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Guessing Game

Where in the world (OK, in Kentucky) was Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell? That’s what a group of protesters wants to know after the Republican Senator went MIA over the weekend when Iraq War protesters moved from canvassing his Louisville neighborhood with anti-war bumper stickers and yard signs to staging a two-day “standoff” in front of his house. While the protesters never did catch sight of McConnell over the weekend, the presence of his three-member Capitol Police detail tipped off the organizers that McConnell was at the residence, Aniello Alioto, Kentucky field director of Americans Against Escalation in Iraq, tells HOH. [IMGCAP(1)]

Not only did the protesters not know where he was, but his own spokesman, Don Stewart, isn’t sure whether the Senator was at the house, although he noted that McConnell wasn’t slated to appear on any of the Sunday talk shows. The protesters (a group that at times included pro-war supporters) held a vigil overnight on Sunday with candles trying to lure McConnell outside to explain his support for the Iraq War.

Following the protest, the group moved its efforts, to no avail, to the airport in hopes of catching the Senator board his regular 7:40 a.m. return flight to Washington, D.C. But McConnell’s vanishing act apparently hasn’t discouraged the protesters. The group still wants McConnell to attend, as a featured guest, a town hall meeting at Bellarmine University, just blocks from the Senator’s house.

She’ll Slap You With a Lawsuit, Too. The libel lawsuit filed by former Rep. Cynthia McKinney (D-Ga.) against the Atlanta Journal- Constitution is such a smorgasbord of allegations, HOH hardly knows where to begin.

The Congresswoman, who drew headlines and plenty of criticism for an incident last year in which she slapped a Capitol Police officer, has a litany of complaints in a lawsuit filed on Thursday against the paper, its parent company, Cox Enterprises, and Cynthia Tucker, the editor of the paper’s editorial page whose columns about McKinney were part of the package that earned her a Pulitzer Prize. The clearly ticked-off former Congresswoman alleges that Tucker’s account of her altercation with the police officer was false, among loads of other “inaccuracies” and “malicious statements.”

One of Tucker’s lines she claims is libelous: “She doesn’t have the power or prestige to pass a resolution in support of sweet tea,” Tucker wrote of McKinney. But McKinney noted in her lawsuit that “Tucker knew that the Power Rankings by rated Cynthia McKinney 277 of 435 Congresspersons in legislative effectiveness.”

McKinney’s lawsuit also takes issue with the paper’s reporting on election-law-related charges against a man unrelated to McKinney named Bill McKinney, a move McKinney apparently saw as an attempt to besmirch her father. “Funny thing, Cynthia McKinney’s father is the former Fulton County state representative named Billy McKinney,” the lawsuit states.

Peter Canfield, a Georgia attorney who’s representing the paper, calls the lawsuit frivolous and said he’ll move to have it dismissed. “There are so many different claims here, I could pick hundreds of reasons why it doesn’t” meet the test for libel, Canfield said. “Giving your opinion about a public official is not libel.”

Trees of Life. They aren’t dead; they’re just resting. That’s the word on the street, for all those tree-hugging tipsters who have been sending HOH concerned missives about the foliage — or lack thereof — on trees behind the Rayburn and Longworth House office buildings. Now, trees aren’t HOH’s normal bailiwick, but after enough reader queries concerned about the poor, brown vegetation, we just had to get to the, er, root of it.

Despite removal rumors, the trees in question above the House parking garages aren’t being cut down, said Eva Malecki, spokeswoman for the Architect of the Capitol, who insisted the trees dropped their leaves early because they are “suffering from drought conditions.”

And more good news for all you nature lovers — Malecki said not only are the trees expected to make a full comeback next year, but the contractors who have been doing work on the parking garages soon will be adding new trees to replace the ones that were removed for construction.

Doing His Biden. Sure, they both have silver hair, but no one could confuse earnest, slightly rumpled Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.) with the always cable-ready Sen. Joseph Biden (D-Del.). Miller, though, likened himself to his loquacious colleague during a speech at the National Press Club on Monday.

After speaking about renewing the No Child Left Behind program, Miller took some questions. The impassioned chairman of the House Education and Labor Committee was giving a particularly long-winded answer to one query, when he had a reflective moment. “No short answers from me, are there?” Miller joked. “I’m sort of the Joe Biden of education.”

Jennifer Yachnin contributed to this report.

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