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Rangel Hearts Rudy

If Rep. Charlie Rangel could be any more firmly in the camp of fellow New York Democratic Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton in her bid to become the Democratic presidential nominee, he’d have to change his name to Clinton. The guy’s loyal, no question. But at a Monday night book signing at the Georgetown Barnes & Noble, Rangel sounded like he just might be interested in seeing another New Yorker in the White House — Republican nominee wannabe Rudy Giuliani. [IMGCAP(1)]

The unlikely endorsement of Giuliani by Rangel, a heretofore devout Democrat and Hillary fan, apparently was prompted by a question posed to Rangel by a young House page. According to an HOH source who attended the book signing, the young pup asked the Old Bull what he thought of Giuliani’s tenure as New York City mayor. The plucky page, who was apparently from the Big Apple, asked Rangel if the decrease in NYC crime under Giuliani justified the former mayor’s tough police tactics.

Rangel said he was a fan of Giuliani and “would like to see him in [the White House].” We’re assuming his tongue was in his cheek.

“Sounded like an endorsement to me,” the HOH source said. But as the socially moderate Giuliani campaigns for the hard-to-win hearts of the GOP base, chances are that’s one endorsement he won’t be using in his campaign literature.

Make Their Days. The roster of tough-guy Senators got a little longer this week, thanks to the Iraqi insurgency and its failed attempt to take out Sens. Ben “Rambo” Nelson (D-Neb.) and Jeff “Chuck Norris” Sessions (R-Ala.). According to Nelson, the two came under fire during their recent trip to the war-torn country as part of a Congressional delegation. The ever cool-under-fire Nelson told reporters Wednesday that the attacks — which apparently occurred while the lawmakers were driving to Baghdad from the airport as well as during a helicopter flight — really weren’t that big a deal.

“Being shot at is pretty common in Iraq,” Nelson said. “It was small-arms fire and we don’t think we were in any danger.”

Nelson did joke that he’d originally hoped to hop a ride in the second car in the caravan on the way in to Baghdad, since the lead car generally is considered more dangerous. “I joked about having the Members of the House riding in the first car, but we ended up riding in the first car. So that plan didn’t work out.”

The Iraqi action means that Nelson and Sessions join the rarified likes of super-tough combat-vet Senators including John McCain (R-Ariz.), Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii), Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.) and Jim Webb (D-Va.) in the chamber’s small gang of roughneck lawmakers who’ve survived attacks by enemy combatants.

And our apologies to rest of the Senate, but attacks from across the aisle don’t count.

Out to the Ballgame. Sports metaphors in politics are nothing new. Lawmakers are always “close to the goal line,” throwing “Hail Mary passes” and other such tortured clichés. But HOH thinks it’s time to mark a milestone of some kind, after two lawmakers reminded us just how far things can go.

After Wednesday morning’s annual ACLI Capital Challenge race, we got a press release from the office of Rep. Tom Feeney (R-Fla.) with the huh-inducing headline “Dems Must Fund Our Troops Faster Than Team Feeney Runs.” The release went on to tie the performance of “Team Feeney” (completing the race in “just over 21 minutes” — hooray!) to the speed with which Democrats should act on the war-spending bill.

Then Rep. John Shimkus (R-Ill.) took to the floor to deride Democrats’ push for a timetable for ending the Iraq War, but his message ran the risk of going afoul in an elaborate baseball-themed metaphor. Shimkus, a die-hard baseball fan, pitched an analogy to illustrate what he says the effect of the Democrats’ strategy for Iraq would be.

His set-up line — “imagine my beloved St. Louis Cardinals are playing the much despised Chicago Cubs” — had us wondering: Is he calling the Cubs terrorists?

Thus warmed up, Shimkus continued with the homily, sounding more like a play-by-play guy than a Congressman on the House floor. “The Cardinals are up by five finishing the top of the ninth. Is this a cause for celebration? Is this a cause for victory? No. Unbelievable as it may seem, the Cubbies score five runs in the bottom of the ninth to throw the game into extra innings. … At the top of the 15th, the Cardinals fail to field a batter. The entire team has left the stadium … Who wins?” Lest his listeners had gotten confused about what all this had to do with the war, Shimkus then hit it home. “We know it’s the team that stays on the field. Arbitrary deadlines and a date certain accept defeat before the conclusion of the contest.”

Ah, there we go.

A Shimkus spokesman said the analogy was only meant to help illustrate the state of affairs in Iraq, and said there was no intent to “belittle” the matter. “He was putting the situation in a different context so people would think about it in a different way,” the spokesman said.

Pass the peanuts.

Naming Names. Every good Washington, D.C., scandal needs a few stock elements, including power (and the possible loss of it), a fall guy, a little sex (or at least the hint of it) and a catchy name. And the brewing brouhaha over the alleged “D.C. Madam,” and which recognizable names will end up on her client list, has most of those elements in spades — but still no name, a la “Abscam” or “Watergate.” The accused madam, Debra Jeane Palfrey, is the subject of an ABC News report set to air Friday evening on “20/20” in which the network is expected to reveal some high-profile names that have shown up in Palfrey’s phone records, which has prompted plenty of chatter and no doubt some serious behind-closed-doors conversations with lawyers and wives.

In advance of the spectacle, HOH polled some Capitol Hill staffers and other D.C. insiders to come up with a moniker for the dang thing. Aside from the dirtier suggestions (c’mon kids, we’re looking for something that could accompany a graphic on the evening news), a few HOH faves included the following:

“Jessica Cutler: Bigger & Better” (a reference to the Senate aide who prompted a mini-sex scandal of her own), “Massagyny,” “Someoneborrowedmyphonegate” (despite HOH’s plea to leave “-gate” out of the title), and the winner in the Most Blasé category, “Business as Usual.”

Coming to a commemorative T-shirt near you.

Among Friends. Consumer activist Ralph Nader has been widely criticized for handing the 2000 presidential election to George W. Bush after siphoning off just enough Democratic support to propel the GOP candidate to his razor-thin margin.

Maybe that’s why he was welcomed in the Republican’s Congressional clubhouse. An HOH tipster spotted Nader on Wednesday in the Capitol Hill Club, the GOP elbow-rubbing outpost near the Capitol.

According to our spy, Nader was all alone and took a seat in a just-vacated private meeting room, where he dug into a plate of steaming pasta. To eat at the establishment, one must be a member or an invitee of the club.

Maybe they taught him the secret handshake, too.

John Stanton and Jennifer Yachnin contributed to this report.

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