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Nuke ’em, Sam

Now we know where Rep. Sam Johnson (R-Texas) thinks the weapons of mass destruction are buried: in Syria, which he said he’d like to nuke to smithereens. [IMGCAP(1)]

Speaking at a veterans’ celebration at Suncreek United Methodist Church in Allen, Texas, on Feb. 19, Johnson told the crowd that he explained his theory to President Bush and Rep. Kay Granger (R-Texas) on the porch of the White House one night.

Johnson said he told the president that night, “Syria is the problem. Syria is where those weapons of mass destruction are, in my view. You know, I can fly an F-15, put two nukes on ’em and I’ll make one pass. We won’t have to worry about Syria anymore.”

The crowd roared with applause.

Johnson’s remarks were captured on tape, which was played over the phone for HOH. While the audience audibly applauded Johnson’s remarks, a few members of the crowd did not. One person who lives in the district and who attended the service said he was “shocked and offended” by the Congressman’s remarks.

Johnson’s chief of staff, Cody Lusk, told HOH to keep in mind that the Congressman was a fighter pilot in Korea and Vietnam. And he was a POW for seven-and-a-half years. “Once a fighter pilot, always a fighter pilot,” Lusk said.

He added that, the Congressman’s comments aside, Johnson “obviously does not believe” that nuking Syria is the answer to eliminating weapons of mass destruction. “He was just speaking to a crowd of veterans,” Lusk said.

More Gannongate. What does Jeff Gannon have to say to his Congressional Democratic detractors who are calling for an investigation of his access to the White House? “It’s certainly within their purview to do that,” he told HOH.

Gannon, whose real name is James Guckert, says his lawyers — whom he declined to name — have asked him not to talk about any of the “scandal stuff,” including allegations that he was a male prostitute. “I couldn’t comment on that,” he said, adding, “Are there things about my past I regret? Absolutely.”

The G Man announced his return with a vengeance last week, declaring on his Web site: “I’m baaaaaaack!” On his site, he says he believes in “a forgiving God who changed my life.”

But Democrats in Congress have no mercy for Gannon.

Led by Senate Minority Whip Dick Durbin (Ill.), a group of Senate Democrats sent a letter to President Bush on Friday asking him to order an “immediate and thorough investigation into the Gannon/Guckert matter.”

“How is it possible that a man using a fake name, with dubious journalism credentials, was able to clear the White House’s extensive security screening process and gain such close access to you and your staff for such an extended period of time?” their letter asked.

The letter, which was also signed by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (Nev.) and Sens. John Kerry (Mass.) and Frank Lautenberg (N.J.), noted that the administration has paid news personalities Armstrong Williams and Maggie Gallagher to promote its policies, and that the Government Accountability Office recently found the administration’s packaged video news releases to be “illegal uses of public funds.”

On the House side, Reps. Louise Slaughter (D-N.Y.) and John Conyers (D-Mich.), after first issuing a Freedom of Information Act request with the Bush administration, have now asked the GAO to see whether Gannon violated a ban on “fake” news stories. The GAO is probing Bush administration payments to pundits who have touted Bush’s policies.

Gannon got day passes to cover White House briefings for nearly two years as a “reporter” for and then for Talon News, both owned by Texas GOP activist Bobby Eberle. He could not get a reporter’s hard pass to the White House because he did not have credentials to cover Congress, which are required in order to get a White House hard pass. The Standing Committee of Correspondents for the House and Senate press galleries denied Gannon’s request for a press pass.

In his chat with HOH, Gannon defended himself against accusations that his work was Republican propaganda designed to make Bush look good. “They accused me of throwing softballs. Where does it say that every question has to be hostile?” he asked.

He said he was not given preferential treatment and that he did not meet with any White House aides outside of the White House.

On assuming a pseudonym, Gannon said it was a “commercial consideration” because his real name is hard to pronounce. “It’s pronounced Goo-kert,” he said. “I always have to impress it on people. It detracts from what I’m trying to do.”

Need a Miracle. Meanwhile, Democratic National Committee member Bob Mullholland, ever a liberal flamethrower, has joined the Gannon fray. He sent a letter to White House honcho Karl Rove saying, “Dear Karl: I may be in DC in April. I have a Blog (, then click on ‘Bob’s Blog’) and I was wondering if I could get a one-day White House press pass?

“And do I have to use my real name?”

Mulholland has sent other such well-intentioned love notes to Rove over the years. He said he has yet to receive a note back, though he said, “I keep my eye out for any black cars following me.”

Oh Canada. Canadians sure have us pegged. They’ve figured out there’s no better way to attract a Capitol Hill crowd than to offer free food.

On Tuesday the Canadian Embassy is hosting its second ever “Canada/U.S. Partnership Day,” this time to welcome the 109th Congress. The “entire Congressional community” is invited to an extravagant buffet lunch in the Rayburn House Office Building’s Gold Room. Two years ago, the same event drew 1,200 people. This year embassy chef Thomas Naylor said, “I’m hoping we do between 1,400 and 1,500.”

That means 400 pounds of Alberta beef tenderloin, served with a foie gras sauce. Other delicacies on the menu include: mixed greens with icewine, maple-walnut and Saskatoon berry vinaigrettes; “incredible” New Brunswick smoked salmon; Nunavut elk terrine; an array of Quebec cheeses; traditional Quebec meat pie, or tourtiere, served with homemade ketchup; and Nova Scotia seafood pasta.

“It’s all homemade,” the chef assured us. “Nothing is frozen.”

Canada is touting its brains, too. The embassy is planning an “interactive” forum on defense, energy, the environment, trade, science and technology, making experts in each available to curious Capitol Hillites. Invited Canadian notables include Canada’s international trade minister, James Peterson, astronaut Julie Payette, Rear Adm. Ian Mack and members of Parliament.

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