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French Kiss

He may “look French” to his critics at the White House, but Sen. John Kerry’s (D-Mass.) campaign slogan is apparently good enough for the Bush administration to borrow a bit to help sell some new American currency.

As they tout the colorful new $20 bill, the Treasury Department is running ads in all of the major newsweeklies with this tagline: “The New Color of Money: Safer. Smarter. More Secure.”

That sounds suspiciously close to the boast Kerry has been making for months about how he will deliver a “stronger, safer, more secure America.”

Dawn Haley, spokeswoman for Treasury’s Bureau of Engraving and Printing, told HOH that the agency started researching a new slogan in February and started using the line on its letterhead in March.

Pressed on who copied whom, Haley said with a laugh, “I would have no idea. It’s probably a coincidence, OK?”

The Kerry campaign is just happy to hear that the Bushies seem to be warming to the Senator ever so slightly. Back in the spring, a Bush adviser cracked to The New York Times that Kerry would have a hard time connecting with voters because “he looks French.”

“This is standard operating procedure from an administration that calls cutting down trees ‘Healthy Forests’ and polluting the air ‘Clear Skies,’” Kerry spokesman David Wade told HOH. “The problem is, they’ve made America everything but safer, stronger and more secure. John Kerry will.”

Kerry’s initial lead in New Hampshire, however, has not been so secure. So it remains to be seen whether he’ll get that chance.

Moran’s Tips on Public Mis-speaking. Could it really be that Rep. Jim Moran (D-Va.), who sparked a firestorm with a disastrous speech in which he blamed the Jewish community for plunging America into war with Iraq, is hosting a seminar on public speaking?

“The Art of Public Speaking” is one of several topics that could grow uncomfortable for the lawmaker when he hosts his 12th annual “Women’s Conference” on Oct. 25.

According to a franked mailing Moran sent to his Northern Virginia constituents last week, the all-day confab will feature seminars such as “Finding Your Entrepreneurial Spirit” and “Financial Literacy and Planning for Women.”

Those talks could get a bit sticky for Moran, who insisted last year that he saw nothing strange about having a seminar on “Financial Planning in Today’s Changing Economy” at last summer’s women’s conference. The Congressman has been wracked by personal debt in recent years, which has led to him getting pilloried for accepting questionable personal loans from various lobbyists.

But the seminar on public speaking could be especially delicious. Back in March, Moran declared at a forum in his district, “If it were not for the strong support of the Jewish community for this war with Iraq, we would not be doing this.”

Moran resigned his House leadership post after several fellow Democrats chastised him for that speech, and he is now facing several potential primary challenges stemming from his controversial comments.

Choosing not to flash his superior speaking skills, Moran’s office declined to comment on his upcoming conference.

California Hardball. After a six-week stint on the Left Coast covering the recall election, MSNBC anchor Chris Matthews was back in D.C. addressing the California State Society luncheon Tuesday.

Bringing a little bit of “Hardball” to the event on the Hill, Matthews scolded the Los Angeles Times for its initial story on Gov.-elect Arnold Schwarzenegger’s (R) alleged sexual misconduct that ran the Thursday before the election.

“L.A. Times guys would swear they didn’t do this on purpose,” said Matthews, who clearly thinks otherwise. He added that the journalists involved would even “go home to their wives” and claim they were nonpartisan.

The host noted that Schwarzenegger’s win shows that “the L.A. Times has no influence on this state. They went for a late hit, and they hit too late to hurt him.”

When asked about the lineup of Democratic presidential candidates, meanwhile, Matthews quipped: “There are a lot of Arianna Huffingtons on that list already.”

Meanwhile, word on the Hill is that Schwarzenegger will make his first foray to Washington as governor-elect next week. He will be the special guest at the California Bipartisan-Bicameral Delegation Members meeting at 10:30 a.m. Wednesday.

“This is a Members-Only meeting (no staff allowed),” noted a delegation e-mail.

Kennedy vs. Hannity Redux. Sean Hannity upped the ante Tuesday, offering $10,000 to Sen. Edward Kennedy’s (D-Mass.) favorite charity if the liberal lion will appear on the conservative’s radio talk show.

Noting that he had told HOH earlier in the week that he would put up $5,000 to Kennedy’s favorite charity in exchange for an hour on the program, Hannity opened Tuesday’s show by saying he was going to make one final offer.

“I am willing to take this a step further,” Hannity said. “I am going to up the offer to 10 grand.”

