Sunday, August 19, 2007

The Untold Story of the Cheney 'Quagmire' Video
The Untold Story of the Cheney 'Quagmire' Video

When the C-SPAN producer toiling in obscurity last month reached for the tape, he had no clue how juicy a nugget he had unearthed. The tape was labeled simply, "Life and Career of Dick Cheney"; dated April 15, 1994.

When he found it in the archives, the producer was just looking for something mildly interesting to help fill the 12-hour Cheney marathon planned by C-SPAN 3. The "Life and Career of Dick Cheney," produced for C-SPAN's "American Profile" series, seemed like a good bet for the marathon; after all, those interviews were personality-based and less wonky, letting viewers get a real feel for Dick and his wife/political partner, Lynne.

But instead of love and marriage, the "Life and Career" tape offered up a much younger looking Cheney saying that a U.S. invasion to capture Baghdad and topple Saddam Hussein would be, well, a quagmire.

At the time of the interview 13 years ago, Cheney was the ex-defense secretary, camped out at the American Enterprise Institute and contemplating a run for president. Asked why he didn't think U.S. forces should have gone on to Baghdad during the first Persian Gulf War, he asked rhetorically, "How many additional dead Americans is Saddam worth?" He added, "It's a quagmire if you go that far and try to take over Iraq."

The now famous "quagmire" tape, which has gotten over half a million views on YouTube, may well have remained buried in the archives for another decade (and doesn't Cheney wish it had!) if it hadn't been for that one C-SPAN producer, an affable young Irishman named Emmanuel Touhey.

Touhey didn't have time to review the entire hour-long tape before airing it, so he had no idea he was about to spark a firestorm on the Internet. And, at first, no one seemed to notice.

The Cheney tape re-aired for the first time since 1994 on July 11, 2007. But it wasn't until C-SPAN aired the interview again on August 9 (on the same channel, at the same time) that the blogosphere noticed.

As far as we know, the Cheney remarks on Iraq were first noticed by the site Grand Theft Country. When it quickly became an Internet phenomenon, Touhey was surprised. He said people have been calling C-SPAN over the past week asking when the network plans to air the Cheney segment again. (It doesn't, for the record.)

"I was quietly pleased with myself that I'd found a gem, however by accident," said Touhey, who, after nine years with C-SPAN is leaving next week to become a producer for The Diane Rehm Show. "I'm gleeful just from the perspective that it's getting a lot of attention. Any time C-SPAN 3 gets a lot of attention, I'm happy."

Asked what changed the vice president's mind about invading Iraq between 1994 and 2003, Cheney spokeswoman Lea Anne McBride said she was not authorized to comment.

She did, however, direct us to an interview that ABC News conducted with Cheney in February of this year in which Cheney was asked how his views had changed from 1991, when he also spoke of military action in Iraq as a "quagmire."

"Well, I stand by what I said in '91," Cheney told ABC. "But look what's happened since then -- we had 9/11."

Now, about that faceless voice in the Cheney "quagmire" video -- it belongs to Bruce Collins, the corporate vice president and general counsel of C-SPAN who held the same title when he interviewed the former defense secretary and future vice president way back in 1994.

Collins shared with us a funny anecdote about that interview.

When he showed up at Cheney's office, he said the future Veep asked, "How much time do you need -- one, two minutes?" Collins explained it was an hour-long interview.

Cheney grumbled that he hadn't planned on that much time. Collins said the interview was for C-SPAN's "American Profile" series, which would give the audience a chance to learn more about Dick Cheney the man, where he comes from, how he thinks, how he lives.

"You mean, touchy feely?" Cheney replied, according to Collins.

"This is an opportunity to go beyond policy," Collins recalled saying.

To which Cheney growled, "Well, you know I'm a policy kinda guy."

And there you have it: Dick Cheney is not a touchy-feely kinda guy.

Watch the video below:

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Posted at 9:28 AM ET, 08/15/2007
Rove Finds Himself in PETA's Crosshairs

As if he hasn't taken enough heat for what he did in the White House, Karl Rove is coming under fresh attack for what he plans to do after he leaves on August 31. Specifically, his Labor Day weekend plan to go dove hunting down in Texas, which The Sleuth disclosed earlier this week.

