't like to talk about their mail policies, but one staffer says, "The mail is still slow, and irradiating it [to kill anthrax] often ruins it and makes it smell."
Donors Going to Bat for Giuliani
It's not just spring training for baseball. On March 14, donors will be warming up for the New York Yankees' No. 1 fan, former Mayor Rudy Giuliani. Insiders say he's hosting his first fundraiser, the "New York City Home Team Reception." A baseball theme will rule: The $2,300 price will include Cracker Jacks, hot dogs, and a Rudy '08 ball cap. The entertainment: the Yank's organist and Irish tenor Ronan Tynan singing "God Bless America." And depending on the amount, donors will be categorized as "team captain," "most valued," "all star," and "slugger." How big a fan is Giuliani? Pollster Frank Luntz, who's been to games with Giuliani, tells us, "The most dangerous place anywhere is the space between Rudy and the Yankees."
The Ouch Factor of Saturday Votes
That recent rare Saturday Senate vote on the Iraq war was painful for more than just lawmakers. We hear that Hadassah Lieberman, wife of Connecticut independent Sen. Joe Lieberman, slipped on an ice-covered sidewalk and broke a wrist. His office says that the observant Jews were walking from Saturday services to the Capitol when she fell.
Birthday Surprise at 32,000 Feet
We're not spoiling anything when we tell you that the wife and family of Federal Emergency Management Agency Director David Paulison had a surprise 60th birthday party planned at his Florida home earlier this month. He never made it. The same weekend, tornadoes hit Alabama and Georgia, and he hopped aboard Air Force One to join President Bush in a tour of the area. But word must have gotten to the president, because on the way home, Paulison was given a cake while the president and senior staff sang "Happy Birthday." He tells us that it was "the biggest surprise of my life" and that he felt "incredibly honored."
Lockhart's Other House Victory
Don't tell us that Joe Lockhart, former President Clinton's spokesman and a major player on the Democratic PR front, didn't think his party's takeover of the House was in the bag before Election Day. Want proof? The day after the Democratic victory, he bought a sprawling $3.1 million house in the city's tony Kalorama section near Dupont Circle. It's huge: three stories, 4,168 square feet with three fireplaces, five bedrooms, and 3
Bubba Likes Hoyas in March Madness
Good news for Georgetown University men's basketball fans: Noted college hoops fan Bill Clinton thinks the Hoyas could go all the way to the Georgia Dome. "I think he might be leaning toward Georgetown," says Bubba's sports pal and political guru James Carville. The "Rajun Cajun" should know. Not only did they talk basketball at dinner last week, but Clinton's planning to talk March Madness brackets with Carville and his XM radio show 60/20 cohost Luke Russert, son of the Meet the Press host Tim Russert. "He loves college basketball as much as anything," says Carville, "and the tournament is his kind of thing." Clinton spokesman Jay Carson adds that the ex-prez attends games when he can, especially when back home. "He is of course," says Carson, "always pulling for his beloved [University of Arkansas] Razorbacks." Still, Carville-who likes UCLA and North Carolina this year-says Clinton has no secret to making accurate hoops picks other than studying the stats. "I think he's a knowledgeable fan, but my guess is that even when you're the president, you're not much better than the secretary who somehow always wins the damn thing."
This story appears in the March 19, 2007 print edition of U.S. News & World Report.