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Ground Chuck

The partisanship on the Senate Judiciary Committee has gotten so bad that Chairman Orrin Hatch (R), the straight-laced Mormon from Utah, essentially called Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) a “dumb ass” at Wednesday’s hearing.

As some Senators called for an end to Schumer’s aggressive questioning of one of President Bush’s judicial nominees, Hatch mischievously suggested it wouldn’t be fair to stop his colleague. “Any Senator is entitled to ask any stupid

question they want,” Hatch cracked.

But eventually Hatch seemed ready to finally cut off Schumer’s microphone as the Democrat continued grilling John Roberts, a nominee to be U.S. Circuit judge for the D.C. Circuit.

“These are dumb-ass questions,” snapped the chairman, who repeated the phrase more than once.

Schumer later asked Hatch if he wanted to clean up the transcript, but a perturbed Hatch said he wanted to let it stand. The New Yorker shrugged it off, telling HOH: “Orrin’s a good friend. He sometimes gets a little excited.”

Having Republicans throw stones at him is nothing new for Schumer, who was famously called a “putzhead” by then-Sen. Alfonse D’Amato (R-N.Y.) during their 1998 race. But Schumer said that insult, which was uttered by D’Amato at a private meeting with supporters, was different.

“When D’Amato got in trouble, he denied it,” Schumer said icily.

Final Cut. It turns out that one of the Republicans trying to slice up Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle’s (D-S.D.) political career used to represent John Wayne Bobbitt, the man of severed penis fame.

Paul Erickson, a GOP operative helping the Rushmore Policy Council spearhead the Daschle Accountability Project that’s vowing to “destroy” the Senator’s credibility heading into next year’s re-election campaign, worked for Bobbitt in 1994.

A wire service story at the time revealed that Erickson had booked Bobbitt on a worldwide tour billed as “Love Hurts” in order to milk the injured fellow’s infamy as much as possible. With Erickson advising him, Bobbitt went so far as to market official “private parts protectors” for $4.99.

“No one who has come to instant celebrity will have systematically exploited as many avenues as John Wayne Bobbitt,” Erickson boasted at the time.

When HOH asked Wednesday whether he will be able to do the same for ex-Rep. John Thune (R), who may run against Daschle, Erickson stressed that he doesn’t deal with the potential candidate because the Rushmore Policy Council is an “independent” group.

Erickson said he only worked for Bobbitt because the client was “a kid who needed help and had nobody to turn to.”

“I would hope that that case, out of the hundreds that I’ve been involved with, would not represent the totality of my career,” he added.

Erickson said Daschle does not represent South Dakota values. “Everybody hates Daschle,” he charged. “His negatives are through the roof.”

When asked whether the people of South Dakota will think that a former front man for Bobbitt can reflect their values, Erickson responded, “You’re missing the point.”

Boxers or Briefs? Despite getting off to a late start, Sen. Bob Graham’s (D-Fla.) presidential campaign is starting to pick up steam — at least “briefly” anyway.

Last week, a new Web site dedicated to hawking merchandise bearing the names of the various Democratic presidential candidates sold two thongs and two pairs of women’s underwear emblazoned with “Bob Graham for President.”

A journal entry about that development could clearly spice up the vaunted notebooks that Graham carries around the Senate to capture his thoughts throughout the day. But with the Floridian trying to be the elder statesman in the presidential race, his staff doesn’t want to boast about the surge in sales.

“There are lots of things that could be said,” Graham spokesman Jamal Simmons told HOH. “But in the interest of the office to which we aspire, I will reserve comment.”

Nathan Rudy, a borough councilman in North Plainfield, N.J., created the Web site ( with the initial goal of launching a 2004 Bumper Sticker Primary as an unofficial way of figuring out which candidate is catching fire at the grassroots level. Since New Jersey has a late primary, he wanted his state’s residents to have a say in the picking of a nominee.

“This gives everyone a chance to vote,” he said. “It’s totally unscientific, but it’s fun. Politics should be fun.”

The site has been up and running for only about two months, and it’s worth noting that many of the candidates are selling merchandise on their own Internet sites. But as of Wednesday, former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean is holding the lead with 246 bumper stickers sold on Rudy’s site. Non-candidate Al Gore is sticking in second place with 164 votes, while Graham has surged into third place.

Graham now has 97 bumper stickers sold, putting him ahead of Sen. John Kerry (Mass.), who has 72 votes at this point. Among other Democratic lawmakers in the race, Rep. Dennis Kucinich (Ohio) has 39 votes, while both Sen. John Edwards (N.C.) and Rep. Richard Gephardt (Mo.) have 15 apiece.

The real buzz, however, is coming from the other items for sale. “I have a lot of orders for boxer shorts with Al Sharpton’s name,” said Rudy. “And a Gary Hart thong just sold. That made my day.”

Sen. Joe Lieberman (Conn.), meanwhile, has sold just six bumper stickers and not a single pair of underwear at Rudy’s site. Nearly twice as many bumper stickers bearing the name of Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.), who insists she’s not even a candidate, have sold on the site.

Lieberman “Minister of Information” Jano Cabrera told HOH that analysts should not read too much into the Senator’s meager sales. “What can I say? Lieberman voters prefer to wear their support, so to speak, on their sleeve,” he joked.

Luck of the Irish. House staffer Gretchen Learman is once again looking for women on Capitol Hill to compete for the honor of serving as the D.C. representative to the famed Rose of Tralee festival in Ireland this summer.

Joy Peck, a former staffer for Sen. Wayne Allard (R-Colo.), served as the 2002 “Washington D.C. Rose” in the international festival that draws thousands to County Kerry each August. The festival is based on an old story about a woman who lived in the tiny town of Tralee and died of a broken heart.

Learman, who was D.C.’s Rose in the 2001 competition, says she was treated like a rock star when she won the free 10-day trip to Europe to compete in the competition.

It seems like a part-beauty, part-intelligence contest, but Learman stressed that it’s really a “cultural event aimed at creating talented ambassadors for Ireland and Irishness around the world.”

Contestants have to be 18-25 years of age, never married and proud of their Irish heritage. Applications are due May 15 and can be found at www.geocities/glearman.

There will be a cocktail party for the contestants at the Irish Embassy on June 5, and candidate interviews will take place June 7, followed by the crowning at the Irish Times later that evening.

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