By Betsy Rothstein - 07/01/08 05:06 PM EDT
If there is one certainty about life in Washington, it is that CNN’s Wolf Blitzer won’t shave off the beard that has been his trademark for the past three decades.
“It’s been there for 30 years and it’s going to stay,” Blitzer told ITK last week.
This Sunday, Blitzer celebrates the 10-year anniversary of “Late Edition.” He began hosting the show one week before the Monica Lewinksy scandal broke. “It wasn’t exactly pleasant to cover it,” he said. “I worked nonstop.” The show will air a special two-hour retrospective. The only guest will be Blitzer, who will be interviewed by CNN correspondent Tom Foreman.
He said he has no plans to move networks. “I feel CNN is my home,” he said, dismissing any notion of seeking the job of the late NBC “Meet the Press” host Tim Russert.
Blitzer, who turned 60 this year, felt Russert’s death immensely. He said the two men were friends and attended basketball and baseball games together. “The shock — it was just so sad,” he said.
He said Russert’s death has been a wakeup call. “For everybody, life is short,” he said. “[You] work hard, but make sure you take care of yourself and understand the priorities.”
One of which, he was told, is his beard. In 1996 he was at the GOP presidential convention in San Diego and noticed that his beard was starting to turn gray. “It had been strawberry-reddish,” he said. He broached the subject with then-CNN President Tom Johnson and said he was contemplating shaving it off. “He looked at me and he said, ‘Are you crazy? I’m thinking of taking out an insurance policy on it.’ ”
That was enough; the beard stayed.
They’ll recognize Obama the next time
Takehia Wheeler and other staff at the Washington Sports Club will surely recognize Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) the next time he walks through the door.
She was manning the front desk to scan members’ ID cards last Friday morning when the senator and presidential candidate walked in with his security detail. The gym opened a month ago in Columbia Heights.
“He came in and walked past me,” Wheeler recalled to ITK. “I was like, ‘Sir, you need to come back.’ ”
Wheeler said Obama looked familiar, but she didn’t “want to look stupid” by misidentifying an Obama look-alike. So she asked for his membership card.
“I said, ‘What’s your last name?’ He said ‘Obama,’ ” Wheeler recalled. “I said, ‘So what’s your first name?’ ”
He laughed, at which point Wheeler realized to whom she was talking and replied, “Sorry, Mr. Future President!”
Obama and his security detail then hit the gym for 20 minutes.
“We worked out on the benches together,” one gym member said.
Trainer Drew McNeil almost didn’t recognize him, either. “I was training right next to him, and I was like, ‘That looks like Obama,’ ” he said.
Lisa Hufcut, a spokeswoman for Town Sports International, the club’s owner, confirmed that Obama belongs to the gym network, which has locations in Washington, Philadelphia, New York and Boston.
Obama was seen working out in March at a Philadelphia gym the morning he gave what has become known as the “race speech.” Gym-goers took camera-phone pictures of him and alerted a news team of Obama’s workout, she said.
Hufcut said the company arranged for guest passes for Obama’s Secret Service team so that they can accompany him on his workouts.
Marijuana lobbyist talks with ‘tokin’ ’ GOP staffer
A medicinal marijuana amendment to the Commerce-Justice-Science Appropriations bill introduced by Rep. Maurice Hinchey (D-N.Y.) is coming up in the House this month, and Aaron Houston, chief lobbyist for the Marijuana Policy Project, is in high gear — no pun intended.
The amendment prohibits the federal government from interfering with state medical marijuana laws.
Houston gets a lot of ribbing about marijuana in the course of his daily lobbying, replete with pot jokes and marijuana-voiced aides. Last week was no exception, as the following exchange with a House GOP aide demonstrates.
Houston: “It’s Aaron Houston from the Marijuana Policy Project, how are you doing today?”
Staffer: “Just tokin’ up, man. How about you?”
Houston: “I’m sure you are. I’m calling because I talked with your boss about the medical marijuana issue the other day ...”
Mineta gets nabbed at Reagan Airport
Former Transportation Secretary Norm Mineta isn’t exempt from the random security checks we all have to endure occasionally. On a recent trip from Reagan Airport, he went through metal detectors like other passengers and security personnel pulled him aside.
“So there he is, arms stretched, being wanded, had his shoes off, and being patted down,” said an ITK spy. “Either he pissed off TSA (the Transportation Security Administration) so much they have him on a permanent ‘mess with him’ list or they truly are taking this ‘random’ thing seriously.”
Rep. Snyder helps get constituent released from Bermuda authorities
Rep. Vic Snyder (D-Ark.) testified in a Bermuda court last week as a character witness for Gary Barket, who was being tried on gun possession charges. Barket, a Little Rock, Ark., lawyer, faced up to a decade in prison if convicted, but the jury found him not guilty on all charges.
In January, Barket traveled to Bermuda and forgot that guns were hidden in his suitcase. He maintained from the outset that it was a simple oversight.