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Fantasy vs. Reality

Senate Democratic staffers had a heyday Wednesday forwarding around a portion of testimony that embattled FEMA Director Michael Brown gave to the Senate Appropriations subcommittee on Homeland Security in March. [IMGCAP(1)]

The key quote: “Our nation is prepared, as never before, to deal quickly and capably with the consequences of disasters and other domestic incidents.” Whoops!

Well, at least he added the perfunctory CYA comment: “However, despite continuing improvements to the national domestic incident architecture, planning for a comprehensive and effective response to — and recovery from — a catastrophic incident is still a challenge to the emergency management community.”

One Democratic Senate flack who forwarded Brown’s testimony far and wide took an extra potshot at the FEMA head in an e-mail to HOH. “At a time when we needed a Mickey Mantle to step up to the plate, we got a Mickey Mouse,” the flack said.

(Of course, the Senate did sign off on his confirmation.)

On a related note, at least the association that Brown used to head is doing its part to help Katrina victims.

The Arabian Horse Association, where Brown served as chief rules enforcer from 1991 to 2000, is asking its members for donations to help victims of Hurricane Katrina — of the equine kind.

“Donations, shelter facilities and veterinary services are ways that AHA members can support relief efforts for equine and other animal victims of Hurricane Katrina. The needs are urgent,” the group’s Web site says.

Bad Blood. Democrats were all abuzz Wednesday about a tense moment in the House Democratic Caucus meeting when Rep. Henry Cuellar’s (D-Texas) nemesis, former Rep. Ciro Rodriguez (D-Texas), showed up unannounced at the meeting.

Sources say Cuellar, a freshman who narrowly ousted Rodriguez last year in a hotly contested Democratic primary, bolted from the room as soon as Rodriguez walked in. As one Democrat put it saucily, “Cuellar looked as nervous as a whore in church when he saw Ciro, and ran out the door as fast as he could.”

Not so, says a spokeswoman for Cuellar. She insists that her boss “didn’t even see” Rodriguez, who has vowed to win the seat he feels was stolen by Cuellar. The Congressman’s spokeswoman said her boss had to leave the caucus meeting early to go to an Agriculture Committee hearing.

No word on what Rodriguez was doing at the meeting. But, House Democratic Caucus spokesman Matt Miller said that former Members are allowed to visit the Caucus just as they are allowed to visit the floor.

House Page Scandal. The new crop of House pages have really been yukking it up during their first week in Washington. Or, should we say, yucking it up: They ended up in quarantine on Tuesday, their first day on the job and Congress’s first day back from recess.

The high school juniors had their orientation lunch on Sunday and then began classes the next day at the Library of Congress, where the yuck fest began. About 20 of them got violently ill after eating Quizno’s subs the day before at orientation.

All were treated by the attending physician’s office, according to House Administration Committee spokesman Brian Walsh. And they were told to stay at home in their dorm rooms on Tuesday. “Out of an abundance of caution for their health, the clerk had them spend the day in the residence hall,” Walsh said.

Hair Job. Did Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.) get a little makeover before returning to Washington this fall?

Folks are noticing that the Delaware Democrat’s hair is noticeably less gray. “It’s way darker,” one eagle-eyed Democratic aide told HOH, adding, “Tom Carper appears to be gearing up for a starring role in a ‘Just For Men’ commercial.” Noting Carper’s fellow Delaware Sen. Joe Biden (D), who famously underwent a procedure to reclaim his receding hairline a few years back, the source added that the First State “is showing 98 other Senators how not to deal with the effects of aging.”

But Carper, through his spokesman, Bill Ghent, swears he didn’t take a bottle to his hair. “The Senator denies having his hair colored but he appreciates the video artist at C-SPAN for making him look so young,” Ghent told HOH.

Far be it from HOH to question the Senator’s veracity on this very important subject. But a Roll Call reporter, who by trade is a discerning and astute observer, also noticed that Carper’s hair is darker. The reporter said, “I wouldn’t say it’s ‘very dark’ because there are still some touches of salt-and-pepper on the sideburns. It’s just darker than it was before.”

So, dearly beloved HOH readers, we leave it to you to decide: Did Tom Carper dye his hair?

Speaking of Hair … . Regardless of what the wife thinks of his new beard, Rep. Bill Shuster (R-Pa.) is taking a bit of a ribbing from colleagues over his new manly look.

At the House Republican Conference meeting on Wednesday morning, House Speaker Dennis Hastert introduced everyone to the newest GOP addition, Rep. Jean Schmidt, who won the special election in Ohio to succeed Rob Portman. And oh golly, the Speaker noticed, it looks as though another newcomer just took Bill Shuster’s seat in Pennsylvania.

Everyone looked over to find Shuster sitting there with the new beard he grew over the August recess. Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas) got in the first dig: “Hey, Bill, how’s your love life?” (Translation, we guess: “Hey, Bill, how do you expect to please your wife — or have your wife please you — looking like that?”)

Shuster wouldn’t answer that question directly. But his spokesman, Tory Mazzola, told HOH, “He’s happily married to his high school sweetheart.” Then he changed the subject, saying the Congressman’s colleagues also wanted to know if he could still play baseball with that beard. (Uh huh, sure they did.) “Clearly he can still swing the bat if you look at his Congressional Baseball game numbers,” Mazzola said.

Yes, yes, we know, the Congressman is a great baseball player. But HOH is still waiting on that other answer.

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