In a scene that could provide some interesting footage for a potential presidential run down the road, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) is holding a reunion this week for some of the 150 people whose lives were saved by heart transplants he performed before coming to Capitol Hill.
Frist revealed in an e-mail to financial supporters of his leadership political action committee, VOLPAC, that he will be playing host to his former patients in D.C. on Friday and Saturday. “I look forward to sharing the Capitol with their families,” he wrote. “It will be a great reunion for us all.”
The heart surgeon has previously participated in reunions with his transplant patients, but those have been much more low-key events in Nashville organized by the Tennessee Donor Services.
This will be a much grander bash, with Frist getting his first chance to show off the Majority Leader’s suite to his former patients, 35 of whom will be coming to town (along with about 115 family members).
There will be special tours of the Capitol and other D.C. attractions, such as the Holocaust Memorial. The Senator will also host a Hill reception on Friday night and a brunch on Saturday at a local restaurant.
“These folks played such an integral role in who he is,” explained Frist spokesman Nick Smith. “He wanted to bring them to Washington to let them share in something unique that he’s doing. They’re all very close.”
It’s an open secret that Frist is expected to retire in 2006 with an eye on recharging his batteries in advance of a 2008 presidential run. What better way to hammer home Frist’s good bedside manner than to eventually trot out the scores of people whose lives were saved by the Senator’s medical work?
Just as President Bush has the “Pioneers,” who helped propel the Texas governor to the White House with their support, Frist may someday have the “Transplanteers” to help tell his personal story.
“I don’t know about that. But I can say that these folks are big Frist fans,” said Smith, adding helpfully: “These folks have already been pioneers in transplantation.”
Political Hardball. As the House weighed Bush’s $87 billion supplemental bill late into Thursday night, Members were torn between two riveting events: the critical debate over Iraq on the floor and the classic Red Sox-Yankees game being shown on the televisions in the Cloakroom.
“We were in the middle of a serious debate,” recounted Rep. Rob Portman (R-Ohio).
But then Aaron Boone of the Yankees stepped up to the plate in the bottom of the 11th inning of Game 7 of the American League Championship Series.
“All of a sudden there was a huge roar in the Cloakroom and everyone ran in there,” said Portman.
Boone had cracked a home run, propelling the Bronx Bombers into their 39th World Series. Fighting his way out of the Cloakroom was a particularly elated Yankees fan, Rep. John Sweeney (R-N.Y.), who taunted Red Sox fans with shouts of “1918!,” a reference to the last time the apparently cursed Boston franchise won a World Series.
Rep. John Larson (D-Conn.), a long-suffering Sox fan, had a staffer phone in to HOH on Friday to reveal that the boss has found a way to help Chicago Cubs fans as well. “As part of his outreach services as ranking member of the House Administration Committee,” said the aide, “he is starting a therapy group for the Cubs fans and the Red Sox fans.”
One person who wasn’t focused on baseball was Rep. Jerry Lewis (R-Calif.), chairman of the Appropriations subcommittee on Defense. The cardinal, who is used to greenbacks, spent most of Thursday handing out now-worthless Iraqi currency.
Just back from Baghdad, Lewis kept telling colleagues that the fact that the dinars he was giving away had been replaced by new currency was the latest sign of positive news coming out of Iraq.
“Two days ago it was worth something,” he beamed. “Now — nothing.”
Are You Ready For Some Baseball? While all of the spine-tingling playoff games drew record television ratings, Sen. George Allen (R-Va.) was one of the few lawmakers who apparently didn’t follow the action too closely.
As he walked off the Senate floor on Thursday afternoon, before the Yankees game, Allen was overheard telling some Capitol Police officers and doorkeepers: “You all need to be talking about important issues like … Mariners-Yankees? How boring would that be” as a World Series matchup.
Allen was prescient about the Yankees’ dramatic victory later in the evening. But he mixed up the fact that the Florida Marlins, not the Seattle Mariners, had made it from the National League. With big Senate races in both Florida and Washington state, he’s going to have to get that straightened out.
But let’s cut some slack to the son of the late coach of the Washington Redskins. He’s a gridiron fan.
Watts the Deal? In other football news, Redskins wide receiver Patrick Johnson has landed an internship with ex-Rep. J.C. Watts (R-Okla.).
Johnson is going to be volunteering on his day off (Tuesdays) throughout the season for GOPAC, the political training organization run by Watts, the one-time star quarterback for the University of Oklahoma.
“A great quarterback certainly knows how to attract good receivers,” said Robb LaKritz, deputy chairman at GOPAC.
O Canada. The Canadian Embassy is trying to prove to Members of Congress from eight states that there still is such a thing as a free lunch.
Over the next two weeks, Canadian Ambassador to the U.S. Michael Kergin is sending gourmet lunches to Hill delegations ranging from Alaska to Pennsylvania to celebrate the opening of eight new consulate offices across America.
It kicks off Monday with Thomas Naylor, the ambassador’s executive chef, whipping up beer and chipotle beef chili that will be sent to the Hill offices of Texas Sens. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R) and John Cornyn (R) as well as the offices of eight Houston-area House Members. (Memo to Naylor: Don’t forget that Texans don’t like beans in their chili.)
The 150 boxed lunches will feature Canadian Black Angus ground beef, of course, as well as North-of-the-Border favorites like ketchup-flavored chips (courtesy of Frito-Lay Canada) and Clearly Canadian sodas.
“I’ll take comfort food from each state and add a Canadian twist,” Naylor told HOH.
That will mean Molson beer-braised brisket Caesar salad for North Carolina lawmakers and a Canadian-style Philly cheesesteak for the Pennsylvania delegation next week.
Unfair Hit on Norm. A typo in last Thursday’s HOH mistakenly made it sound like Norm Kurz, spokesman for Sen. Joseph Biden (D-Del.), was trying out for a role on HBO’s “The Sopranos.”
In reference to the German-owned Daimler-Chrysler plant in Delaware, Kurz had actually said, “But they are American jobs” — not “American mobs,” as HOH typed in.
In fact, Kurz doesn’t seem to have a mean bone in his body. So despite the mistake, don’t worry: HOH will not be sleeping with the fishes.