PETA, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, was so outraged to learn about Rove's hunting excursion that it faxed a letter to the White House late Wednesday.

"Dear Mr. Rove," began the letter from President Ingrid E. Newkirk. "From your frequent hunting trips to your bizarre little rap at the Radio and Television Correspondents' Association dinner ("I like to go home, get a drink, and tear the tops off of small animals"), it is clear that you lack the ability to empathize with other living beings. You consistently prove that you care less about animal welfare than Alberto Gonzales cares about habeas corpus."

And if that isn't enough to make you think Ingrid needs to spend some time in anger management, wait 'til you hear the rest.

Newkirk notes that the first thing Rove plans to do upon leaving the White House at the end of his month is "go dove hunting, i.e., kill little birds who are the international symbol of peace. You will leave politics to spend more time with your family only to destroy the families of other species."

Her last line could well set off alarm bells at the Secret Service: "I have just one suggestion: Please take Dick Cheney along on your hunting trips."

No response yet from the White House. But if we get (non-Photoshopped) photos of Rove cuddling with his dogs, you'll be first to see them.

UPDATE Sorry, folks, no photos of Rove hugging puppies, bunnies or anything else that might disabuse PETA of the notion that he hates God's most vulnerable furry and feathered creatures. Instead, White House spokeswoman Dana Perino responded by taking a shot at both the animal-rights group and Democrats.

"Will PETA issue the same press release when the Democratic presidential candidates go out hunting in the next year to get their obligatory 'I'm a hunter too!' pictures taken? Just hope they know how to hold a gun properly -- it's a bummer for a candidate if a mistake is made for all the voters to see."


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Posted at 6:11 PM ET, 08/14/2007
Elizabeth Edwards: Obama Is a Copycat

Aspiring first lady Elizabeth Edwards is accusing Sen. Barack Obama of lifting her husband's best lines, in particular, the phrase "audacity of hope."

In an interview with the Progressive magazine, Edwards says:

"You listen to the language of what people say, particularly Obama, who seems to be using a lot of John's 2004 language, which is maybe not surprising since one of his speechwriters was one of our speechwriters, his media guy was our media guy. These people know John's mantra as well as anybody could know it. They've moved from 'hope is on the way' to 'the audacity of hope.' I'm constantly hearing things in a familiar tone."

Audacity of hope ... It does have a nice ring. Does Edwards have the trademark on it to prove Obama is ripping him off?

Not if you ask the Obama camp, which had no formal response to Mrs. Edwards's comment but pointed out Obama's history with the phrase.

The junior senator from Illinois referenced "audacity of hope" in his 1995 memoir "Dreams From My Father." The line, they said, was taken from a sermon preached by the Rev. Jeremiah Wright titled "The Audacity to Hope."

Furthermore, as recounted in a Christian Science Monitor article last month, "Wright impressed Obama, and by 1988 the younger man found himself in the pews, listening to parishioners clap and cry out as Wright spoke of 'the audacity of hope."

As the Chicago Tribune wrote in January, Obama based his 2004 speech to the Democratic National Convention on Wright's "Audacity to Hope" sermon.

One Democratic operative out there on the campaign trail, who requested and was granted anonymity, insisted, "There's definitely a trend of Edwards leading and Obama following -- both rhetorically and on the substance."

Among the examples the Democrat cited was the much talked about moment at the Yearly Kos convention on August 4 when Edwards called on all the candidates in the Democratic field to "not take a dime" from lobbyists. That prompted Sen. Hillary Rodham to say "a lot" of lobbyists represent "real people."

Edwards, moments later, asked for a show of hands from audience members who have a Washington lobbyist working for them. As you might imagine, only a tiny smattering of hands went up.

So how does Obama play into this? The very next day Obama asked an audience in Nevada, "How many people here have a federal lobbyist?"

Asked whether John Edwards shares his wife's sentiment that Obama is a copycat, Edwards campaign spokesman Eric Schultz offered, "We've clearly been leading on the issues, and others are following. You've see that on health care, on energy, on closing unfair tax loopholes, and using funding authority to get our troops home from Iraq. John Edwards is shaping the Democratic agenda by proposing bold solutions and being honest about how to achieve them."

