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Pardon the Interruption

Has Washington Post columnist Tony Kornheiser — who’s always juggling his book, radio and TV projects — added the title “chauffeur” to his portfolio as well?

That’s what Rep. Harold Ford Jr. (D-Tenn.) thought when he ran into Kornheiser and his television cohort, Post columnist Michael Wilbon, at the District Chophouse last week.

As Kornheiser told the story Thursday on his ESPN radio show, he and Wilbon had dinner and while Kornheiser headed quickly for the door, Wilbon shook “about 1,000 hands” on the way out and then spent an extra long time hobnobbing with some stranger near the host stand.

“I thought it was the maitre d’,” Kornheiser recalled on the air.

His radio producer shot back that it was a Congressman who had appeared on a recent episode of HBO’s “K Street” program. “Henry Ford,” he said.

Wilbon finally called in to the radio show and corrected everyone, saying he had been jawing with the well-known Harold Ford Jr.

The Congressman’s staff, meanwhile, told HOH that the lawmaker had a different recollection of the encounter.

“Congressman Ford started to talk to his friend, Michael Wilbon, and would have said hello to Kornheiser — if the Congressman had known who he was,” quipped Ford spokesman Seth Hanlon. “He thought he was Wilbon’s driver.”

Trick or Treat? After the gun scare in the Cannon House Office Building on Thursday turned into an odd pre-Halloween misunderstanding, horror was transformed to humor in a hurry.

House staffers almost immediately started e-mailing one another a fake warning to Capitol Police officers about Halloween costumes to watch out for on Friday. The e-mail included images of everyone from cowboys to military personnel with weapons locked and loaded.

There was also a slew of wise cracks flying over the fact that the never publicity-shy Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.) appeared to be the first Member to get on the air, doing a telephone interview with MSNBC from his Cannon office as the story unfolded. A parade of other folks — this means you, Rep. Marty Meehan (D-Mass.) — did their own phone interviews with CNN and the like.

Rep. Edolphus Towns (D-N.Y.), meanwhile, couldn’t stop laughing — or getting publicity — over the fact that the General Accounting Office just so happened to pick Thursday to release a report that he had requested from the agency.

The title: “Information Generally Not Available on Toy Gun Issues Related to Crime, Injuries or Deaths, and Long-Term Impact.”

“I couldn’t believe it — that this report would come out the same day as this incident,” Towns said in a telephone interview on Friday.

In all seriousness, Towns thinks that because of last week’s scare, his report may open more eyes than expected — which may explain why he rushed out a “Dear Colleague” promoting anti-toy gun legislation Friday.

“That a toy gun shut down the Hill for two hours shows this is a serious matter,” he said. “This toy gun stuff is no trick or treat.”

Then a senior House GOP aide called HOH to jokingly suggest that he thought the gun incident was staged by a couple of Democratic staffers trying to distract attention from Thursday’s Republican good news that the economy — in the third quarter of the year — had grown at its fastest rate since 1984.

Since the incident was sparked by two staffers for GOP Rep. John Shimkus (Ill.), that theory was, er, shot down. So the GOP aide shifted his focus to the idea that the Shimkus staffers may collectively go down in history as the Hill’s own Steve Bartman.

“This is the Capitol’s equivalent of that Cubs fan who reached over and grabbed the ball,” cracked the staffer.

But the kicker came late on Friday afternoon, when House leaders circulated the floor schedule this week. There are 20 bills that will be considered under suspension on Tuesday.

No. 11 — “H.R. 2898 – E-911 Implementation Act of 2003 (Shimkus – Energy & Commerce)” — apparently has nothing to do with any emergency calls placed from the Congressman’s office last week.

Chairman’s Mark. He may be struggling to finish up his Medicare bill and international tax legislation, but Ways and Means Chairman Bill Thomas (R-Calif.) can at least take heart in the fact that a new airport terminal is being named after him.

After a $38.8 million renovation, passengers at Meadows Field in the Golden State will be taking off from Thomas Terminal beginning in the spring of 2005.

The Bakersfield Californian revealed that the honor came after — surprise! — Thomas helped secure millions of dollars in funding for the airport.

Given that near-brawl in the Ways and Means panel this past summer, wouldn’t the “Thomas Police Depot” at the airport have been slightly more appropriate?

California Dreaming. A staffer for Rep. Mary Bono (R-Calif.) was recently leading a tour for some constituents when someone in the group asked why the lawmaker’s office was not represented in the Congressional Art Competition.

That’s the contest open to high schoolers across the country, with the first-place winner from each Congressional district getting the chance to display his or her work in the tunnel between the Capitol and the Cannon Building.

The Bono staffer, not knowing that a Democratic aide from the Golden State was within earshot, allegedly replied to the inquiring constituent, “Mary doesn’t have any artwork up there right now because of the rotation due to the size of the California delegation.”

The Democratic staffer, who insists there is no such rotation system, was outraged. “That’s not right,” she told HOH. “If they don’t want to participate in the contest or the artwork they received from their constituents was ugly, fine. But tell your constituents the truth.”

After checking with his staffers and interns who run the tours, Bono Chief of Staff Frank Cullen told HOH he believes “there was either some misunderstanding about what was said on the tour” or the Democrat did not quite hear the whole encounter.

“They were referring only to the annual rotation of pictures for each delegation,” Cullen maintained, though he added: “We certainly recognize that on occasion people that give tours may not always give the information they should provide.”

And it turns out that Bono’s office did not participate in this year’s art competition because of a consolidation of two district offices. The move “disrupted the normal procedures” that Bono staffers used in years past for receiving nominees for the contest, according to Cullen.

“We have had past participation in this contest,” he said. “And we will participate in the future.”

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