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Fred’s Fans

Former Sen. Fred Thompson (R-Tenn.) may not have tipped his hand after his Capitol Hill appearance Wednesday on whether he plans to make a White House bid, but there were plenty of Members who sounded like they were running for president themselves — of the Fred Thompson Fan Club.

The “Law & Order” star and maybe-presidential candidate met with 53 GOP Members during a closed-door meeting at the Capitol Hill Club on Wednesday. Afterward, Members had nothing but good things to say of Thompson’s performance, which was described as more of a conversation, not a point-by-point campaign pitch.[IMGCAP(1)]

Rep. Jeff Miller (Fla.) said if Thompson opts to run, “he will have a groundswell of support unlike any we’ve seen in years.” “He is a great man,” agreed Rep. David Davis (Tenn.).

Rep. Lynn Westmoreland (Ga.) said Thompson discussed his own life and background and told the Members he was making a lot of phone calls and reaching out to people as he weighed a 2008 bid. But he also asked for their opinions on policy. “He just wanted to know what we felt about issues, issues that we felt like had given us some trouble in the election,” Westmoreland said.

Appearing before a gaggle of reporters after his audition, er, meeting, Thompson said little, only disclosing that he “wanted to come over and see some old friends.”

And the teevee star declined to say if he’s going to run, but did tease, “We’ll be seeing some more of each other soon, I’m sure.”

And then he exited, stage right.

His fans, though, were happy to gush. Rep. Louie Gohmert (Texas), who is himself follicly challenged, deadpanned that Thompson’s biggest negative was his bald head. (Attendees say Gohmert and Thompson exchanged good-natured bald jokes behind the closed doors.)

Home-state booster Rep. Zach Wamp said that Thompson is “different” from the other guys, noting his lack of a Washington (or Hollywood)-style posse of minions. “He’s walking around here by himself,” Wamp said.

“He’s got the potential to bring excitement to the Republican Party and the nation that I think we desperately need,” added Rep. Walter Jones Jr. (N.C.).

Raves on the Hill, but how will he play in Peoria?

Must Be Something in the Water. Rep. Lee Terry (R-Neb.) woke up today an ordinary, workaday Congressman. But by mid-morning, he had been elevated to the lofty heights of the military brass. During the regular Wednesday morning delegation breakfast for Nebraskans, Terry was surprised to be awarded the title of “Admiral” in the Nebraska Navy, a position certain to elicit salutes wherever he goes.

Just how did he scale the ranks so quickly? He has Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.), that ever-mirthful font of funniness, to thank. Terry is planning to travel to Iraq in the next few weeks with Nelson and others, including Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.), and Nelson told the crowd gathered at the breakfast that he thought a lowly Congressman might need a little boost in stature while traveling on such an important mission abroad in the company of comparatively high-and-mighty Senators.

So Nelson arranged for Terry’s promotion: the title of “Admiral” in the Navy of Nebraska (uh, the state is landlocked, you know) is an honorary one bestowed by the state’s governor, and Nelson appealed to Gov. Dave Heineman (R) to get Terry the new “gig.”

Indicating to us non-Nebraskans that the state is kookier than we ever dreamed, the elite force was founded in 1931 when the acting governor of the state wanted to recognize some of his buddies. The certificate given to Terry contains this charge from the governor: “I do strictly charge and require all officers, seamen, tadpoles and goldfish under your command to be obedient to your orders as Admiral.”

And as if all the wackiness wasn’t enough, Nelson didn’t just hand the award over, either. He spun a story about how he had tried to get the award for Terry, but it had been voted down, and had secured Terry the title only by promising the governor that the Congressman would remain on “good behavior.”

Tadpoles, take note.

A Berry Quiet Night. That BlackBerry service blackout you heard so much about? HOH is developing a theory that it was somehow a conspiracy cooked up by Hill staffers looking for a little respite from the grind of being in their bosses’ virtual clutches.

Far from being angered by having their communications lifelines severed, staffers seemed thrilled to get a break from constant buzzing when the service that keeps the e-mail flowing (and overflowing) into the handheld devices of Hill denizens went down late Tuesday and early Wednesday.

“It was the most peaceful night I have had during session in years,” one House staffer tells HOH. “Not only was my bar time uninterrupted, but my return home was calm and my night of sleep peaceful.”

Another House-er called it “the most enjoyable 12 hours of my Congressional career.”

The national outage, stemming from service provider Research in Motion, seemed to affect some users less than others: Many HOH talked to could neither send nor receive messages, while some reported limited sending or receiving capabilities. A Senate Sergeant-at-Arms spokeswoman said the outage affected Congressional users the same as it did other users throughout the Western Hemisphere. And although staffers were enjoying the relative quiet, she did note that there were other methods of communications that the Sergeant-at-Arms office could use, including phones, to contact people in an emergency.

But not, presumably, an “emergency” that consists of rewriting a memo for one’s boss.

Sausage Making. Comfort-food-loving lobbyists may have been secretly relieved at the invite to a “Sausage Party” fundraiser for Rep. Peter Visclosky (D-Ind.) that lobbyist Heather Podesta is throwing.

At least they’ll have more sustenance than that provided by the business-as-usual toothpicks of canapés as they write their checks. “We promise a fun evening with great company and the opportunity to enjoy the Congressman’s favorite meal,” the invite to the April 25 event reads. And attendees might need that fuel to get the energy to write all those zeros: Contribution levels are $1,000 and $5,000.

A Visclosky spokesman was proud of his boss’s down-home tastes. “As a Slovak from Gary, Ind., Pete Visclosky will take regular food any day of the week over hoity toity food like foie gras,” a spokesman tells HOH.

OK, but what if we called it boudin?

Boy Wonder. It’s a boy for Adam Benson, spokesman for Rep. John Dingell (D-Mich.), and his wife. Jacob Daniel Maxwell Benson (gotta shorten that to fit on a bumper sticker if he runs for Congress someday) was born early Tuesday morning at Georgetown University Hospital. Mom and baby are doing great, the proud pop tells pals.

Susan Davis and Lauren W. Whittington contributed to this report.

Please send your hot tips, juicy gossip or comments to hoh@rollcall.com.

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