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CBC and The Juice

Football Hall of Famer O.J. Simpson lapped up loads of attention at the Congressional Black Caucus Spouses’ gala and golf tournament earlier this week. Simpson was the biggest celebrity at the event — a benefit to raise money for the group’s successful scholarship program to send needy children to college.

Simpson was mobbed by young staffers at the Sunday night gala at Dream nightclub, where gawkers were secretly debating whether he should be there at all. “I’m kind of embarrassed that I shook his hand,” said one aide to a black Member. Questioning herself, she added, “But he was acquitted.”

[IMGCAP(1)]The aide added she “didn’t think he was very nice at all” and added that one of Simpson’s bodyguards flirted with the young aide. He asked her what she did. She asked him what he did. He responded, “I’m with The Juice.”

On Monday, The Juice played in the CBC Spouses’ benefit golf tournament at the Country Club at Woodmore in Mitchelville, Md. Not everyone was pleased there, either.

A lobbyist who played in the tournament said he had been told ahead of time that O.J. would be playing, but thought it was a joke. “It was pretty astounding,” he said. “I’m sitting there eating my breakfast, looked at the table next to me and O.J. is sitting there.”

The lobbyist said corporate sponsors would have “preferred” that the CBC “use better judgment on who they invite as their guest of honor.” Even if Simpson wasn’t official the guest of honor, the lobbyist said, the Heisman Trophy winner and notorious former murder suspect was front and center.

“It’s pretty unbelievable. Here you have a group of Congressmen honoring a guy who most likely committed murder,” he said.

Vivian Bishop, wife of Rep. Sanford Bishop (D-Ga.), organized the event as chairwoman of the CBC Spouses Organization. But she said neither she nor her group invited Simpson to participate and that other NFL players did so.

Bishop said when the NFL players presented the O.J. idea to her, she thought, “We won’t tell him he can’t come, but we won’t use him as a calling card either.” The organization did not mention Simpson’s name in the promotional literature it used for the fundraising event, she said.

While she admitted she had “mixed feelings” about it, Bishop said Simpson’s participation was a net positive. “People received him well. Because he was there, they stayed around longer, spent more money,” she said.

“I do realize it may have offended some people, but I was trying to make sure that all those present who were supporting us were comfortable,” she said.

Loose Cannon Alert. Rep. Tom Tancredo (R-Colo.) is digging in his heels. He refuses to back off recent statements that the United States could bomb Muslim holy sites in retaliation for nuclear strikes on the U.S. by Islamic fundamentalists. And he’s not about to apologize.

Speaking Friday to an Orlando-based radio talk show host, Tancredo was asked how he would respond to a hypothetical large-scale nuclear attack by terrorists on U.S. soil.

“If this happens in the United States, and we determine that it is the result of extremists, fundamentalist Muslims, you know, you could take out their holy sites.”

“You’re talking about bombing Mecca,” the talk show host clarified.

“Yes,” Tancredo answered.

Tancredo later said he was “just throwing out some ideas.” (Bombing Mecca was just a fleeting flash of brilliance.)

The State Department and the Turkish government have joined a chorus of others, including Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean, in condemning the Congressman’s remarks.

Jim Zogby, president of the Arab-American Institute, criticized Tancredo’s statements, saying, “Irresponsible language such as this only widens the gap between the US and the Arab and Muslim world. Tancredo should apologize immediately.”

Zogby shouldn’t hold his breath. A Tancredo spokesman said the Congressman’s comments were taken out of context and that Tancredo has no plans to apologize.

If It’s August, This Must Be Jerusalem! House Majority Whip Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) and Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) will lead competing delegations to Israel in August, with the powerful American Israel Public Affairs Committee picking up the tab for the two trips.

Hoyer, Blunt and the other lawmakers will meet with top Israeli and Palestinian leaders, including Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, according to GOP and Democratic staffers. Each group will consist of roughly 20 junior lawmakers, mostly freshmen. Democrats will go first, while Republicans plan to make the journey later in the month.

This is not the first time that AIPAC has footed the bill for two Congressional delegations going to Israel at roughly the same time. In August 2003, Hoyer led a Democratic contingent, while Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas) spearheaded a Republican group. Blunt made his last AIPAC trip to Israel in August 2001.

Luke Mullins and John Bresnahan contributed to this report.

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