Hannity is trying to expand on the brief dustup he had with Kennedy on Friday, when Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas) convinced the Senator to enter the GOP Cloakroom and briefly join the radio program by phone.

Kennedy has thus far ducked the invites from Hannity, who tweaked the Senator by playing clips from Friday’s show. Kennedy had said, “I’m trying to get on that program and talk with you, for Pete’s sake.”

Hannity is calling his bluff. “We’re going to continue to call Ted every day until he accepts our invitation,” he vowed.

Kennedy spokesman Jim Manley said Tuesday that despite Hannity’s claims to the contrary, “We only got an invite this afternoon.”

As for whether Kennedy is ducking the host, all Manley would say is, “Stay tuned.”

Having It Both Ways? Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.), who fancies himself a maverick, is starting to sound like some of the Democratic presidential candidates in his criticism of President Bush getting “too much” latitude in foreign policy.

In a speech Monday in Omaha, Hagel complained that Congress has bowed down and turned over the bulk of its foreign policy responsibilities to the president since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

“We probably have given this president more flexibility, more latitude, more range, unquestioned, than any president since Franklin Roosevelt — probably too much,” he said. “The Congress, in my opinion, really abrogated much of its responsibility.”

But wait a second: When Hagel himself had a chance to stand up to the president last week, he blinked and voted against making part of the $87 billion supplemental bill for Iraq and Afghanistan a loan.

And like many of the Democratic presidential hopefuls attacking Bush these days, Hagel also voted to give the president the power to use force in Iraq last fall.

Hagel spokesman Mike Buttry declined to comment on the inconsistencies Tuesday.

Balance of Power. Richard North Patterson, the best-selling novelist who will be feted at a Washington party tonight for his new book that takes aim at the National Rifle Association, says he’s fed up with former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean on the gun issue.

“I have a problem with Governor Dean in singling us out to prove he’s not liberal,” Patterson said of the Democratic presidential frontrunner’s efforts to tout his support for the NRA and distance himself from gun control advocates.

“I hope he rethinks the issue,” added Patterson, who’s on the board of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence.

The contentious gun issue plays a central role in Patterson’s latest novel, “Balance of Power,” which focuses on a fictional president doing battle on Capitol Hill and in the courts with an NRA-style group.

The author is a former Securities and Exchange Commission official who knows his way around Washington. But he interviewed everyone from former President Bill Clinton to ex-Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole (R-Kan.) and current Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Kennedy to bone up on the political game.

Patterson has set expectations pretty high for himself and is pumped about the results. “I’m absolutely jazzed,” he said. “What I really tried to do is come up with a novel on the scale of Allen Drury’s ‘Advise and Consent.’”

Various lawmakers will be heading over to Charlie Palmer Steak on Capitol Hill to fete Patterson and the book, which had a sales ranking of No. 117 and climbing at as of Tuesday.

Patterson lives in Kerry’s home state, but he’s not backing the Massachusetts Senator — or Dean from nearby Vermont. He actually likes Sen. John Edwards (N.C.) best.

“I think demographically he’s a good match for President Bush,” said Patterson. “He’s a skilled speaker and debater, and he has a message that’s clear and understandable.”

Badge of Honor. The Transportation Department honored Capitol Police officer Mike DeCarlo and Amtrak Police officer Rodney Chambers on Tuesday for their roles in the June arrest of man armed with two grenades outside Union Station.

Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta presented both officers with the department’s Award for Heroism, created in 1975 to honor “extraordinary actions, taken during the course of duty to save the life or lives of others.”

In early June, DeCarlo and Chambers responded to a report of an attempted robbery at a Union Station shop when a private security guard found the suspect had a hand grenade.

When the pair confronted the suspect, Juan Radwill Tubbs, he pulled the pin from a grenade. Chambers took possession of the grenade, while DeCarlo subdued the suspect.

Chambers continued to hold the device’s “spoon” to prevent it from detonating until the arrival of a the Capitol Police’s bomb squad 15 minutes later. (Capitol Police later determined the two grenades were not live munitions.)

A humble DeCarlo, who heads the Capitol Police’s Labor Committee, said he felt “confident” any of his colleagues would have acted the same in the situation.

“It’s nice to be recognized,” DeCarlo said, as a stream of officers offered him congratulations. “I don’t think I did anything outside the ordinary that anybody else wouldn’t have done.”

John McArdle, Inga Beyer and Jennifer Yachnin contributed to this report.

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