Frist’s Family Ties

Posted February 10, 2004 at 6:28pm

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) got a little more than he bargained for when he had his new book on the Frist family tree listed on as a way to make it easier for his relatives to purchase the tome.

Democrats have been posting anonymous reviews of the book that slam Frist by recycling the old stories about the Senator adopting and then killing cats in science experiments as a medical student.

“What kind of an ego-maniac publishes his own families[sic] genealogy and calls it ‘Good People Beget Good People,’” wrote one poster from Virginia. “Not to mention the $50 price tag. Seriously, this guy is a lousy majority leader, a moral and ethical hypocrite and an animal torturer.”

Frist allies stress that the price tag is high because it was expensive to produce a book intended for family members only. It’s listed at only to make it easier for relatives to track down the book, not to juice sales numbers among the general public.

But the listing has instead become a bulletin board for anti-Frist screeds, like this one from a poster in Kansas: “This man wants to run for President in 2008. I think we need to organize street-corner readings of ‘Good People …’ in the hope that this idea will meet the same fate as the many cats who had the misfortune to meet up with Frist.”

The ugly reviews prompted someone in Nashville to fire back by suggesting that Frist may be replacing Vice President Cheney on the GOP ticket.

“This man is going to be the next Vice President, so you might be careful before you accuse him of crimes. There is a difference between animal abuse and animal research.”

The writer then mysteriously slipped into the first person: “They were mangy cats that no one wanted. I did them a service by putting them out of their misery.”

Obviously, this was not Frist himself. One Republican source told HOH that Democrats must have too much time on their hands if they’re fiddling around on hoping to make Frist look bad: “Clearly they’ve been monkeying around — or catting around — the site.”

Hollywood on the Bayou? The planners of the blowout Mardi Gras party held each year at the Washington Hilton clearly sent out the invitations before House Energy and Commerce Chairman Billy Tauzin (R-La.) spurned a megabucks offer to become Hollywood’s top lobbyist.

“A Celebration of the Tastes, Sounds, and Sights of LOUISIANA and HOLLYWOOD,” screams the invite for Thursday’s big dinner, which is being billed as a “A Special Tribute To The Louisiana Congressional Delegation.”

Tauzin, of course, recently announced plans to resign his chairmanship and is supposed to be on the verge of landing an even juicier $2 million-per-year deal to become the pharmaceutical industry’s top lobbyist.

Were the party planners given a wink and a nod from Tauzin a few months back that he would be serving as president of the Motion Picture Association of America by now?

Tauzin spokesman Ken Johnson told HOH that his boss had nothing to do with the planning. “I’m not sure who’s trying to spread that MPAA pixie dust,” Johnson quipped. “But personally I got off the magic carpet ride at the last bus stop.”

Perhaps there’s still hope that another Louisiana native, retiring Sen. John Breaux (D), will land the MPAA post instead. Or is it too late to turn this bash into a celebration of the sights and sounds of PhRMA instead?

Democratic Debacle, Take Two. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) will probably be pushing extra hard for passage of the highway bill after yet another vehicular breakdown messed with the minority’s legislative retreat this past weekend.

After HOH reported Monday that a bus breakdown last Thursday on the way to the retreat in rural Virginia led to a comedy of errors for Democrats, an upset motorist in a separate car phoned in to report that there was another problem on Interstate 66 as the caravan headed back to the District on Saturday afternoon.

The motorist saw several buses whiz by with a police escort as she approached the Lee Highway exit of I-66. But traffic suddenly came to a screeching halt for about 15 minutes.

Admittedly, that particular area is notorious for traffic jams. But after the road finally opened up, the motorist noticed that the problem this time stemmed from the fact that one of the Democratic buses had broken down, forcing passengers to disembark to other buses.

“Our Members wanted to do a little field research on the highway bill,” cracked Pelosi spokeswoman Jennifer Crider.

Please Move to the Right. That was Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. (D-Ill.) being shuttled through a Texas airport on Sunday afternoon on one of those annoying carts that sends others scrambling to get out of the way with a loud beep.

