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And Now … the Benator

President Bush has agreed to a new nickname for Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.), who wasn’t keen on POTUS calling him “Nellie” and “Benny.” The president will now call Nelson by a much more macho, movie star-like nickname: the Benator.

Nelson convinced the president to give him the new nickname during Bush’s visit to Nebraska last weekend, a trip that, according to the Omaha World-Herald, ended with Nelson getting stranded and hitching a ride with a stranger in a 1989 Buick. [IMGCAP(1)]

Before thumbing it back, Nelson climbed in the presidential limo and accompanied Bush and White House adviser Karl Rove to the

airport after the president’s speech on Social Security. That’s when Nelson pressed Bush to quit calling him Nellie and Benny. He suggested the Benator and, according to Nelson spokesman David DiMartino, the president agreed.

“The Benator. I like it,” DiMartino quoted the president as saying.

Apparently the Benator was so taken with his new studly new name that he forgot he was supposed to get out of the limo at the airport and meet a car sent by his staff. But when the president departed on Air Force One, Nelson rode back into town in the limo with the White House staff.

Stranded at the Qwest Center in Omaha, the Senator could not reach his staff by cellphone. But a man named Dick Preston who was in town to attend a home and garden show saved the day and offered the Senator a ride.

“The Senator said he had made a friend and that Dick Preston is now a supporter,” DiMartino said.

Ford and the Bunnies. Rep. Harold Ford Jr. (D-Tenn.) was spotted at the Playboy Super Bowl party in Jacksonville, Fla., after the New England Patriots’ big win Sunday night.

The Congressman’s office did not return calls seeking comment on whether he enjoyed himself at the bash, which, according to an HOH informant, was “chock full of scantily clad bunnies” as well as NFL players, “American Idol” judge Randy Jackson and other celebrities.

Another source, who identified herself as “JanetNMemphis” in an e-mail, said, “I cannot believe someone who is running for Senate would attend such an event. It’s poor judgement and offensive.”

One Web site selling tickets to the event claimed: “The Playboy Superbowl Party has become famous for being packed with celebrities and Playmates alike … Oh, and it is also packed with Playmates in lingerie and body paint.”

Far be it for HOH to pass judgment — we’ll leave that to the Volunteer State voters.

Deep Drunk? News from ex-White House counsel John Dean that we’ll “all know one day very soon” the identity of Deep Throat has plenty of folks playing the old guessing game.

But it’s even more fun now because author Craig Shirley gives us another identity to guess about with his new book about Ronald Reagan’s 1976 campaign. In “Reagan’s Revolution: The Untold Story of the Campaign That Started It All,” Shirley unveils a riveting, never-before-reported event about the Watergate break-in, which, of course, completely altered the political landscape for Reagan.

Shirley uncovers an alleged story about a cop drunk on bourbon and Coke who maybe could have prevented the Watergate burglars from ever being caught.

On Friday, June 17, 1972 (the night of the Watergate break-in), a uniformed police officer, Shirley writes, went to a “favorite watering hole for a drink — many drinks as it turned out.” Late that evening, the cop’s hand-held radio went off, “ordering him to investigate curious goings on in the Watergate Complex. Frank Wills, the twenty-four-year-old security guard on duty at the time, reported the suspicious activity at the hotel to the D.C. police. Too inebriated to respond, the officer — at the bartender’s suggestion — radioed back that he was low on gas and proceeded to tell the dispatcher to send back-up.”

The three undercover officers who showed up were dressed as civilians. Therefore, the spotter for the burglars, Shirley writes, “did not notify the team by walkie-talkie that a car containing three harmless ‘civilians’ had arrived in front of the Watergate.”

“One can only wonder how the world might be different today had a police car appeared with sirens wailing and lights flashing with a uniformed police officer there to investigate,” Shirley contemplates.

Shirley told HOH that the bar where the cop got drunk no longer exists. The owner of the establishment told Shirley the story years ago before the author ever even thought about writing the Reagan book. Last year as he was researching his book, Shirley got confirmation about the “drunk cop story” from one of the three arresting officers.

Shirley noted that the allegedly drunk cop told dispatchers at 2 a.m. that he was getting more gas for his car. And 40 minutes later he still hadn’t shown up at the Watergate. “It’s never taken me 40 minutes to fill up my car with gas,” Shirley told HOH. “But then again, I have been drunk at 2 in the morning and at 2:40 in the morning, I’m still drunk.”

Book Lovers. Perhaps tonight’s Reagan-inspired book party will give inspiration to all those Republican lovers out there searching for the perfect “inside Washington” Valentine’s Day gift.

Author Bob Colacello will be selling and signing copies of “Ronnie & Nancy: Their Path to the White House — 1911 to 1980” at a private reception at the Capitol Hill Club this evening.

The public relations firm Dezenhall Resources is hosting the party, which is expected to draw a bright crowd of conservative luminaries including consultants Alex Castellanos and Rich Galen, freshman Rep. Dan Lungren (R-Calif.), and former Reps. Bob Barr (R-Ga.) and Jack Quinn (R-N.Y.), among many others.

Colacello, a special correspondent for Vanity Fair, hopes that his friend and great customer Linda Bond, wife of Sen. Kit Bond (R-Mo.), shows up to help hawk his book. She did a great job of it on the eve of President Bush’s second inauguration last month, giving out copies of Colacello’s book as party favors at a dinner the Senator held with House Majority Whip Roy Blunt (R-Mo.).

“She’s definitely my new best friend in Washington,” Colacello said.

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