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Call Him Crazy

Rep. Tom Lantos has been taking hits from conservatives for his stance on the Iraq War, but some of the California Democrat’s staffers are wondering whether the angry callers contacting the office haven’t been taking a few hits (perhaps of something mind-altering) themselves. [IMGCAP(1)]

Staffers have been fielding some seriously weird and wacky messages, along with substantive ones, Lantos spokeswoman Lynne Weil tells HOH. Callers have deluged the office over the past few days, apparently prompted by Lantos’ questions during the hearings with Army Gen. David Petraeus and U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker and by the bashing Lantos has taken on conservative talk-radio shows for his statements on Iraq. Overwhelmed staffers — about a dozen in all — spent all day on Monday and Tuesday taking down complaints, some so bizarre that the staffers started a running tally of the more outrageous ones.

A few fave snippets from the Lantos camp:

“Your boss couldn’t hold my son’s jock strap.”

“I know Tom Lantos had something to do with the general’s microphone not working.”

And this one, a personal favorite of HOH’s, which arrived via fax: “Dear Dishonorable Tom Lantos, I can’t wait for the day you stand before God Almighty you son of a b—-! You have no hair on your a–!”

Lantos apparently triggered the ire of talk-show listeners after radio host Rush Limbaugh slammed the Congressman for complaining that the Petraeus report was written by political operatives. Weil said Lantos’ statements have been taken out of context and that he was referring to the administration’s report, not the general’s testimony.

Despite the raking over the coals the Congressman has gotten, Weil said staff tried to find the humor in it. “It just goes to show how many creative people there are out there who have national calling plans,” she said.

GOP Sweetheart. We all know Katie Couric as America’s Sweetheart, but now the perky CBS anchor has a new distinction: She’s officially a Republican talking point. House and Senate GOP message-makers have included Couric’s assessment of progress in Iraq — surely, proof positive that the “surge” is working — in a helpful memo last week to lawmakers that lists the party’s best PR lines du jour.

Couric, who traveled to Iraq recently for CBS Evening News, headlined a memo sent to GOP Senators on Sept. 6. The subtext, of course, is that if no less a lefty shill like Couric approves, well, gosh darn it, things must be dandy over there. And Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) said during the Armed Services Committee hearing on Tuesday that he was “shocked” that Couric and her near-pinko ilk had finally come around. “Katie Couric has certainly been no friend of the president’s or this effort,” he said, but had a more positive outlook once she “came back from actually going over visiting.”

GOP aides note that Couric is a standard-bearer for the mainstream media, which Republicans perennially bash as left-tilting. And Couric is taking plenty of heat from the left, including from, for her positive statement. “But now she’s our sweetheart — at least for now,” one GOP-er tells HOH.

Jenna’s Story. President Bush’s most famous story-hour gaffe came when he read the children’s book “My Pet Goat” as he learned of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, but his daughter Jenna is surely hoping to strike a different note with readings from her book “Ana’s Story: A Journey of Hope.”

The recently engaged first daughter is hitting the book-tour circuit to promote her tome about a 17-year-old single mother living with HIV in Panama. Jenna kicks it off on Sept. 29 at Borders in Annapolis, Md., and she’ll be in Washington a week later at Politics & Prose Bookstore in Northwest D.C. to read excerpts from her book, which is targeted at middle-schoolers. Any extra security and crowd control measures beyond her Secret Service detail haven’t been decided, but so far the bookstore has gotten more interest than expected and are still working out the details of whether the event at 10:30 a.m. Oct. 5 will be open to the public. Jenna’s publicist, Camille McDuffie, played it modest, saying she is simply “hoping to get a pretty big turnout for her events.”

Lady Who Lunches. First lady Laura Bush is hosting a mystery luncheon for reporters on Monday. HOH got word of the event, and Bush’s spokeswoman Sally McDonough confirmed that the lunch was on but said it was a “closed press event” and offered no details. However, there was one surprising name on the invite list she did confirm: Helen Thomas, the grande dame of the White House press corps and a perennial thorn in the side of President Bush. Thomas tells HOH the invitation was made “in passing,” but she didn’t know what or who the lunch was feting.

Looks like another closely guarded White House secret — but, hey, at least this one involves a dessert course.

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