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Dinner Party

Despite Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid’s (D-Nev.) tirade against President Bush just hours before, both men played nice during a cozy dinner at the White House on Monday night. Sources described the affair as “informal,” “cordial” and “very nice.”

But before the dinner, Bush pulled Reid aside and told him that he had nothing to do with the Republican National Committee mailing that got Reid so riled up.[IMGCAP(1)]

Reid and his wife, together with three other

Senators and their wives, then sat down to an intimate dinner with the president and first lady Laura Bush. The cozy meal came just hours after Reid went on the Senate floor and blamed the president for allowing the Republican National Committee to “send out a hit piece” on the Nevada Democrat.

Neither Bush nor Reid said anything at the dinner table about their squabble or the RNC’s 13-page document, sources told HOH. The RNC mailing paints Reid as a partisan obstructionist, using almost the exact terminology Republicans employed in their successful campaign to oust former Minority Leader Tom Daschle (D-S.D.).

Besides the Reids, the Bushes hosted Sens. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.), Gordon Smith (R-Ore.) and Chris Dodd (D-Conn.) and their wives. They discussed everything from the economic forum in Davos, Switzerland, to South American affairs, one source said. One of the guests commented to an aide that the president “really knew his stuff” on South America.

Bush dogs Miss Beasley and Barney and the first cat were even seen at the dinner.

But the cuisine, the conversation and the comfort of pets did little to make peace with Reid, who further fanned the flames on the two-day-old story Tuesday by questioning Bush’s integrity. He recalled personal conversations the two have had, including Bush’s phone call to Reid the day after the election, when Reid sewed up the support to become Minority Leader.

Reid said the president told him then: “We’re going to have a new atmosphere in Washington.”

“I’m beginning to think that those statements are just absolutely false,” Reid told reporters Tuesday. “But I am not going to let the partisan, petty attacks on me, first of all, they’re not going to frighten me. You know, they call me an obstructionist, they’re destructionists.”

The likely one-time White House dinner guest went on to warn, “I want the boys at the White House, the girls at the White House, the men and women at the White House, everyone to understand, I haven’t lost one wink of sleep over the attack.”

Reid declined to discuss the dinner, other than to say that Bush raised the issue of the RNC mailing first. The conversation was a private one, Reid said, and he intends to keep it private.

Scream Redux. Impersonators of former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean’s infamous scream can finally cash in on their talent.

To celebrate (or desecrate) the Democratic Party’s official selection of Dean as the next party chairman, anyone who shows up at the Trover Shop book store on Capitol Hill this Thursday through Sunday and does the Dean Scream will get an (almost free) Howard Dean bobblehead doll.

The creator of the Dean bobblehead, John Edgell, asks only that each Dean screamer make a small contribution — he suggests $5 — to the Kristen Ann Carr Fund for sarcoma cancer research.

And if Dean himself appears at Trover and recreates his scream, Edgell promises to make a $500 donation in the good doctor’s name.

Doing his own version of the Dean Scream, Edgell told HOH, “We’re going to Washington, D.C., to Trover’s for a Howard Dean bobblehead, and one day we’ll take back the White House! YEEAAAAHHHHHHHH!”

To inspire would-be screamers, here is the text of Dean’s screeching moment following his loss in the Iowa caucuses:

“Not only are we going to New Hampshire, Tom Harkin, we’re going to South Carolina, and Oklahoma, and Arizona, and North Dakota, and New Mexico. We’re going to California, and Texas, and New York. And we’re going to South Dakota and Oregon and Washington and Michigan. And then we’re going to Washington, D.C., to take back the White House! YEEAAAAHHHHHHHH!”

Adding Insult to Injury. The RNC was joined Tuesday in its assault on Reid by the National Republican Senatorial Committee, which launched a new attack titled “Harry Reid’s Forty Days and Forty Nights of Partisanship.” The release went after Reid’s first days on the job as Minority Leader, particularly focusing on his comments on NBC’s “Meet the Press” in December — when he labeled Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas “an embarrassment” — and his decision to form a communications “war room.” The NRSC attack singled out Reid’s hire of a top aide from “renowned liberal” Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.), Jim Manley, to run the war room.

“Sen. Reid has come out swinging as Minority Leader in attacking Republican policies, so any comparisons to his predecessor have been earned,” NRSC spokesman Brian Nick said.

Rock the Party. Nothing like a party to jump-start the party. Or at least that’s the hope. On the eve of its annual meeting, the Democratic National Committee is throwing a lavish bash Thursday night for outgoing party Chairman Terry McAuliffe at the National Building Museum.

Former President Bill Clinton, McAuliffe’s close pal, is making a special appearance to roast his friend and infuse spirit and optimism in the downtrodden crowd before the national committee formally selects former Gov. Dean as its new leader on Saturday. The evening’s other special guest is none other than the party’s failed presidential candidate — Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.).

The tribute to McAuliffe promises to be a food, drink and dance fest. An open bar with premium, top-shelf brands and a gourmet menu that includes grilled cognac shrimp, wild mushroom crostini, crepes of duckling with plum sauce, artichoke-ricotta torte, a ceviche bar and a cornucopia of three types of fondue with marinated beef tenderloin, Portobello mushrooms and toasted French bread cubes for dipping. The food is being prepared by Avalon Caterers.

The DNC has hired three of Washington’s hippest and best DJs, including DJ Neville Chamberlain, aka Neal Becton, co-owner of the popular new music store Crooked Beat Records in Adams Morgan, hip-hop DJ Eurok and D-Mac, who will be spinning some funky brakes and new disco (all of which is sure to go over big with the over-60 crowd).

This will definitely be the place for Dean to get all that screaming out of his system before taking the reigns from McAuliffe.

Paul Kane contributed to this report.

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