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Heard on the Hill: While They Were Sleeping

While They Were Sleeping. Media critics (i.e., everyone) love to accuse the press of snoozing on the job, of nodding off while news happens under their noses. Although HOH is usually quick to defend her fellow scribes, this week the critics might be right.

[IMGCAP(1)]In the early hours of Sunday morning, police arrested a man at Denver’s Cherry Creek Hotel in a scene that could have been straight out of cop show “Law & Order.” According to reports, the suspect, Shawn Robert Adolf — who faces drug and firearm charges and was

thought to be in on an alleged plot to assassinate Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) — led police on a dramatic chase, jumping from a sixth-floor window and breaking his ankle in the fall before being arrested.

Sleeping peacefully just yards away, meanwhile, were some of the political press corps’ biggest names. Reps from the Washington Post, NBC, CNN and other top-flight media outlets, including pundit Pat Buchanan, are staying in the hotel, HOH hears.

One of the snoozy scribes sheepishly admits to not hearing a thing. “I was totally unaware of the commotion when police kicked down the door of the suspect, who broke a window and jumped,’” one “veteran Washington journalist” tells HOH. “But in my defense, I was on an upper floor.’’

Barbs Over Drilling. A Tuesday morning news conference on energy issues with House Democratic leaders got a little more energized when about two dozen Republican protesters crashed the event.

The GOP interruption seemed to bring out the feisty side of Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), who broke from her introductory comments when the protesters, gathered behind a bank of reporters and TV cameras, began shouting “Drill here! Drill now!”

“Right here? You want to drill right here?” Pelosi said. “Can we drill your brain?” Lest Pelosi leave the impression she actually wanted to do physical harm to the protesters, she quickly added, “Let’s do some intellectual drilling right now.”

But her rhetoric stayed hot. “What you see before you are the handmaidens of Big Oil,” she added. “The fact of the matter is that we are here because we see this energy issue as a national security and economic security issue for our country.”

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) didn’t miss a beat calling the protesters out, either. He followed Pelosi at the mikes, and opened by chastening, “Sophomoric chanting will not make us energy independent.”

Though several of the protesters carried McCain signs, they later took up a chant sure to rankle Democrats straining for unity as they prepare to hand their presidential nomination to Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.): “Hillary! Hillary!”

Heard-ing Celebs. HOH couldn’t possibly share all the celebrity sightings pouring in from all over Denver. We’re starting to suspect that the Hollywood-famous types in the Mile High City outnumber the Washington-famous ones. So we’ll just give our readers a few of our favorites:

• An HOH operative saw former “Apprentice” contestant Omarosa Manigault-Stallworth in true diva form, applying makeup on the convention floor during the opening night’s festivities.

• And an interesting couple were spotted drinking at Churchill’s cigar bar at the Brown Palace Hotel: Newsweek’s Jonathan Alter and actor Sean Penn. Penn’s in town for an event with fellow actor Val Kilmer and Green Party candidate Ralph Nader.

• A tipster reports that on Tuesday, former Bush White House aide Dan Bartlett jumped into an SUV parked in front of the Grand Hyatt that had an “Obama ’08” sticker on the back. Our Democratic spy wondered if the Republican had switched sides or was just trying to go incognito. “At least he’s supporting Big Oil by driving in a big truck,” the spy says.

• Maybe Bartlett and Rep. John Lewis got their cars mixed up: A tipster spotted the Georgia Democrat stepping out of a burgundy Ford Excursion on Larimer Street. The car bore a Colorado license plate with the anti-abortion motto “Respect Life.” Lewis, by the way, supports abortion rights.

• At the “Evolve America” party sponsored by Trojan Brand Condoms and Rolling Stone on Monday night, the celeb set arrived fashionably late — and looking like they’d been partying hard elsewhere first. Actress Susan Sarandon came with what appeared to be an alcoholic drink in hand, as did actor Alan Cumming, who also carried a “Michelle” sign from the convention floor.

‘West Wing’ Muses. Guessing which characters on the late, beloved series “The West Wing” were based on which real-life politicians was a popular parlor game during the show’s seven-year run. And during a Tuesday session sponsored by the Creative Coalition and the National Apartment Association on housing issues, “West Wing” writer-producer Lawrence O’Donnell revealed for the first time one key character’s inspiration.

He says he based the character of Matthew Santos — a charismatic young Hispanic Congressman who runs for president — on Henry Cisneros, who also was speaking at the event. Cisneros was the first Hispanic mayor of San Antonio and a former secretary of Department of Housing and Urban Development.

O’Donnell’s revelation that Cisneros was the muse for Santos — memorably played by Jimmy Smits — was interesting, since another of the show’s writers, Eli Attie, once told the Guardian newspaper that the Santos character also was based in part on someone very much on people’s minds these days: Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.).

Casey V. Sarandon. Usually, it’s Senators who get to do all the grilling at hearings. But actress Susan Sarandon turned the tables on Sen. Bob Casey at the Creative Coalition/National Apartment Association’s housing-policy session (see previous item), raking the Pennsylvania Democrat over the coals for nearly 10 minutes on federal housing policy. For every answer Casey — who was a guest for the panel discussion of federal housing policy — gave her, Sarandon, clearly unsatisfied, came back with a follow-up. Casey tried to show that some progress has been made to address the housing crisis, but again, Sarandon was unsatisfied.

When the session’s Q&A portion began, Sarandon raised her hand and was given the first question. But rather than just ask one question, she kept coming back at Casey with questions about affordable housing and what the government was doing about it.

And in a move certain to earn her the audience’s sympathy, Sarandon lamented the fact that her longtime housekeeper whom she employs to help take care of her New York City home was being forced out of her Harlem apartment so that the building could be redeveloped for “yuppies.” Sarandon also mentioned that her grown daughter, who lives in Manhattan, pays exorbitant rent.

Stars: They’re just like us, really.

Condomania! The Democratic National Convention is shaping up to be a sexy affair — or, at the very least, one where there’s no excuse not to practice safe sex.

The Planned Parenthood Action Fund has distributed loads of free condoms to convention-goers, including at their big bash held at the Samba Room on Monday night. In true political form, the condoms ask folks to “Protect Yourself From John McCain (In This Election)” and feature one of “10 things everyone should know about John McCain.” HOH received condom No. 8, which reads: “Wants to nominate Supreme Court justices who are ‘clones’ of conservative Justices [Samuel] Alito and [John] Roberts.”

Meanwhile, the folks at Trojan Brand Condoms also are in Denver, pushing officials to reshape the government’s sexual education policy, spokesman Jim Daniels tells HOH. In a parking lot situated next to their “Evolve America” party on Monday night (co-hosted by Rolling Stone), the company set up an inflatable tent — shaped in a suspiciously sexual way — to educate folks about sexually transmitted diseases.

Comedian Bill Maher, who headlined the party, told reporters he has nothing but respect for the company.

“I never worked for them before,” he said. “But they’ve certainly worked for me.”

Tory Newmyer and David Drucker contributed to this report.

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