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Unguided Missile

As House Republicans get ready to dole out their committee assignments this week, French President Jacques Chirac had better hope that irascible Rep.-elect Bill Janklow (R-S.D.) doesn’t wind up on the International Relations Committee.

[IMGCAP(1)] “As long as they don’t stick me on Foreign Affairs, because if they do, I’m going after the French,” Janklow said cryptically last month during a speech to

the Rapid City Chamber of Commerce.

At a session with reporters earlier in the month, Janklow had foreshadowed a bit of his beef with the French. “The French are wrecking our relationship with Europe and have for a couple of decades,” he said. “It’s reached a crisis point now, where the French not only aren’t in NATO but the Germans aren’t willing to be involved. They’re putting their economy ahead of the safety of their citizens and the world’s citizens.”

The outgoing governor of South Dakota, who’s known for being outspoken, also vowed to settle some old scores if he winds up on the Agriculture panel.

“If they stick me on the Ag committee, the Forest Service and the Rapid City Journal are in trouble, because they’re partners,” Janklow said at the speech.

Janklow is still fuming about an investigative piece published last fall in the Rapid City Journal, which he sharply disputed. The story, based on Forest Service documents, charged that he refused to cooperate with federal fire managers and thus made some forest fires even more of a threat.

Janklow went on to take a gentle swipe at the schedule put together by his own House GOP leadership, joking that he’s “never had a job before where you only work three days a week.”

Janklow, who made getting schools in his state wired to the Internet a key part of his gubernatorial agenda, has also been stunned by the cutting-edge (not) technology he will have in his Congressional offices.

“I’m going to get a 256K line in one office in South Dakota,” he told South Dakota reporters. “After that, I’ve got to pay $700 a month for a second one. 256K is about one-seventh of a T-1 circuit that we have at 622 school buildings in this state. We put that in for $400 a month … And [Hill officials] want $700 if I put in another 256K line.”

Janklow added that some Congressional offices in South Dakota have 56K dial-up service. “That’s how ancient the federal government’s technology is compared to what we have in the state and the schools,” he said.

Reflecting on his time as governor, Janklow makes no bones about his style. “I hope the history books just say I gave a damn because I do,” he said. “I know as much as anybody that people get frustrated with my impetuousness.”

Gephardt’s Already the Commander in Chief? A Republican staffer perusing the official biography on outgoing House Minority Leader Richard Gephardt’s (D-Mo.) Web site was surprised to find the following line:

“Drawing on his knowledge, leadership abilities and diplomatic experience, he led the country through the worst attack in its history since Pearl Harbor,” the bio said of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. “On Sept. 12th, 2001, Gephardt visited the White House and pledged his unstinting support in the fight against terrorism and to do whatever it takes to protect all American families.”

“I guess my eyes must be going bad, because I could’ve sworn that was George W. Bush, not Dick Gephardt, addressing the nation and speaking to the rescue workers at Ground Zero in the days after September 11,” cracked the GOP aide. “Gephardt offered his support, yes, but to say ‘he led the country’?”

The GOP aide noted that with Gephardt forming a presidential exploratory committee and former Vice President Al Gore out of the race, it appears that “someone else wants to take up the mantle of the Great Exaggerator.”

Gephardt spokesman Erik Smith told HOH that this section of the bio was “not intended to take credit for everything that happened,” noting that the last part of the paragraph clearly noted that the Congressman went to the White House to work together with President Bush. Nevertheless, Smith maintained that the Congressman played a key role in uniting the country.

“I’m disappointed that Republicans continue to try to make this a partisan issue. It’s not,” Smith added. “Gephardt worked with the president to help the country through a very difficult period.”

Armey Training. After being wooed heavily by the powerful lobbying firm Venable, outgoing House Majority Leader Dick Armey (R-Texas) has instead opted to sign up with Piper Rudnick as a senior policy adviser.

Piper Rudnick recently took over the prestigious firm Verner Liipfert Bernhard McPherson and Hand, so this means Armey will be joining forces with former Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell (D-Maine), among other power players.

“It’s exciting,” Armey told HOH, adding that he’s looking forward to using the problem-solving skills he’s honed in Congress. He stressed, however, “I will not directly lobby my colleagues.”