“Why does Jesse Jackson Jr. get chauffeured through the Dallas-Fort Worth airport in a golf cart while us commoners have to walk to catch our flight?” griped one Republican who was left lugging his own gear through Terminal C. “He did not look elderly or infirm.”

Jackson spokesman Frank Watkins, who was accompanying his boss to a speech in San Diego, told HOH that it was a harmless joyride initiated by an airport employee.

“Somebody who was driving the cart considered it an honor,” said Watkins. “He came up and said, ‘Hey man, take a ride.’”

Does Medicare Cover Levitra? Rep. Lee Terry (R-Neb.) put new meaning into the term “government hot line” when he sent his constituents a newsletter explaining the new Medicare law.

Thanks to a staff mistake, constituents were directed to a phone sex line instead of the Department of Health and Human Services, according to the Omaha World Herald.

The newsletter urged constituents to call 1-800-MEDICARE. Intending to make the dialing a little easier for seniors, a Terry staffer listed the corresponding numbers for “MEDICARE” on a phone — except the translation got a little mixed up.

This particular hot line was answered by a woman who declared, “Welcome to intimate connections.”

Terry told the paper that he was embarrassed by the goof. “That’s not the kind of constituent services I want,” he said.

Here She Is. While President Bush is slipping in the polls, he can at least take solace in the fact that he has the beautiful Nicole Johnson, Miss America 1999, in his corner.

“I have faith that his numbers will improve,” Johnson told HOH on Tuesday.

Johnson will be appearing with a bipartisan group of lawmakers, led by Sens. Norm Coleman (R-Minn.) and Evan Bayh (D-Ind.), today to promote a new study by MEDTAP International. The report claims that each additional dollar spent on health care since 1980 has produced $2.40 to $3 in tangible gains.

Johnson, who has Type 1 diabetes, has seen those results in her own life. While she once received five injections of insulin each day, she now gets one injection every few days thanks to an insulin pump. “I can do anything I want to do,” she said.

Meanwhile, United Way of America President Brian Gallagher has declared today “Pass 2-1-1 Day.” With help from Sens. Elizabeth Dole (R-N.C.) and Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.), Gallagher is urging citizens to call (888) PASS-211 to get Congress to establish a national phone line that would connect callers to community services and volunteer opportunities.

Honoring Daschle. It was hard to tell who was a bigger hit at Monday night’s big fundraiser for Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle (D-S.D.) — John Mellencamp or Rep. Richard Gephardt (D-Mo.).

Mellencamp belted out about six tunes, including “Small Town,” to a raucous crowd of about 800 people. The event netted somewhere between $2 million and $3 million for Daschle, who’s facing a tough re-election bid.

But Gephardt also won raves over the fact that he parked himself right smack in the middle of the room for the VIP reception before the dinner, rather than sneak over to a corner and nurse his wounds from the presidential campaign.

“He was the first guy there and the last guy to leave,” one attendee marveled of Gephardt, who also served as emcee of the dinner and gave a moving tribute to Daschle.

The partisan crowd was also stirred into a standing ovation when former President Bill Clinton pointed out former Sen. Max Cleland (D-Ga.), who lost a nasty fight to keep his Senate seat in 2002. “What they did to Max Cleland we’re not going to let them do again,” Clinton declared.

Footnote: Gephardt himself will be honored this morning with tributes from colleagues when he attends his first House Democratic Caucus meeting since dropping his White House bid.

Shirt Off His Back. Rep. Denny Rehberg (R-Mont.) is the kind of guy who will rip the belt off his pants for a friend.

The moustachioed Rehberg, who bears a slight resemblance to Spanish President José Maria Aznar, struck up a friendship with the leader last year during a European Congressional delegation.

So Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.), who led the CODEL, invited Rehberg to join the receiving line welcoming Aznar to the Capitol last week for a joint meeting of Congress.

“I really like your boots. And I really like your belt,” Aznar said in reference to the work of a Montana silversmith that the lawmaker was sporting. On the spot, Rehberg ripped off the pricey belt and handed it to the president as a gift.

“Mustached political leaders are like-minded and comprise a singular society of kindred spirits,” Rehberg spokesman Brad Keena explained diplomatically.