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Posted at 9:00 PM ET, 08/13/2007
Random Rummy August Sighting

Starting a war must really wear a guy down.

Former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld was spotted today having lunch at Morton's on Connecticut Ave. What was remarkable was not what he ordered, or with whom he dined, or how quintessentially condescending he may have been to the waiter.

No, what was remarkable was how, according to our (Republican) source, Rumsfeld's handlers had to help him onto the escalator and "held his elbow" and opened doors for him. "He looked old," our tipster said.

Hard to imagine that Rummy, 75, the tough guy with so much energy that he preferred standing while working rather than sitting on his duff all day, could suddenly need help getting on an escalator. But maybe this is a classic case of "this is now, that was then" (or vice versa).

At least Rumsfeld was tough enough to brave 90-plus degree Washington weather. He sat outside on the patio of Morton's, which is on the second story of the Washington Square Building and overlooks Connecticut Ave.

And to Rummy, it must have been an earthly delight, because his guest -- whose identity no one seemed to know -- was overheard saying when he arrived that he was meeting Rumsfeld in "the garden."

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Posted at 3:46 PM ET, 08/13/2007
Rove Resignation: It Was the Coffee!

The owner of theTwin Lakes Nordic Lodge in Twin Lakes, Colo., just sent us this photograph of the billboard outside his inn on the side of Highway 82.

Rove stopped for coffee last month in Colorado. He announced his resignation a few weeks later. There MUST be a connection, right? (Courtesy Charlie Gandy)

Innkeeper Charlie Gandy is playfully taking credit for Karl Rove's resignation. He's certain: It was his coffee that did it.

You see, it was there, at the Nordic Lodge, where Rove gave the first hint he'd be leaving the White House and writing a book. Rove stopped for a coffee and restroom break at the lodge last month on his way to Aspen to give a talk at the Aspen Institute.

He sure packed a lot into a 15-minute visit. Besides using the loo and drinking a little java, Rove talked to Gandy about his plans to write books after leaving the White House. (The White House confirmed Rove's intent to try "his hand at writing" nonfiction, which the Sleuth reported in this July 24th posting.) Also during that 15-minute interval, another visitor standing in the lobby of the lodge threatened to beat the daylights out of Rove -- a threat that never came to pass.

So Rove should have no problems handling his shotgun when he goes dove hunting Labor Day weekend, which will be his first vacation as a "civilian" upon leaving the White House on August 31st.

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Posted at 11:01 AM ET, 08/13/2007
A Hunting Rove Will Go

The first thing Karl Rove plans to do when he leaves the White House at the end of this month is go dove hunting in West Texas, The Sleuth has learned.

"He loves to go hunting," White House spokeswoman Dana Perino says. (No word on whether the gunslinging vice president will be joining him.)

After a weekend of dove hunting, according to Perino, Rove will return to Washington to fetch his wife. The two of them, along with their dogs, will then drive down to the Emerald Coast in the Florida Panhandle where they have a home.

Rove, the man formerly known as Bush's Brain, is resigning from the White House at the end of this month and moving back to Texas, where he plans to write a book about President Bush's years in office.

Oddly, The Sleuth learned of Rove's book-writing plans last month from a guy who runs a lodge in the middle of Nowhere, Colo.

In an odd coincidence, The Sleuth wound up stopping at a lodge in tiny Twin Lakes, Colo., which Rove had visited just a week and-a-half prior. We learned from the lodge owner, a former Democratic Texas state legislator whose demise Rove helped orchestrate, that Rove said he planned to write books after leaving the White House and that he still had "legal bills to pay."

Soon after that encounter, the White House confirmed to us that Rove did, indeed, plan to try his hand at nonfiction, though a spokeswoman said Rove was "all good on his legal bills." Rove again stressed that point in today's published interview with the Wall Street Journal's Paul Gigot, saying of his legal bills, "every one has been paid."

