Lotta Barbs

Posted January 26, 2004 at 6:09pm

Does Sen. Trent Lott (R-Miss.) privately use a nasty synonym for “opportunist” to describe his successor, Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.)?

While Lott has publicly tried to keep a stiff upper lip about his dramatic fall from grace last year, behind closed doors he appears to still be having a hard time coming to grips with the change in circumstance — and is lashing out at everyone from Frist to Sens. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) and Jim Jeffords (I-Vt.) to make himself feel better.

So claims Kim Eisler, national editor of Washingtonian magazine, who is spilling the details of the private conversations he had with Lott when the two discussed potentially collaborating on a book.

Eisler reveals in the mag’s February issue that Lott considers the book “payback time” for some of his enemies, with Frist sitting near the top of the list.

In one private conversation, Lott allegedly rattled off to Eisler a list of things he had done to raise Frist’s national profile. “But when my moment of political crisis arrived,” Lott allegedly declared, “Bill Frist was nowhere to be seen, except to put himself forward as a candidate to replace me.

“There is a word for a man like Bill Frist,” Lott added, according to Eisler, pausing for effect. “Ingrate.”

Lott clearly has Frist on the brain. Eisler reveals that at a separate meeting last spring, he sat in while Lott took a phone call from Vice President Cheney on the issue of Iraq.

The Senator allegedly gleefully steered the conversation to talk about how Frist was struggling to line up votes for the GOP tax cut. “A lot of people around here are wishing right now they had me back,” Lott supposedly told Cheney. Twice.

Lott spokeswoman Susan Irby refused to address the individual details of the magazine piece. But in a prepared statement for HOH, she shot back that Eisler is just bitter about the fact that the Senator picked someone else to help pen his memoirs. (Lott has gotten a $200,000 advance from HarperCollins for the book.)

“I guess hell hath no fury like a fiction writer scorned,” she e-mailed in her response. “It’s a breathtakingly unethical and inaccurate pout and even includes ‘revelations’ which first appeared years ago in a tabloid newspaper story about Members of Congress believed to be space aliens.”

Frist spokesman Bob Stevenson told HOH that the Majority Leader, who has not read the piece, “has nothing but respect for Senator Lott.”

Eisler, meanwhile, suggests there will also be some payback in Lott’s book for Jeffords, whose party switch knocked Lott from Majority Leader to Minority Leader in 2001. Lott now contends that he only kept Jeffords in the “Singing Senators” in order to make sure he didn’t bolt from the GOP.

“The last five years his singing was so bad, we had to turn off his microphone!” Lott told Eisler.

Eisler adds that Lott grew frustrated as one publishing house after another turned down the book proposal, and seemed “galled” by the fact that Hatch had already published his own memoir. “In all modesty,” Lott said, “what I would have to say has to be a lot more interesting than something from Orrin Hatch!”

Lautenberg’s Lady. If there seems to be an extra bounce in the step of Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.) this week it may stem from the fact that he quietly married 56-year-old Bonnie Englebardt on Sunday.

“I don’t mind going out with a woman older than me,” Lautenberg quipped Monday about his sweetheart of 16 years, who is an interior designer and helps run a real estate development company.

In fact, Lautenberg celebrated his 80th birthday as well as the birth of his 10th grandchild this month, so this weekend’s wedding was just the latest in a string of blessed occasions. “The crowds varied at each event,” he noted.

The couple skipped the engagement phase altogether and were married at Englebardt’s Manhattan apartment by Rabbi David Lincoln of the Park Avenue Synagogue. The Senator is already feeling younger.

When asked over the telephone how he was doing, he responded, “Different. Wait till you see me. I have black hair. I went to the salon and I had my nips and tucks and God I look great!”

He was kidding — we think.

Campbell Retiring? Democrats desperate for good news in the battle for control of the Senate are once again getting their hopes up about a potential retirement by Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell (R-Colo.), who recently blurted: “I wish I wasn’t even a Senator.”

That sparked Chris Gates, the Democratic Party chairman in Colorado, to tell The Denver Post he’s thrilled that the Senator had “publicly confirmed that his enthusiasm for serving as a member of the U.S. Senate has faded.”

But Campbell spokeswoman Camden Hubbard told HOH that the Senator’s statement has been taken out of context and the lawmaker is running hard for re-election. “He is definitely going to stay in the game for awhile,” she said.

Hubbard said the Senator uttered the original remark about not wanting to be a Senator in reference to growing tired of being typecast as “the” American Indian Senator — rather than being known as a Senator who just so happens to be an American Indian.

Campbell, who serves as chairman of the Indian Affairs Committee, has recently been dragged into a battle over a proposed casino in Colorado.

Campbell suggested to the paper he was growing weary of the conflicts created by his heritage and official role in the Senate. “One Indian in the Senate is the wrong number,” he said. “There ought to be more, or there ought to be none.”

Hubbard stressed that the boss was merely pointing out that he gets frustrated “when the distinction is not drawn between being a Native American Senator who represents Colorado and being the Senator who represents all Native Americans.”

Smackdown Your Vote. While the Democratic presidential candidates will be slugging it out in snowy New Hampshire on Tuesday, House Administration Chairman Bob “Nuke ‘Em” Ney (R-Ohio) is organizing a smackdown right here on Capitol Hill.

Ney is hosting a lunch in the Rayburn House Office Building today for World Wrestling Entertainment superstars Kurt Angle and Bradshaw to promote the federation’s “Smackdown Your Vote Initiative,” which is seeking to register 2 million more young people before the November election.

The committee chairman is putting his muscles where his mouth is, according to Ney spokesman Brian Walsh, who insists there’s a key difference between the Congressman and the Democratic presidential candidates.

“They’re wrestling each other for their own votes,” he said. “The chairman, on the other hand, is prepared to arm-wrestle Kurt Angle if the WWE can get more young people to the polls.”

Frozen In Time. Callers to the old presidential campaign headquarters of Rep. Richard Gephardt (D-Mo.) in Washington, D.C., are still being greeted with this recording: “If you would like to volunteer in Iowa, please dial 386.”

That connects you to the “Go to Iowa hotline,” with a voice promising that someone will get back to you “within 24 hours.”