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Specter of Impeachment

Even as he fought for his political life in a primary several hours north of the Capitol, Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) was the butt of jokes among his colleagues at a Judiciary Committee hearing Tuesday.

The year’s most controversial judicial nominee, Brett Kavanaugh, was before the panel, and Democrats were pounding away at

his credentials for a seat on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. During questioning, Kavanaugh, a mid-1990s aide to Kenneth Starr in the independent counsel’s office who authored portions of the oft-salacious Starr report, failed to provide Sen. Charles Schumer with an answer that satisfied the New York Democrat.

Schumer was trying to get Kavanaugh to say the Starr report went too far into former President Bill Clinton’s sex life, and Kavanaugh was artfully dodging the question. So Schumer finally went for a straight yes-or-no question — whether Kavanaugh would have voted to convict Clinton and remove him from office had he been a Senator during the 1999 impeachment trial. Still not getting a straight answer, Schumer blurted out, “Would you have voted ‘Aye’ or ‘Nay’ — and you can’t use Scottish law!”

It was one of the rare moments of levity in an otherwise tense hearing, prompting bipartisan laughter at Specter’s expense. Specter famously cited Scottish law and voted that the case against Clinton was “not proven” in the trial.

For his sake, Schumer had better be worried about Specter’s vengeance if he pulls out a primary victory against Rep. Pat Toomey (R). Specter is slated to take over as chairman of Judiciary next year and may not mind poking and prodding Schumer when he has the chance.

But Schumer’s dramatics made for one very happy Democratic colleague. Several hours after his exchange with Kavanaugh, Schumer was spotted coming off the floor by Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.). She grabbed Schumer by the shoulder and, in full view of reporters, exclaimed: “I heard you were brilliant! I heard you were brilliant!”

And for the record, Kavanaugh declined to answer ‘Aye’ or ‘Nay,’ likening himself to a prosecutor on a case and saying it would be inappropriate for him to comment on a jury’s decision after it rendered a verdict. Which must mean Kavanaugh hasn’t watched a lot of cable TV recently.

The New Boss? The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has launched, a new Web site dedicated to making House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) the first woman in U.S. history to wield the Speaker’s gavel.

“We need you to join us to win US House races around the nation so Democrats can elect Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi the FIRST WOMAN SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE!” reads the solicitation on the site, which asks members of the public to sign up to become activists in their Congressional districts.

Democrats made a real effort to get the word out about their site during last weekend’s big abortion rights rally in Washington. They handed out 10,000 buttons to marchers promoting and have signed up 20,000 “online activists” to help spread their message via the Internet.

“We’re blown away by the success of this campaign and it shows the tremendous enthusiasm for leader Pelosi and our effort to win back the House and make her the next Speaker,” said the DCCC’s Greg Speed.

But all of this has apparently failed to strike fear in the hearts of House Republicans.

“They must be talking about 2006 because there’s no way this is going to happen in 2004,” countered Carl Forti, the National Republican Congressional Committee’s communications director.

Current Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) does not have his own Web site, although HOH would like to see that happen.

Dick’s Pic. Former House Majority Leader Dick Armey will be honored this afternoon when Hastert unveils the Texas Republican’s official portrait during a ceremony in Statuary Hall.

Armey, who retired after the 107th Congress, served as Majority Leader for eight years under Hastert and former Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.). The perpetually tanned Texan was best known for his love of fishing and country music, his willingness to lecture anyone who would listen on arcane economic theories (Armey was a college economics professor), and his utter refusal to say the word “Democratic” when talking about his colleagues across the aisle, among other things.

The portrait will hang in a third-floor conference room in what is now Majority Whip Roy Blunt’s (R-Mo.) suite of offices. In the same room are renderings of other GOP luminaries, including former President Richard Nixon and Speaker Joseph Martin (Mass.).

The Armey portrait, the brainchild of House Administration Chairman Bob Ney (R-Ohio), was done by the artist Dean L. Paules, who has painted a number of business and political leaders.

HOH, of course, was always thankful for Armey, who was good copy if not always press friendly. Armey would open his weekly briefing for reporters with a song title from his vast repertoire of country selections, often relying on singer Jerry Jeff Walker for inspiration. HOH thinks this cut from Armey’s own “Greatest Hits” collection, which the Texas Republican released in 2001, fits today’s event well: “I’m Just an Old Chunk of Coal (But I’m Gonna Be a Diamond Some Day).”

I Hear You. Who says Republicans aren’t hip? Well, OK, who says Republicans can’t make some noise? The Republican National Committee and the Republican National Convention, working with MTV, are holding a “Stand Up and Holla!” contest for hipsters between the ages of 18 and 24, and the winner will get some air time at the big GOP gathering in New York City this summer.

To qualify for the contest, applicants must submit an essay (no longer than 300 words) answering this exciting question: “Why is the president’s call to community service important and how have you answered it?” Entries must be submitted no later than June 15.

From there, 10 finalists will be chosen, and each finalist will tape a short segment on his or her essay. The public can then go to several GOP Web sites or to vote on who it likes. The winner will be announced on MTV’s “TRL” (Total Request Live). So c’mon kids, get crackin’ on those essays!

Paul Kane and Erin P. Billings contributed to this report.

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