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Rummy and Cokes

While his relations have grown prickly with many Members on Capitol Hill, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has made at least one new friend on the Senate Armed Services Committee: Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.).

The freshman Senator, who famously knocked off Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle (D-S.D.) last year, enjoyed cocktails and

dinner at Rumsfeld’s house Tuesday night, along with Deputy Secretary of State Robert Zoellick, Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. John Jumper, Fox News CEO Roger Ailes, conservative columnist William Safire and Wall Street Journal editorial page editor Paul Gigot, and their wives, according to a source close to one of the guests. (Thune’s wife did not attend; she and the kids were back in South Dakota.)[IMGCAP(1)]

Despite incessant rumors of Rumseld’s imminent departure, HOH’s source said the secretary was “in a great mood, buoyed by recent events in the Middle East, especially in Lebanon.” The source said Rumsfeld talked at length about the “power of people” in the Middle East.

There was also talk at the dinner of Thune’s victory over Daschle. The Senator thanked Gigot for The Wall Street Journal’s “anti-Daschle editorials,” the source said, adding that Rumsfeld seemed “very eager to hear about the race.”

Safire asked Thune if he had decided what he wanted his legacy in the Senate to be. Thune noted that he is the first South Dakotan in 50 years to join the Armed Services Committee, and he also mentioned his interest in energy policy. But he joked, “I’m still working to make it through each day.”

Rumsfeld complimented Thune on his work so far on the Armed Services panel, according to the source, and he took a jab at the committee’s counterpart in the House for letting its hearings “drag on all day because the chair allowed each Member” five minutes.

Celebrity Lobbying. A band of actors is descending on Capitol Hill next week to try to stop Senate passage of the Broadcast Decency Enforcement Act, which passed the House in February.

The Creative Coalition, the trip’s sponsor, rallied actors to join the delegation with a letter warning, “Your freedom of artistic expression is under attack. Your country needs you.” The letter also explained that if the bill becomes law, performers could face fines of “half a million dollars for each violation of the [Federal Communications Commission’s] vague decency standards.”

The celebrity delegation will be led by Creative Coalition co-President Joe Pantoliano, who starred in HBO’s hit series “The Sopranos” until his character got whacked by mob boss Tony Soprano.

Others who are coming include: Ernie Hudson of “Ghostbusters” fame, who also has a star role in the upcoming film “Miss Congeniality II”; Kerry Washington, who played Ray Charles’ wife in “Ray”; singer Fiona Apple; famous rock ’n’ roll ex-wife Bianca Jagger; and actors Harry Hamlin (“L.A. Law”); Giancarlo Esposito (“Waiting to Exhale”); and Tim Blake Nelson (“O Brother Where Art Thou”).

In its letter to celeb lobbyists, the Creative Coalition promised to provide first-class air travel and accommodations, to brief the well-tanned “lobbyists” and to arrange meetings with “key Members” of the House and Senate to discuss their concerns about the decency-enforcement bill.

Pantoliano told MSNBC’s Chris Matthews last week that his group’s opposition to the bill is not so actors can cuss. “But it would be kind of silly to see Tony Soprano say, gee, gee, gosh and golly,” he acknowledged.

The celebrities will also attend the Creative Coalition’s “Capitol Hill Spotlight Awards” gala and benefit Monday night honoring Sens. Max Baucus (D-Mont.) and Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) as well as legendary crooner Tony Bennett.

Pro-Woman, Anti-Violence. This is one of those days when everyone apparently got the same “memo” to dress alike. Have you seen the Texas House delegation? They’re wearing matching ties and scarves.

Rep. Michael Conaway (R-Texas) — a lover, not a fighter — rounded up Texas Members to “show their solidarity” during Lifetime television’s “Stop Violence Against Women Week.” Conaway got many of them to wear black-and-blue Liz Claiborne scarves and neck ties that Lifetime distributed around Capitol Hill to raise awareness about violence against women.

“Unfortunately, many women suffer from various forms of violence, such as domestic abuse, sexual assault and other horrible acts,” Conaway told HOH through his spokesman. “I have three granddaughters that I love very much. I want them to grow up in a world where they feel safe and secure.”

Style Change. Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) obviously has a different style than his predecessor on several levels, including his riding style. And we’re not talking about horses.

While Daschle chose the more macho SUV as his government vehicle of choice, Reid has opted for the more mature, more sophisticated sedan.

Reid spokeswoman Rebecca Kirszner told HOH there’s nothing wimpy at all about the Senator’s apparent sense. “Sen. Reid,” she said, “saves his four wheeling for hunting coyotes back home in Searchlight.”

For anyone who’s been stuck in a cave for Reid’s career, Searchlight is the Minority Leader’s tiny, hardscrabble and oft-invoked home town in southern Nevada.

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