By Jeff Dufour - 09/22/05 12:00 AM EDT
Rep. Rahm Emanuel (D-Ill.), the ballet dancer cum opposition researcher-cum-White House adviser-cum-investment banker-cum-congressman, was treated to a roast Tuesday night at Union Station.
Democratic politico Paul Begala emceed the evening, which featured appearances by such Democratic shining stars as Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton (N.Y.) and Barack Obama (Ill.), along with conservative commentator Bill Safire and token Republican Rep. Tom Cole (Okla).
Emanuel’s odd combination of an early interest in ballet and a well-known penchant for foul language and abrasiveness was fertile ground for roasters.
“Republicans may have the Hammer,” joked Clinton, “but we have the Nutcracker! He [Emanuel] has calves like Baryshnikov and a mouth like Cheney.”
Obama had the same material, quipping that Emanuel was “the first to develop Machiavelli’s The Prince for dance. It was an intriguing piece — a lot of kicks below the waist.”
Obama made light of an early deli accident that lopped off half of Emanuel’s middle finger: “As a result, this rendered him practically mute.” Safire remembered Emanuel’s sotto voce leaks to the press when he worked in the Clinton White House. The only problem was that the press secretary had already released the urgently conveyed material an hour before.
The $250-a-head roast benefited Citizens United for Research in Epilepsy, a nonprofit organization headed by Susan Axelrod, the wife of Chicago-based media consultant David Axelrod.
In fact, according to a source familiar with Chicago politics, a lot of the jokes came courtesy of Axelrod himself. He must have had plenty of material on which to draw. Axelrod has worked for Emanuel, Obama and Chicago Mayor Richard Daley (D), among other Windy City luminaries.
“He’s a good media strategist and a better comedy writer,” the source said.
Axelrod did not return a call seeking comment.
Conservative love-in for Helms tribute
It was a lot of red-state red meat along with a lot of blue hair Tuesday night at the Crystal Gateway Marriott as more than 500 people — many dating from the infancy of the conservative movement — showed up to pay tribute to former Sen. Jesse Helms (R-N.C.).
North Carolina Sens. Elizabeth Dole and Richard Burr, columnist Bob Novak, former Ambassador Jeanne Kirkpatrick and the Rev. Jerry Falwell feted the conservative firebrand. And even the state’s youngest Republican star, 29-year-old Rep. Patrick McHenry, was tapped to give the invocation, which earned him a round of applause.
Among those in the audience were former Sen. Harry Byrd (R-Va.), Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), former Rep. Bob Livingston (R-La.), Rep. J.D. Hayworth (R-Ariz.) and conservative activist Grover Norquist.
More than one speaker referred to Helms as the second most important conservative of the past 25 years, behind Ronald Reagan. And during a video tribute, they even got to kick Helms’s former opponents, applauding all over again the defeats of John Ingram in 1978 and Jim Hunt in 1984.
Tuesday’s fete was originally supposed to be timed with the release of Helms’s book, Here’s Where I Stand, last month but was postponed because of his poor health.
The organizers also announced the launch of the website jessehelms.com, “developed as a reliable source to provide truth, facts and details” about Helms’s life.
True to form for the teetotaling senator, no hard liquor was served at the event.
NY Post’s Birnbaum: All Hillary, all the time
How goes Sen. Hillary Clinton’s (D-N.Y.) Senate reelection campaign? If reelected, will she serve out her full term or make a widely expected run for the presidency in 2008? What has she voted for, or against, in the Senate of late?
Gregg Birnbaum, political editor for the New York Post, has created a website to answer all your Hillary questions.
The site, www.justhillary.com, launched earlier this summer, is updated daily on these and other topics of interest to Hillary watchers everywhere. The site even features a “Hillary tracker” that details her daily schedule.
“I created it because I feel that there’s so much interest in Hillary she requires her own news website,” Birnbaum told The Hill. “It’s New York, it’s national, it’s international. She’s in a class by herself in terms of public interest.”
And although Birnbaum writes for the right-leaning Post — he covered Clinton’s first Senate campaign in 2000 for the paper — he says he’s not carrying the water for any agenda.
“I am not pro-Hillary or anti-Hillary,” he said. “I am an objective, fair-minded journalist who is interested in news. I am trying to find a place between the Hillary lover and Hillary haters that will just help inform interested people about what she is up to.”
Judiciary room turns into Grand Ole Opry
Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), founder of the House Songwriters Caucus, hosted the Nashville Songwriters Association in the Judiciary Committee hearing room in Rayburn for a “guitar pull” on Tuesday night.
The group, which came to town to highlight music-piracy issues, included Don Rollins, who penned Alan Jackson and Jimmy Buffett’s “It’s Five O’Clock Somewhere”; Chuck Cannon, who’s written for Toby Keith; Bob Regan, who’s written for Trisha Yearwood; and Jimmy Wayne, who performed several songs for all assembled.
The Songwriters Caucus highlights the plight of performers hurt by intellectual-property theft, illegal downloading, etc. To say thanks, the songwriters presented Blackburn with a signed Gibson guitar.
“It’s going to be the symbol of the caucus,” said Ryan Loskarn, press secretary for Blackburn. He said the congresswoman plans to hang it in her office.
Before the evening event, Wayne gave Blackburn’s staff a sneak preview, dropping by to sing “Stay Gone,” his 2003 country hit.
“I’m a huge fan, so I’m biased, but it was fantastic,” Loskarn said.
Hayworth likens Arizona governor to a looter
Rep. J.D. Hayworth (R-Ariz.) sure has a way with words. The ex-talk-radio host issued a statement yesterday that likened Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano (D) to a New Orleans looter.
Reacting to an attempt by Napolitano to divert federal emergency money away from the Gulf Coast to the Mexican border, he called her approach “grossly ill-timed and a shamelessly insensitive political ploy.”
“Simply put, the governor of Arizona is no better than the brazen looters who seized on a natural tragedy to plunder downtown New Orleans,” he said.
He then challenged her to dispatch the Arizona National Guard to the border.
Which, as one might imagine, didn’t sit well with the governor.
In a statement to The Business Journal of Phoenix, Napolitano Chief of Staff Dennis Burke said: “The congressman’s press release is appalling, clueless and bureaucratic. It’s typical Beltway-speak from another member of Congress. …
“The Arizona National Guard is already assisting on the border, serving in Iraq and Afghanistan and working in the Gulf Coast region. If the congressman had bothered to call before firing off an inane press release, we could have told him that.”