Heard on the Hill: Swing and a Mishap

Posted July 18, 2008 at 5:59pm

Rep. Chip Pickering hit an inside-the-park home run during Thursday’s Annual Roll Call Congressional Baseball Game, but his biggest whack of the night was unintentional — and pretty brutal.

[IMGCAP(1)]It happened about halfway through the match-up, when the Mississippi Republican was on deck, swinging a few bats around

just before heading to the plate. Pickering suddenly lost control of one and sent it flying into the stands, where it struck a fan in his head, according to multiple eyewitness accounts.

The victim was Brian Wiehr, who works in the national office of Youth for Understanding.

The blow knocked Wiehr to the ground, and blood started pouring from his head, a bystander sitting two rows away tells HOH. Fellow fans scrambled to help, and a woman gave him a towel to help stop the bleeding.

Meanwhile, Pickering ignored the fracas and went up to bat. “Pickering was just looking like, ‘Oh, crap,’” the bystander says. “Just looking a little bewildered. … I think [he] was a little shocked that he’d done that.”

With Pickering focused on the game, it was up to another Republican from the South to save the day. Rep. Tom Price (Ga.), a physician by trade, rushed to the victim, asking questions to gauge his condition and helping paramedics treat the injuries. Rep. Dave Weldon (R-Fla.), also a doctor, briefly stopped by, the bystander says.

After about 10 minutes at the scene, paramedics escorted Wiehr out of the ballpark, his head completely wrapped in bandages. Fans gave him a standing ovation.

Meanwhile, Pickering continued to play. Spokeswoman Alexander Guffin told HOH on Friday that the Congressman feels bad about what happened and wishes Wiehr a speedy recovery. “He’s in the air right now, but plans on calling the guy as soon as he can,” Guffin told HOH on Friday morning.

One onlooker called Price “the real hero” of the night. But the good doctor was modest about his role.

“I think we’re all just glad there is a doctor in the House,” Price spokesman Brendan Buck tells HOH. “Now the Democrats just need to find someone to stop the bleeding from their losing streak.”

After eight losses in a row, it’s probably time for the Democrats to apply some new bandages.

On the DL. HOH also brings you an update on the ballgame’s other injury, which happened when Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas) twisted a knee while running to home plate. Gohmert tells HOH his doctor has advised him to stay off his knee (“like that’s going to happen,” he tells HOH) for a speedier recovery. But Gohmert seemed to think the sacrifice was worth it. “The important thing was that I scored,” he says.

Still, he gave props to the Democrats’ pitcher, Rep. Joe Baca (Calif.), and all the players. “With the lead changes and high scores, it meant virtually everyone on both teams contributed and was a hero at some point,” he said. “That is just fun.”

Congress Still Hearts Hagee. Controversial pastor the Rev. John Hagee sure gave a flaming case of heartburn to the presidential campaign of Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.). But not all of McCain’s supporters are distancing themselves from Hagee, whose endorsement McCain wound up rejecting after reports of the preacher’s vehement anti-Catholic statements surfaced.

McCain supporter Sen. Joe Lieberman (ID-Conn.) will be attending a dinner with Hagee on Tuesday night as part of the Hagee-founded group Christians United for Israel’s annual summit in Washington. A spokeswoman for the organization tells HOH that 12 additional Members of Congress will attend either the Tuesday night dinner, which is billed as a “Night to Honor Israel,” or a separate dinner on Monday night, although she declined to provide their names. Lieberman and Hagee will both speak at the Tuesday dinner.

Lieberman isn’t the only Member of Congress to deem Hagee’s radioactivity level low enough. Reps. Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.) and Mike Pence (R-Ind.) are slated to speak on a panel during the group’s summit this week.

Lieberman spoke at the same event last year, and he memorably likened Hagee to Moses. And even though Lieberman will again be breaking bread with Hagee, who has since become Chernobyl-like in certain political circles, he says he’s coming this year with a different message. “I believe that Pastor Hagee has made comments that are deeply unacceptable and hurtful,” Lieberman said in a statement provided to HOH. “I also believe that a person should be judged on the entire span of his or her life’s works. Pastor Hagee has devoted much of his life to fighting anti-Semitism and building bridges between Christians and Jews.”

Lieberman says he plans to speak to the group, but will also issue a bit of a warning: “I will also make it clear that it is imperative that our language is always respectful and tolerant of all of our fellow citizens.”

Gearing Up. Sen. Tom Coburn is ready to spend as long as it takes to debate a package of bills that Senate Democratic leaders are considering assembling into an omnibus bill in a bid to thwart the Oklahoma Republican’s objections. Coburn, who happens to be a doctor and so has access to all manner of supplies that the rest of us don’t, says he’d be prepared to strap on a catheter to power through the floor debate — without missing a minute of it.

A Coburn spokesman laughed off the story. “He said he’d use every procedural tool, but I don’t think he’d go that far,” the spokesman said.

Fuzzy Math. The Louisiana Senate race between Sen. Mary Landrieu (D) and state Treasurer John Kennedy (R) is one of the tightest matchups in the 2008 election cycle. With things so close, both sides are desperate to win the fundraising race, where even a few thousand dollars could help seal a victory. And sometimes, adding the numbers up can get a little tricky — and lead to a lot of trash talking.

On July 7, Kennedy’s campaign announced he raised $1.48 million in the second quarter of the year. On July 10, it was reported Kennedy had raised $1.51 million, and by July 15, Louisiana news sources were reporting he’d raised $1.54 million. (Landrieu also raised $1.54 million in the quarter, according to the Federal Election Commission.)

But in the end, FEC reports showed that Kennedy had only $1.45 million in total receipts during the second quarter — which caused Democrats to gloat a bit.

“A treasurer who can’t add or subtract couldn’t get elected to student council, let alone elected to the United States Senate,” said Hannah August, deputy communications director for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.

But not so fast, according to Kennedy spokesman Lenny Alcivar. Kennedy did indeed raise $1.54 million, Alcivar told HOH — but $89,000 was marked differently because it reflects the net transfer after expenses from six joint fundraising accounts.

And Alcivar added that Landrieu — who served as state treasurer from 1988 to 1996 — shouldn’t be doing any trash talking, since the FEC fined her in 1999 for errors in reports she filed during the 1996 Senate race.

“Only a dumb staffer would embarrass their candidate by reminding voters that their own boss … was fined by the FEC for filing phony, inaccurate campaign contributions,” Alcivar said.

Sounds like this match is going to the final round.

Briefly Quoted. “Speaker of the House Steny Hoyer Praises Expanded Americans with Disabilities Act”

—The oopsie subject line of a press release by the National Association of Manufacturers on Friday, apparently giving House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) a promotion.

Submit your hot tips, juicy gossip or comments here.