By Jeff Dufour - 04/04/06 12:00 AM EDT
After Rep. Jean Schmidt (R-Ohio) refused to debate her primary challenger, state Rep. Bob McEwen, in front of a Cincinnati-area Republican club, the club invited comedian Rachel Dratch of NBC’s “Saturday Night Live” to stand in for Schmidt at the event.
Dratch portrayed the controversial congresswoman on the show last fall after Schmidt’s infamous “cut and run” comment about Rep. John Murtha (D-Pa.) on the House floor.
The Anderson Township Republican Club scheduled the debate for April 19. According to club spokesman Duffy Beischel, Schmidt had agreed to a debate, but her campaign later notified the club that she would not be taking part.
Lest the event become a “McEwen monologue,” said a release, the club started looking for alternatives.
“Some of our club members suggested to me that we invite ‘Saturday Night Live’s’ Rachel Dratch to take Mrs. Schmidt’s part in the debate,” said Beischel. “I thought that was a great idea, so invitations were sent” to Dratch and producer Lorne Michaels.
“If Ms. Dratch is able to accept our invitation, she would articulate the positions as submitted in the response Mrs. Schmidt gave on a questionnaire the club prepared for all candidates prior to the last primary debate,” said club President Russ Jackson.
Beischel said yesterday that he exchanged e-mails with Marc Liepis, the show’s press flack. Beischel told him that the club is prepared to pay Dratch’s travel expenses and asked him to take the offer seriously. He said Liepis told him he would, although it isn’t the type of thing cast members normally do.
Liepis yesterday would only confirm that he had recieved a fax.
Schmidt campaign manager Allen Freeman said, “We never agreed to attend their event,” and that the past week’s events have played out his fears that it would turn into “a circus.”
Hatch: ‘Big Love’ is ‘just plain trash’
Mormon members of Congress have little regard for the HBO television show “Big Love” but are reluctant to throw their weight behind church efforts to get it yanked off the air.
The show, which follows the life of a polygamous family living in a Salt Lake City suburb, has triggered an e-mail campaign among members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS) to cancel the show.
Many of the 16 Mormon members of Congress say they haven’t seen the show, and none say they’re ready to call for its removal — but that’s not to say they’re fans either.
The show is “just plain trash,” said Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), who said he hasn’t seen the show. “The show’s producers insist ‘Big Love’ isn’t about the LDS Church, but they obviously intend for their viewers to make that connection.
“The show is highly offensive for anyone who truly knows and follows the LDS faith, and HBO should be ashamed by how they’ve handled this. It’s very detrimental to people of my faith.”
“My boss encourages people to voice their opinions, and that, if the show gets canceled, so much the better,” said Charles Isom, a spokesman for Rep. Chris Cannon (R-Utah), though he stopped short of endorsing the e-mail campaign.
HBO has received “hundreds” of e-mails calling for the show’s cancellation; the company refused to say how many.
An HBO spokesman said the network has taken “great pains” to ensure viewers understand that the show’s fictional family is not representative of Mormonism.
Luntz ‘allergic’ to GOP talk
Pollster and political language guru Frank Luntz is getting headaches from the very party he advises.
“Every time I see the Republicans on TV immediately I get a migraine headache,” he told reporters last week at a Christian Science Monitor breakfast. “I’m allergic to Republican language.”
Not that he let Democrats off the hook. “If I’m a Republican, I’m giving [Sen.] Barbara Boxer [D-Calif.] her own hour TV show every week,” he quipped. “If I were a Democrat, I would sue [House Minority Leader] Nancy Pelosi [D-Calif.] for political malpractice.”
Luntz then turned to superlawyer Robert Shapiro, his guest at the event. “Would you take that case?” he asked.
“You got it,” Shapiro replied, before appending, “On contingency.”
Shapiro, who most famously defended O.J. Simpson, was in town to testify before the House Labor-HHS Appropriations Subcommittee on the need for more effective drug education programs.
Shapiro’s son, Brent, died in October after taking “a few drinks” and “half an ecstasy” pill, Shapiro said. Brent Shapiro had been a drug addict and an alcoholic but had been sober for 18 months.
Cole camp gives nod to Rahm
In his bid to become the next National Republican Congressional Committee chairman, Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.) is giving a nod to his potential future opponent, Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Rahm Emanuel (D-Ill.).
In a collection of talking points being used by Cole’s whip team and obtained by The Hill, Cole’s first point is telling. It reads: “Rahm Emanuel is a world-class political operator at the DCCC — we need Tom Cole at the NRCC to defend our majority after Tom Reynolds finishes his term.”
Cole, who served as NRCC executive director before running for Congress, said it’s no knock on current NRCC chief Tom Reynolds (R-N.Y.). “Tom Reynolds has done a fabulous job,” he said. “I’m more worried about what comes after Tom Reynolds.”
For his part, Emanuel said, “I have the utmost respect for Tom Cole as both a colleague and political strategist, but I’m not sure that praising me is the best way to win votes in his caucus. Anyway, I wish him luck.”
Senate goes ‘Big Time’ today
Legendary art-rock artist Peter Gabriel is visiting the Senate today in his capacity as a humanitarian activist.
Gabriel, who co-founded WITNESS, a human-rights organization, will host a film screening and discussion on human-rights abuses in Burma.
Held in SC-4 at 3 p.m., the event, sponsored by WITNESS and the U.S. Campaign for Burma, will introduce the video “Always on the Run: Internally Displaced People in Karen State, Burma,” produced by a WITNESS affiliate.
Gabriel plans to press for U.S. leadership in passing a UN Security Council resolution on Burma.
Sens. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), the authors of the Burmese Freedom and Democracy Act, are also expected to attend.
“It is long overdue for the U.N. Security Council to respond to the deepening crisis in Burma,” Gabriel said in a statement. “We need people of conscience to act now.”
Carrie Sheffield contributed to this page.