As we reported on July 24, Rove, even after another visitor to the Twin Lakes Nordic Lodge threatened to kick Rove's you-know-what, wrote a thank-you note on White House stationery to innkeeper Charlie Gandy in which he said, "Nice to know there's life after politics."

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Posted at 10:58 AM ET, 08/10/2007
Do Tell: Rep. Steve Cohen on Acting, Warren Zevon and Impeaching the Attorney General

Meet freshman Rep. Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.), a fun-loving hipster in an aging man's body, a liberal Jew from a mostly black district (which is why he's at risk of being a one-termer), a lover of music and a Hollywood extra.

A baseball fan, Cohen, 58, talks about coming "to the majors," sitting on the House Judiciary Committee and getting the mouth-watering thrill of power from making the attorney general of the United States squirm. Cohen drops the "I" word and even suggests that, beyond impeachment, some of the harsher forms of interrogation under the Bush administration's extraordinary rendition program might be acceptable forms of punishment for Alberto Gonzales.

Less empowering is his office dog, a mixed breed pup who exacts her own form of torture on the congressman by leaving little piles on his office carpet. (He named the dog Jackie O in honor of the late former first lady and wife of his political hero, John F. Kennedy. A photo of JFK on the back of a convertible in Memphis, which Cohen took himself as a small boy, hangs on the congressman's wall.)

Cohen also discusses his close friendship with the late rock 'n roll icon Warren Zevon, how he wound up playing an obscure role in the 1993 film "The Firm," and how in the waning, contentious hours before Congress adjourned for its August recess he accidentally helped form a "Jewish section" in the House chamber, which Cohen - as he's prone to do with large spaces - imagines as a baseball stadium.

Sleuth: You have the distinction of being the first Jewish congressman from Tennessee, right?

Cohen: Yes, I am the first Jewish congressman from Tennessee. There are stories about Davy Crockett, but they're not verified. In the autopsy they thought maybe he was Jewish. Could have been an Indian thing.

Sleuth: But you're the real deal?

Cohen: I'm the real deal.

Sleuth: What's been your oddest moment so far in Congress?

Cohen: I think the other day when the [voting] machine broke down was pretty odd...and the Republicans were behaving rather inappropriate and Romper Roomish. And it reminded me of my buddy [Warren] Zevon's song, 'Disorder in the House.' And I was kind of thinking about it, you know: 'Disorder in the House. I was in the House when the House burned down. Home of the brave, land of the free, where the less you know the better off you'll be."

Sleuth: Tell me about your relationship with Warren Zevon.

Cohen: Warren and I became friends in 1993. He was in town for a concert, I went back and met him. We just hit it off. We became, over a little bit of time, the best of friends. There was Carl Hiaasen and other people. And I think several of us he told we were like the only brother he ever had. 'You're like my brother.' I discovered at the memorial service he also said that to Jorge Calderon and probably other people.

Sleuth: Are you a musician, was that part of your relationship?

Cohen: I play the iPod. But I love music. As a kid - I'm from Memphis - I did Elvis Presley in our spring festival. I did 'Don't Be Cruel.' I still cry at 'Love Me Tender.'

Sleuth: Did you hang out on Beale Street a lot?

Cohen: Beale Street's still pretty cool. Whenever B.B. [King]'s in town, I see BB. I saw Albert King whenever he came to town. In fact I represented Albert King. He was charged with gambling in a dice game. So I got this picture of me and Albert holding his booking number. I got him off the dice charge. So he died with a clean record as far as that charge went.

Sleuth: Tell me how you wound up in the Firm as an extra, and I think you were in another movie as well, weren't you?

Cohen: Well, John Grisham is from nearby. So...a lot of his movies...are set in Memphis....The head of the music commission lives down the street from me. She asked me if I wanted to come be an extra, I said sure, sure.

