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I’ve Got You, C-SPAN

HOH always feels like a geek for admitting to listening to the radio version of C-SPAN at all hours of the day, but it turns out that no less an arbiter on style/news judgment than Cher is one of the network’s biggest fans.

Viewers around the world learned this factoid on Monday morning when C-SPAN “Washington

Journal” host Peter Slen unwittingly took a phone call from a caller from Miami Beach, who began her call like so many others.

“Thank you for C-SPAN,” she said. “I watch it every day.”

The anonymous caller then revealed she had just spent a day with wounded U.S. troops who had returned home from Iraq, most of whom had lost limbs in the conflict.

She then went on at length about greeting three soldiers, each of whom lost legs while patrolling in the same vehicle. “A couple of the boys told me it was because their vehicles — the rockets pierce the vehicles so much, [they] said it’s like being kind of in a tin can. … The walls of the Humvees and things are very soft and there is no protection.”

Slen pressed the caller about why she had been at Walter Reed Army Medical Center earlier this month.

“I was working that day in Washington, D.C.,” she replied.

Slen, a big Cher fan who had attended her farewell show at the MCI Center in Washington on Oct. 10, was starting to get suspicious.

“What kind of work do you do?” he pressed.

“I’m an entertainer,” she said.

“What kind of entertaining — are you USO?” Slen wondered.

“I really don’t want to go much past that,” she said.

Slen finally blurted, “Is this Cher?”

“Yeah,” she said, adding of the servicemen: “I have to say that they had the most unbelievable courage, and it took everything that I have as a person to not, you know, break down when I was talking to these guys.”

Then Cher finally got around to her political message: “But I just think if there was no reason for this war, this was the most heinous thing I’ve ever seen, and also I wonder, why are none of Cheney, Wolfowitz, Bremer, the president — why aren’t they taking pictures with all these guys? Because I don’t understand why these guys are so hidden and why there aren’t pictures of them … talking about the dead and the wounded.”

As Slen noted that Cher supported Ross Perot for president in 1992, the celeb insisted she’s still an independent. “But I’m not a Bush supporter. That’s for sure,” she said. “And I’m definitely not [for] Ashcroft or Cheney or any of them.”

She concluded, “I have to tell you I watch you every day. And I really appreciate it because I go all over the world and I must say that the news that we get in America has nothing to do with the news that you get outside of this country and I think that’s why people don’t understand … why so many of the allies did not, you know, our usual allies, did not join this. Because if you get outside of the United States, you hear a different kind of news. You know?”

Saxby to the Rescue. Laurie Coleman, wife of freshman Sen. Norm Coleman (R-Minn.), has already found out that membership in the world’s most exclusive club has its privileges.

The actress is all set to play a woman born and bred in Georgia in the play “The Foreigner,” which is about to begin its run in Minneapolis, but she quickly realized that her Southern accent needs a bit of work.

Enter Julianne Chambliss, wife of freshman Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.), who graciously agreed to help out. After getting a copy of the script, the Minnesota Senator told HOH that his colleague’s wife taped a reading of the part in her “exquisite and very authentic” accent. The tape was promptly shipped to Minnesota so the actress could bone up quickly.

“A great example,” Coleman told HOH, “of the many opportunities that present themselves in the Senate Spouses Club.”

Word Games. Senior House and Senate Republican aides headed to The Homestead Resort this past weekend for a bicameral chiefs of staff retreat.

Given the traditional impatience that House GOP leaders have with their Senate counterparts — who tend to fall behind on their work and then cave on key issues at the end of the session — there was some chuckling when the agenda was handed out.

After lunch on Saturday, there were three breakout sessions for senior House GOP staffers: “Best Office Practices”; “Building Coalitions”; and “Working with Committees.”

During the same time period, there was just one breakout session for Senate staffers: “Office Staff Retreats.”

“The Senate staff actually needs a breakout session on retreats?” cracked one House GOP chief of staff. “I thought they’d pretty much perfected that.”

‘Pelosi Democrats’? Republican lawmakers spent the better part of last year beating up on “Daschle Democrats,” so now it’s House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi’s (D-Calif.) turn to bear the brunt of the attacks.

In a memo that Republican National Committee Chairman Ed Gillespie is circulating today to GOP leaders, he urges GOP Members to start hitting Pelosi and “highlight the party of pessimism.”

“Rather than offering solutions, Pelosi Democrats determine policy based on a simple formula: If President Bush is for it, they’re against it,” wrote Gillespie. “As they rail against Republicans during their four-week [PR] offensive, note that they will be offering no solutions of their own.”

The memo hits Democrats on three other issues, including the economy. “Every Democrat running for president is for raising taxes,” wrote Gillespie.

On national security, Gillespie charges that leading Democrats last week “moved to the left of Syria and France by opposing funding for troops and reconstruction in Iraq.”

Finally, Gillespie contends that Democrats want to “return us to policy of reacting to terrorism in its aftermath,” rather than taking pre-emptive action.

Besides the fact that “Pelosi Democrats” does not quite have the same ring as “Daschle Democrats,” a House Democratic leadership aide shot back that Gillespie’s memo doesn’t add up.

“The problem isn’t that Democrats don’t have enough proposals; the problem is that Republicans are afraid of them. On issue after issue Democrats have proposed plans that help everyday Americans — on the economy, on homeland security, on veterans — but the Republicans won’t let us offer them on the House floor,” said a Democratic leadership aide.

Cola Wars Continued. More House staffers are coming forward to protest the Office of Compliance’s removal of the soda machines from the basement of the Cannon House Office Building.

After HOH pointed out the outrage bubbling up over the move, Office of Compliance General Counsel Peter Ames Eveleth wrote a long letter to the editor. He insisted that the decision came because of “fire safety requirements.”

There’s no question that Eveleth makes a very serious and important point. But his logic struck more than a few House staffers as strange, especially given the many other safety issues that seem to get ignored around the campus.

“Phew,” one House staffer wrote HOH in response to Eveleth. “As a long-time inhabitant of Cannon, not a day went by that I didn’t worry about those soda machines in the basement of our venerable building.

“I can put up with rickety elevators and I can dodge the [Architect of the Capitol] employee sitting on the front of a forklift seemingly going 25 miles an hour around a blind corner. But those deadly soda machines were a menace and their removal was long overdue. Kudos to the Office of Compliance for making the Southwest corner stairwell of the south end of the Cannon basement safer.”

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