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Thou Shalt Not Covet

Note to Lynn Cheney: Get there early when your husband debates Sen. John Edwards (D-N.C.) tonight — and fill the seats around you as quickly as you can. Otherwise, you might have Democratic National Committee Chairman Terry McAuliffe, seat-snatcher extraordinaire, sitting behind you.

[IMGCAP(1)] McAuliffe did it to the Bush family last week at the presidential debate in Florida, stealing a seat from a Secret Service agent that put him directly behind first lady Laura Bush and first twins Jenna and Barbara. (Until he was removed from the seat, that is.)

When McAuliffe walked into the auditorium in Miami, he noticed that someone was sitting in “his” seat, a Democratic Party source said. A burly aide to McAuliffe walked over to the interloper and said, “You’re in the chairman’s seat.” The agent hopped out of the seat and moved a few spots down, allowing McAuliffe the seat he so coveted.

The moment, though fleeting, was recorded for posterity. At one point before the debate began, as the network cameras panned the audience, there was a clear TV shot of American politics’ most improbable family: the first lady, the twins, and a gleeful McAuliffe seated behind them with an even goofier-than-usual “What, me?” look.

The start of the debate was just a few minutes away when the absurdity of the moment finally dawned on him. As one DNC source tells it, McAuliffe thought, “Wait a minute. Am I really behind Laura Bush and the Bush girls?” And it was at about that moment that someone, presumably a Secret Service agent, came over and asked McAuliffe to move.

DNC spokesman Jano Cabrera told HOH that McAuliffe was entirely innocent. “It was, of course, an honest mistake. After all, George W. Bush has done so much to help Democratic fundraising, Terry practically considers himself part of the family,” Cabrera said. Without an ounce of irony, of course.

Cheesesteak for Kerry. The Pennsylvania Democratic Party is trying to turn the tide of bad cheesesteak vibes and capitalize on that major faux pas Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) committed in Philadelphia a little more than a year ago.

Readers may recall that Kerry ordered a Philly cheesesteak with, um, swiss cheese, of all hideous things. Even a vegetarian knows that the proper way to eat a cheesesteak is with Cheez Whiz, or maybe — maybe — American or provolone. But never, ever swiss.

Tonight, the Pennsylvania Democratic delegation and other Kerry-Edwards backers are gathering to watch the vice presidential debate at a fundraiser held at the home of Democrats Tony and Heather Podesta.

The invitation reads: “Watch the VP Debate, Swill PA Beer & Devour Philly Cheese Steaks.*”

The bottom of the invitation explains the asterisk: No Swiss cheese served.

Further poking fun at Kerry, the invitation includes a classic picture of the buttoned-down New England Democratic nominee taking a dainty bite of his sloppy mess of a cheesesteak sandwich during an August campaign stop in South Philadelphia. He had asked photographers to refrain from taking his picture while he ate the sandwich, which, naturally, made the shutters whir even faster.

Thus emerged the backdrop for tonight’s invitation to turn the vice presidential debate into a last-ditch chance to raise money and help Kerry win Pennsylvania. Tickets start at $250, and the sky’s the limit. For $10,000, the Pennsylvania Democratic Party will get you in the party as a host. “More is better,” the invite says. Money goes to the Pennsylvania Democratic Party.

Without that crucial swing state’s 21 electoral votes, Kerry could lose, Heather Podesta noted frantically in the invitation.

“We have to do everything we can so that we don’t wake up on November 3 and say, ‘We should have done more!’ Just think, you could be one more cheese steak closer to a new president!”

Podesta, whose husband, Tony, is running the Kerry campaign in Pennsylvania, says that every Democratic member of the Pennsylvania delegation has agreed to attend, including its dean, Rep. John Murtha.

While Pennsylvania Democratic delegation members are swilling Yuengling and Rolling Rock and stuffing their faces with Cheez Whiz cheesesteaks, Republicans in the Keystone State delegation will be focusing on their own meal of sorts.

“That’s fine. While they are eating their dinner, Cheney will be eating Edwards for lunch,” Rep. Jim Greenwood (R-Pa.) told HOH.

Dang Okree! Rep. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) is still recuperating from serious second-degree burns he got while frying okra a few weeks ago. About the only good news to come out of the incident is that he’s getting good press. “We’ve probably gotten more coverage on that than anything we’ve done in a long time,” says Kyle Steward, Wicker’s press secretary.

Wicker burned his left arm to a crisp when a slow cooker on the top shelf over the stove fell into the hot grease he was using to fry the okra. Ouch! “It was quite severe,” Steward says. The Congressman was hospitalized for two days with second-degree burns on his left hand and arm. Oh, the other bit of good news: Wicker is right-handed.

Baby Announcements. Sen. Mike Crapo (R-Idaho) became a grandfather last week. His oldest daughter, Michelle Crapo Remington, gave birth to a baby boy at New York Methodist Hospital. Michelle and her husband, Jared Remington, live in Brooklyn; Jared is employed at Goldman Sachs. The Senator’s first grandchild is named Michael.

And Rob Zatkowski, director of the House Periodical Gallery, is a new father. His wife, Jennifer, gave birth on Sept. 25 to a baby boy named William Matthew. They’re not sure what they’ll call him yet. But Daddy Z says, “Definitely not Bill. Too many bills here on Capitol Hill already.”

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