Make Room, Simon, for Idol's Margaret
Even nerdy Washington has caught American Idol fever as the show enters its spectacular finale showdown between 17-year-old Jordin Sparks and beat-box guy Blake Lewis. Of course, the first family, who endorsed the show's massive "Idol Gives Back" fundraiser, will check out the Fox show. But that'll be nothing compared with the cheers and jeers coming out of the Spellings household. Yes, Education Secretary Margaret Spellings is an Idol fanatic.
Go ahead and ask: How crazed is she? Spellings is the first in the Bush cabinet to attend a show. It happened earlier this month, and she and daughter Grace even compared notes with judge Simon Cowell. Like Cowell, they loved ousted Melinda Doolittle. "I am shocked over the Melinda situation," says Spellings. "I am confident that she'll have a great career." For finale week, "My pick-Jordin." Another Idol fan, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, also chooses Jordin, but she likes Blake's style, too.
It's not just Idol-atry for Spellings. She's very hip to current media, using them to pitch education. This week she'll be the first cabinet member to be on the Daily Show With Jon Stewart, talking up No Child left Behind. "Secretary Spellings has range and No Child Left Behind has no age limit," crows a pal. "She runs the gamut when it comes to the age of the person she's talking to."
Bush's Summer Hires Targeted
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has a little trick up his sleeve that could spell an end to President Bush's devilish recess appointments of controversial figures like former United Nations Ambassador John Bolton. We hear that over the long August vacation, when those types of summer hires are made, Reid will call the Senate into session just long enough to force the prez to send his nominees who need confirmation to the chamber. The talk is he will hold a quickie "pro forma" session every 10 days, tapping a local senator to run the hall. Senate workers and Republicans are miffed, but Reid is proving that he's the new sheriff in town.
Finally Dating After Long Separation
They haven't had their first kiss yet, but the White House is learning that dinner and a drink make it a lot easier to address tough issues with Congress. We're told that after years of giving Congress the cold shoulder, the White House is issuing more invitations to private gatherings. And members from both parties are being wooed in the gatherings, where Bush is displaying the type of bipartisanship he won applause for as the governor of Texas. "I think they are doing more of that at the White House," says Sen. Trent Lott, Mississippi Republican. "I think that's helpful. Anything you do together informally, it makes it easier to talk about substance at other times." A Bushie says the invites include Camp David sleepovers, receptions, and even movie screenings.
Secrets Spilled in Private Spy Case
Thanks to a $2 million lawsuit, we're getting the first peek ever into the world of Washington's private eyes. These are firms that not only act like mini CIAs but also work with the feds and even rogue nations to dig up secrets and lies. The case features a prominent author and TV pundit on terrorism issues, Neil Livingstone, who recently quit the firm he founded to start another. Now he's being sued by his old investigative outfit, GlobalOptions, which thinks Livingstone is stealing customers for his new gig, ExecutiveAction. He denies the charge. It's a complicated case, and some of the details are eye-popping. Consider the clients the two discuss: a firm owned by the daughter of Uzbekistan's strongman president; one secretively dubbed "Project M"; and the feuding family of Sumner Redstone, chair of Viacom. Then there's the money involved. Livingstone's salary at GlobalOptions was $260,000. And in less than two months this year alone, Livingstone says, he paid his ex-firm $1,415,000 for helping him on some cases. No wonder neither side chose to talk.