They had this massive buffet. And I'm not good at buffets, I absorb as much as I can, a heritage trait. They had these 16-ounce strips, gigantic potato, salad, asparagus and all that stuff. And I was stuffed. And at the next scene...they put this food in front of us, chicken salad. [I said], we can't eat all this. I was stuffed! I said, here's what we'll do. I will pass you the salt and pepper, you will salt and pepper your chicken salad and I'll salt and pepper mine. Then I will pass you the Tabasco sauce, nobody knows what we're eating. And then I will pass you the rolls and then we'll toast. Anything we can do but eat. So we did all this stuff and it turned out in the movie scene, we were on with me toasting my friend. And because of that, it was a pretty obvious spot of us in the background. And everybody who saw the movie recognized me. It was kind of a special scene for an extra.

Fred Thompson - he was like a regular actor, I was an extra. He was a United States senator, I was a state senator. Fred did big-time Supreme Court law, I did street law for Albert King, dice games, you know. So I always told Fred I was a junior Fred. Different parties, different philosophies, but whatever.

Sleuth: What about cultural clashes? You've got 435 people in there from all over the place, any memorable cultural clash that you've had so far with anybody?

Cohen: It wouldn't be a clash but the other night there was a very funny thing. The African-American members generally sit in the lower box seats so to speak, to the right of the rostrum. And the Hispanics generally sit in the upper deck, in kind of right center field, if you take it from home plate being the rostrum. And the Blue Dogs kind of get in center field. And the Jewish members have never sat together - intentionally. And the other night, I went and sat down, I tried to find a seat near a voting box. And Steve Rothman (D-N.J.) comes and sits next to me. And [John] Yarmuth (D-KY), who's my buddy, who's Jewish, sits next to him. And the next thing we know, Steve Kagen (D-Wisc.) came in...and then the next thing we look and there's Paul Hodes (D-N.H.) and there's Anthony Weiner (D-N.Y.) and there's Steve Israel (D.N.Y.). And Robert Wexler (D-Fla.) and Gary Ackerman (D-N.Y.). Debbie Wasserman Shultz (D-Fla.) came by and I told her she couldn't sit with us because we were being Orthodox, she had to stay in the back row.

It was like the Jewish section. It was the first time we'd had that. And we had some laughs...That was just kind of a Cohenincidence.

Sleuth: So maybe this will start a tradition, you all will sit together from now on?

Cohen: I think it will be when God decides that we should, and it'll probably mostly be on Friday nights.

Sleuth: What's your favorite Zevon song? Do you have one?

Cohen: 'Sick' or...He called it 'Sick' - I thought it should have been called 'Friends' but Warren was noir, I was like, you know, not so noir. 'Keep Me In Your Heart' is a very touching song. There are several of his girlfriends thought that song was for them. Just like 'you're my brother.'

Sleuth: Sitting on Judiciary with the whole Gonzo controversy, that's gotta be....

Cohen: It's sadly funny. Because I'm working on articles of impeachment right now. [Gonzales] didn't remember anything. So I got to ask him, 'How do you know the president and the vice president didn't do that?' And he just stumbled and stammered. And I thought, this is pretty cool to watch the attorney general of the United States stumble and stammer.

Sleuth: So you think Gonzales should be impeached?

Cohen: I think he should be impeached. He has disgraced his office, he has disgraced his country, he has spoiled the Constitution. Going against hundreds of years of American tradition of fair play and due process... merits at minimum impeachment, at worst flogging.

Sleuth: Who are you going to support for president in the '08 campaign?

Cohen: Whoever gets the Democratic nomination for sure...I suspect it will be either Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton.

Sleuth: And would you rather see Hillary or Obama?

Cohen: I would not take a position on that at the present time. I have great respect for both these individuals. I think they're both very talented. I think Barack - I'm just amazed when I see him, how talented he is. But Hillary Clinton...I've got great respect for her experience. And I like Bill Clinton, Bill Clinton's my friend. So I'm torn.

Sleuth: Tell me about your dog.

Cohen: We've got an office dog. Harry Truman - I've got his picture up in my bathroom - said if you want a friend in Washington, get a dog. We got an office dog that we adopted from a rescue agency. And the dog is named Jackie O. She's part poodle and part something else, I don't know, Schnauzer. Little dog. She basically lays around. She started to bark, but everybody loves her. And she kind of has the run of the place and likes to chew on people's shoes. And on the desk. And likes to poop in my office.
Play Video
VIDEO | Do Tell: Rep. Steve Cohen (D-Tn.)

