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Ummm, Maybe Not

The saga of ousted Senate Republican aide Manuel Miranda continues, but this latest chapter shows Miranda’s friends may not be doing their champion any favors.

The American Conservative Union is pushing to get Miranda rehired by a Republican — any Republican — on the Senate Judiciary Committee, but Miranda appears to have pretty well scotched that option thanks

to an article he wrote for last weekend’s Pittsburgh Tribune-Review Sunday magazine.

In his piece on “Memogate,” Miranda managed to slam both Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), the current chairman of the Judiciary Committee, as well as Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.), who is in line to be the next chairman of the Judiciary Committee. Specter is involved in a bitter GOP primary battle with Rep. Pat Toomey (Pa.), with the vote set for next Tuesday.

Miranda, who worked on pushing through the Senate some of President Bush’s most controversial judicial nominations, resigned in February following the disclosure that he and one other GOP staffer were reading and copying Democratic strategy memos on the Judiciary Committee computer network. While Miranda and his defenders insist he did nothing illegal or unethical, Democrats are seeking a criminal investigation by the Justice Department.

Miranda’s Pittsburgh Tribune-Review article has sections titled “Pocket Liberals,” “Emasculated GOP” and “Seduced by Access,” and is basically one long screed against Hatch and Specter. Some of the juiciest excerpts include: “The profitable industry that has grown around obstructing nominees would not be what it was were it not for Hatch’s unique manner or Arlen Specter’s populist votes against Jeff Sessions (now the Senator from Alabama) and Robert Bork (as in “borking”) in the 1980s.” Or when Miranda wrote, “who could imagine that Orrin Hatch could lead the charge to surrender?” Miranda claimed Frist was “duped” into pressuring him to resign after Democrats learned of the GOP snooping. “But one has to forgive well-meaning people who are duped,” Miranda charitably concluded.

And finally: “I do admit that reading these documents on an unprotected server to help defend the president’s embattled nominees was political hardball, and I have learned one shouldn’t play hardball with limpwristed teammates.”

When asked how the article helped his future job prospects on Judiciary, Miranda said that was ACU’s crusade, not his.

“I am very appreciative of all the support I’ve gotten” from the ACU and other conservative groups, said Miranda, who is writing and doing some legal work. “But it would be ridiculous to want a job on the Judiciary Committee at this point.”

However, if a certain Tennessee Republican were to call, well, that would be a different matter. “I hold Senator Frist in the highest esteem,” said Miranda. Paging Dr. Frist!

Where There’s Smoke … If you happen to notice a funny smell on the Hill later this week, don’t be alarmed — it’s just the folks from NORML (the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws) in town for their annual conference. (HOH can already see office managers all across the Hill putting their reception area treat dishes under lock and key as they read this.)

Powered by the slogan “We’re here, we smoke, we vote,” NORML is launching its maiden “Congressional Lobby Day” on Thursday. Pro-pot activists will lobby lawmakers on behalf of legislation to ease access to marijuana for the chronically ill. Following the heavy lobbying activity, the activists will shift into a more social mode, beginning with a showing of a documentary called “Go Further,” which stars actor/hemp enthusiast Woody Harrelson and friends. The documentary will be shown at Visions Cinema Bistro Lounge near Dupont Circle.

Friday and Saturday will be given over to panel discussions, including such topics as “Don’t Become Another Statistic: How Not To Get Busted” and “Marijuana and Your Health: What You Need To Know That The Government Won’t Tell You.”

One of the highlights of the conference will be a reception on Friday night celebrating the 30th anniversary of High Times magazine, the stoner’s bible.

“Smokers must no longer remain silent and we must make our message heard by Congress,” said Keith Stroup, NORML’s executive director, in a statement released by the group.

Democrats, Republicans and Appropriators. There’s bipartisanship, and then there’s bipartisanship. Sen. Ted Stevens’ (R-Alaska) leadership PAC has given $10,000 to the re-election campaign of his longtime Democratic colleague on the powerful Senate Appropriations Committee, Sen. Daniel Inouye (Hawaii). The Northern Lights PAC, Stevens’ leadership committee, donated $5,000 last month to Inouye’s bid for an eighth term, which comes on top of the $5,000 it gave back in March 2003, according to records filed with the Federal Election Commission.

Inouye is the only Democrat who got money from Stevens’ PAC. Stevens has handed out more than $118,000 so far to his fellow Republicans this cycle from the fund.

So why is Inouye so special? “They’re best friends and that’s what friends do — support each other’s campaign,” said Courtney Schikora, Stevens’ press secretary.

Either Inouye or Stevens has controlled the gavel for the Appropriations Defense subcommittee, where they oversee the disbursement of tens of billions of federal dollars annually, since the early 1980s, and the two lawmakers openly refer to each other as “co-chairman.” As World War II veterans and long-serving Senators from the only states outside the continental United States, the two have always felt their personal similarities and friendship outweighed any partisan labels.

Nice to see someone in the Senate getting along.

You Know You’ve Got Problems When … Former Sen. Robert Torricelli (D-N.J.) is bashing you for doing something wrong, which is what’s happening right now to Sen. Jim Bunning (R-Ky.).

The Torch has come to the aid of Kentucky state Sen. Daniel Mongiardo, who is seeking the Democratic nod to take on Bunning in November. During a March 20 speech to Republicans, Bunning said Mongiardo, who is of Italian descent, “looks like one of Saddam Hussein’s sons … and even dresses like them too.” Bunning initially denied making the remark but later came clean and has apologized, although not directly to Mongiardo.

Enter Torricelli, who thanks to being criticized by the Senate Ethics Committee for his relationship with a controversial donor was forced to give up his Senate seat just five weeks before the November 2002 election to ensure that Republicans didn’t capture it.

“Senator Bunning’s comments and refusal to provide a sincere and personal apology are wrong, hurtful and not in the best traditions of the U.S. Senate,” said Torricelli, an Italian-American, in a statement circulated by the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee Monday. “My level of disgust at Senator Bunning is immeasurable, but more importantly, the people of America and Kentucky should be disgusted as well. Senator Bunning should admit his mistake and apologize or simply admit he has no place in the U.S. Senate.”

The Bunning campaign didn’t return a call seeking comment.

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