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A Kinder, Gentler McCain

Maybe it’s the fact that Valentine’s Day is fast approaching. But whatever the reason, Arizona Sen. John McCain faced a friendlier crowd than some may have expected when he returned to the Senate on Tuesday to speak at the Republican policy luncheon. Senators who have nearly come to fisticuffs with McCain in the past appear to be letting old feuds die, at least publicly, after McCain made what Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) described as “gracious remarks.”

[IMGCAP(1)]McCain, of course, is considered one of the testiest Senators, prone to dropping f-bombs, even on members of his own party. But now, it seems there’s decidedly more love in the air.

Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens (R), long known for his own fiery temper, told HOH that he’s supporting McCain’s presidential bid. And while McCain’s anti-pork-barrel rhetoric on the campaign trail often points to Stevens’ “Bridge to Nowhere” as what’s wrong with Washington, Stevens noted that he’s had differences with a lot people. “I’m a trial lawyer and we fight and fight and go out and have a beer later,” Stevens said.

Texas Sen. John Cornyn (R) appears to be taking the same tack. Cornyn analogized his differences with McCain (including the infamous tiff during the immigration debate that led a miffed McCain to shout the f-bomb at Cornyn) to the Senate’s charm.

“One day you may be adversaries,” Cornyn said. “Then there’s a possibility to come together to work for the benefit of legislation.” Yet even Cornyn had to concede that McCain’s temper can get the best of him. “He certainly has a way of expressing himself,” Cornyn told HOH.

Obama’s Doughnut Diplomacy. Sidestepping an issue with the potential to bitterly split Democratic voters, Sen. Barack Obama on Tuesday played both sides … of a hot coffee rivalry.

On the morning of the Potomac primary, the Illinois Democrat and D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty made an early morning campaign stop at Dunkin’ Donuts to buy dozens of doughnuts to hand out to supporters near the Eastern Market Metro stop. After picking up the goods, Obama’s staffers did an about-face, according to an HOH tipster, and doubled back to assuage potential voters that Obama may have unwittingly offended: regulars at Starbucks, the rival coffee shop located just across the street.

The competition between the two java purveyors is as hot as a steaming latte, HOH hears. “I go to Dunkin’ Donuts and Starbucks, and they hate each other,” said one regular at both cafes. The tipster said Starbucks workers don’t usually like it when he brings in food from Dunkin’ Donuts.

But in a slick political move, Obama’s campaigners crossed Eighth Street Southeast to hand out doughnuts to staff and customers in Starbucks. Starbucks assistant store manager Edward Jones said the Starbucks workers were unperturbed by the arrival of their competitor’s baked goods. “They came over and offered some doughnuts,” Jones told HOH of the Obama troops.

HOH guesses the diplomatic Obama would also say a certain brand of light beer is, in fact, simultaneously less-filling and great-tasting.

Reality Check for Late-Night Shots. Attention Hill staffers and lobbyists: Reality TV wants you. Producers for the Washington-based reality show in development that will follow members of Late Night Shots, the invite-only networking group made up of the city’s mostly GOP preppy partiers, tell HOH they have gotten about 70 applications for a spot on the show.

A crew from PB&J Television, which is developing the show, is coming to Washington at the end of the month for in-the-flesh interviews aimed at picking the 10 or so cast members they need.

So far, said PB&J Development Director Havva Eisenbaum, applicants include socialites and folks who work in fashion boutiques and for glossy magazines like Washington Life. Still, they’re a little short on potential cast members with only-in-Washington jobs. “A lobbyist would be good. … And we’d love to have Hill staffers,” Eisenbaum said, although she recognized that many aides would have trouble clearing being on the show with image-conscious bosses. She likens the show to “The Hills,” a reality show based in Los Angeles.

Like Water for Paperwork. Who says Washington’s not an industrial city? It might just be the world’s biggest producer of red tape. Case in point: It took a formal request and a lengthy report, complete with footnotes, for the Army Corps of Engineers to figure out that it’s perfectly OK to buy thirsty guys in the field some bottled water.

A new ruling by the Government Accountability Office proves that there’s nothing too trivial to run through the bureaucratic machine. A disbursing officer from the Corps asked GAO for the thumbs-up on using appropriated money to buy a few bottles of water for folks working 12-hour days in the humid swamps of Savannah, Ga.

The answer came in a 1,864-word document from GAO General Counsel Gary Kepplinger, which included a review of the history of government bottled-water purchasing and various Occupational Safety and Health Administration rules, which HOH suggests as bedtime reading for insomniacs. The gist? Um, yeah, just buy the dang Evian already.

Briefly Quoted. “Thank you for eating my sandwiches and drinking my soda. Thank you for spilling the chips all over the floor. Now get out.”

— New Hampshire state Sen. Bob Clegg (R) showing supporters some warm hospitality after announcing he would challenge Rep. Paul Hodes (D), on Feb. 6.

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