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Posted at 5:22 PM ET, 08/ 9/2007
Rep. Kuhl: Just Joking About Packing Heat

You can imagine how startled we were to read that Rep. Randy Kuhl (R-N.Y.) is considering arming himself in the wake of war protests at his district offices.

According to an editorial published Wednesday in the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, Kuhl - a man alleged to have once pulled two shotguns on his then wife at a 1994 dinner party - "has thought of arming himself, given the perception -- not accurate, he said -- that he is an inflexible supporter of President Bush's approach to the Iraq war."

The editorial board's blog quoted Kuhl as saying he has "thought about packing" in light of the perceived security threat to himself and his offices.

The paper's editorial admonished Kuhl, saying "any step along security lines may have a chilling effect on communication between constituents and a public official." Hinting that those who may disagree with Kuhl's stance in support of the Iraq war might be too intimidated to speak out if their congressman is packing heat, the editorial said, "It's more important than ever that ordinary citizens believe they can interact with their elected representatives without impediment."

A spokeswoman for Kuhl confirmed that Iraq war protestors targeted the congressman's offices in Bath and Fairport, New York, on Monday of this week but that Kuhl wasn't working at either office that day.

And while she acknowledged that the protests have made her boss rethink security, she disputed that Kuhl is seriously considering arming himself. "That comment was taken way out of context," the spokeswoman, Meghan Tisinger, told the Sleuth.

She said when Congressman Kuhl told the Democrat and Chronicle editorial board that he had "thought about packing" - he was just joking. (Get a sense of humor, people!) "It was one of those sarcastic, offhanded comments," she said.

Plus, Tisinger explained, Kuhl was joking about arming himself in the context of increased security on Capitol Hill in light of the approaching anniversary of 9/11.

According to the Associated Press and other news reports, divorce papers unearthed before the 2004 election (with the help of Kuhl's Democratic opponent) reveal Kuhl was alleged to have taken "out two shotguns and threatened to shoot plaintiff" during a 1994 dinner party at their home.

For anyone unnerved by the thought of Kuhl packing heat when he returns from recess next month, you can probably relax. While he does have a license to carry a firearm the good news is that, according to his spokeswoman, he doesn't exercise that right when he's working.

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Posted at 11:44 AM ET, 08/ 9/2007
Third Party Enters Spat Between Reps. Jackson Jr. and Lee Terry

A House floor spat between Reps. Jesse Jackson Jr. (D-Ill.) and Lee Terry (R-Neb.) has officially gotten out of hand. The FBI is now investigating a third party's involvement in the spat, which most likely has nothing to do with Jackson or Terry.

A man claiming to be a relative of Jackson walked into Terry's Omaha office last Friday and said he was "Jesse Jackson's (Jr.) hitman," a spokeswoman for Terry tells the Sleuth. The spokeswoman, Kristin Durbin, says the unidentified man told the receptionist "that he'd like to beat up Congressman Terry."

"These were inappropriate comments and the office contacted the Capitol Police after the man left," she said, adding, "The incident was referred to the FBI."

The man was described as five feet nine inches tall, white and in his early 50's, according to a local Omaha TV station.

The bizarre incident came just days after Jackson - a black belt in martial arts - and Terry - not a black belt - nearly came to blows on the House floor in the incredibly contentious final hours before Congress adjourned for August recess. The two of them never did "take it outside" as Jackson had suggested, and both later accused the other of cursing and instigating the argument.

Terry's District Manager, Tory Lucas, tells Omaha's Action 3 News, "Apparently the gentleman read the article about Congressman Terry's incident with Congressman Jackson. He referenced that article and said he'd like to fight Congressman Terry. He said he'd like to hit him and said he's Congressman Jackson's hit-man."

The man did not pull a weapon and left the building after about 10 minutes.

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Posted at 10:55 PM ET, 08/ 8/2007
Partisan Divide Over Barry Bonds?

While President Bush and Barack Obama deftly dodged the issue of Barry Bonds, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and her GOP counterpart, Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio), made no bones about the way they feel.