Armey said he believes that incoming Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) will do a fine job. “I think it’s going to be a seamless transition,” he said.

Given Frist’s exploits in helping to rescue several people who had been involved in a fiery SUV crash in Florida, HOH couldn’t help teasing Armey about how he never revived anyone while serving as House Majority Leader.

“I did fulfill the first order — ‘first, do no harm,’” Armey said.

But some people in Congress might beg to differ. “Well, maybe,” he responded with a laugh.

Marrying the Messenger. Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), who’s helping the Democratic leadership find liberal alternatives to conservative radio gabbers like Rush Limbaugh, is taking a pretty direct role in the recruitment effort: She’s marrying the head of a progressive talk radio network.

Over the holidays, Stabenow got engaged to Tom Athans, executive director of Democracy Radio, which bills itself as a national, listener-sponsored public radio and TV show.

“She’s thrilled, the happiest I’ve ever heard her,” spokesman Dave Lemmon told HOH.

Stabenow, who has two children from her first marriage, has known Athans for about 17 years in political circles. But they only started dating seriously last fall.

The Senator said the couple is planning a small family wedding in the next few months. “Otherwise we’d have to rent the Breslin Center,” she joked in reference to Michigan State University’s basketball arena.

Please Book Me on Your Show. It sounds like Rep. Mark Foley’s (R-Fla.) calendar is pretty wide open for the first week of the 108th Congress, based on a press release rushed out by his office last week.

In a naked attempt for publicity, the release revealed that Foley “will be available” to radio, print and television outlets from “Monday through Friday” to discuss the new session of Congress.

In case anyone forgot the select company he keeps, the release helpfully noted that Foley “will be one of 435 Members of Congress sworn in on Tuesday, January 7.”

As of Friday morning, however, there did not seem to be too many takers. Fox News Channel wanted Foley to appear on a Sunday evening program, but he was going to be on a plane and couldn’t do the show.

Foley spokesman Chris Paulitz said the Los Angeles Times “called as soon as they got” the press release and would probably include the boss in a story over the weekend. He noted that the press release was a way of reminding media outlets that Foley is a member of the powerful Ways and Means Committee.

“There’s only one way they’ll know it — if you tell them,” he said. “We’re not out schmoozing at black tie events every night. We’re too busy moving the message.”

Hagel for President? The hiring of Lou Ann Linehan as chief of staff for Sen. Chuck Hagel (R) has gotten Nebraska politicos buzzing about a White House bid down the road.

Linehan is known in the state as a skilled political operator who helped Hagel win his first campaign and served as his first chief of staff before taking a job at the State Department. One anonymous Republican told the Omaha World-Herald that her return to Hagel’s office “means Chuck’s running for president in 2008.”

Linehan, who has returned to the Senator’s office in the wake of staffer Deb Fiddelke’s recent decision to take a White House job, did not close the door on a Hagel run.

“It’s abundantly clear that many people think that’s a possibility for Senator Hagel,” she said. “I don’t think anybody who cares as much about this country and, yes, all mankind … would rule out being president.”

Iowa Dreaming. As he mulls a presidential campaign, Sen. Bob Graham (D-Fla.) found an interesting way to reach out to the politically important state of Iowa last week.

Graham, who has spent the past 27 years working one day a month in an ordinary job like garbage hauler and chicken plucker to connect with average folks, worked with the chain crew at Thursday’s Orange Bowl in Miami.

The game featured the University of Iowa, home to the first presidential caucus. But Graham noted that the Hawkeyes’ opponent, the University of Southern California, is also important thanks to the Golden State’s 54 electoral votes.

“Of course, we’re also interested in California,” he told The Associated Press.

Graham, who’s known for simple neckties that have the shape of Florida as the sole design, slapped on an orange-and-white vest to help move the first-down chains for the football game, won by USC.

While the Senator says he will make a decision soon on a presidential bid, the betting here is that he’s mostly putting his name out there for the fallback position of being tapped for the vice presidential nomination. Hailing from electoral-rich Florida and serving as the outgoing chairman of the Intelligence Committee give him serious credentials for either spot on the ticket.

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