Pelosi and Boehner were equally as resolved in their opposite reactions to Bonds' record-breaking homer Tuesday night. Then again, what else was Pelosi supposed to say about her district's controversial home-run king?

She wasn't there in person at San Francisco's AT&T Park to see Bonds hit No. 756 in the fifth inning against the Washington Nationals, but here's what she said in a statement:

"Barry Bonds etched his name into baseball's history books and took his rightful place among the sport's immortals. It was a great night for baseball and a great night for San Francisco -- the crowd went wild. It was particularly exciting to see Willie Mays embrace him on the field and see Hank Aaron congratulate him on the Jumbotron. As a season ticket holder, I am particularly glad it happened on the Giants' Italian night."

Boehner, a Cincinnati Reds fan, was less than thrilled. Asked by radio show host Frank Beckmann of WJR in Detroit whether Barry Bonds should have an asterisk next to his name in the history books Boehner emphatically replied, "Absolutely, absolutely, I'm a big Hank Aaron fan. He did it the right way - he earned it."

UPDATE: Later on Wednesday, after raising questons about whether he would or wouldn't, President Bush finally placed a congratulatory call to Bonds. (Bush did, after all, call Phil Mickelson after he won the 2004 Masters.)

For the record, put Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) in the bobbing-and-weaving department. For a guy who was so outspoken on the need for drug testing standards a few years ago after the Bonds controversy erupted, he sure is being tight-lipped now. His campaign did not respond to requests seeking the GOP presidential candidate's reaction to Bonds.

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Posted at 5:35 PM ET, 08/ 6/2007
Thompson Camp Tight-Lipped About Wife Jeri

Fred Thompson's "testing the waters" campaign hasn't done itself any favors by being so evasive when it comes to questions about Mrs. Thompson.

Perhaps if the topic weren't so shrouded in mystery, Newsweek magazine wouldn't have created a mini firestorm with its story this week suggesting Jeri Kehn Thompson may have been married before - and possibly never divorced - since her name pops up in public records as Jeri Kehn Alvey, which is the last name of her ex-boyfriend.

"It's unclear exactly when she may have been married or when she may have gotten divorced," the magazine wrote. "When asked directly about it, the campaign would neither confirm nor deny a previous marriage."

Why the secrecy?

It certainly piqued the interest of other political reporters who wondered why the campaign wouldn't have simply said "No, she has never been married before" if, in fact, she had never been married before.

The Post, in an in-depth profile of Jeri Thompson in Sunday's paper, reported that the would-be first lady lived with a guy named Bernard "Chip" Alvey and, in court judgments against her, used Alvey's last name. The paper attributed Alvey as saying the couple had never married.

By mid-day Monday, a Thompson spokeswoman confirmed to the Washington Post's Alec MacGillis, who co-wrote the Thompson profile, that Fred Thompson is indeed Jeri's first husband. But the Thompson camp provided no comment whatsoever for the Post profile of Mrs. Thompson that ran on Sunday.

Today, Fred Thompson, in an exclusive interview with the National Review's Byron York, provided a hint as to why his operation is so secretive when it comes to Jeri. Thompson spun it this way:

"I think the problem is that Jeri refuses to go out in public and behave like a candidate's wife before I'm a candidate. The fact that she's not out there promoting herself seems to greatly concern some people in the media, so they have gone back to old boyfriends, the families of old boyfriends, high-school classmates, basically anything that can be dredged up to fill this void that they perceive has been created."

The 64-year-old former senator also defended his 40-year-old wife's heavy-handed role in his presidential exploratory effort, whose early staff shakeup was partly the result of tension between aides and Mrs. Thompson. The way Thompson tells it, his wife was just following orders.

He said while he was disengaging himself from his radio and television contracts at the same time that his exploratory committee was getting underway, "I asked her to do certain things for me. She did what I asked her to do."

Meanwhile, asked when Mrs. Thompson would be playing a less mysterious and more visible role on the campaign trail, Thompson spokeswoman Linda Rozett said, "Sorry, I don't have a comment today."

Asked if the campaign had an official policy against answering questions about Mrs. Thompson, Rozett replied: "No. But for today, you'll have to say we declined to comment."

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