Dear Peter, lox of love, Don

Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.), who recently beat out Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska) and other members for the Homeland Security Committee chairmanship, does not foresee any bad blood between himself and his former rivals for the post.

Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.), who recently beat out Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska) and other members for the Homeland Security Committee chairmanship, does not foresee any bad blood between himself and his former rivals for the post.

“Actually, I do not expect any problems,” he said. “The day after the election, I got a note and a jar of salmon from Don Young and I didn’t use a food taster, so that shows trust.”

Speaking to The Hill in a sit-down interview last week, however, he said that, given his new responsibilities, his novel-writing days may be over.

King has written three political novels in his spare time — Terrible Beauty, Deliver Us From Evil and Vale of Tears — which, fittingly, deal primarily with terrorism and the now-disarmed Irish Republican Army.

“Actually, I am retired for several reasons,” King said. “One, there is no great demand for a fourth book. Secondly, I have become a grandfather, so whatever spare time I have, rather than lock myself in a room and writing books in the spare time, I spend it with my grandson. Thirdly, I have this fear now ever since I got my first briefing that I write something in a book that I picked up in a briefing and I get locked up for that.”

He admitted that he may feel the muse’s pull once again but said, “I have to wait all sorts of years.”


Getting back to normal for GOP, Clinton

The unexpected cease-fire between former President Bill Clinton and the GOP may be over, after months of cozy rhetoric that followed 42’s partnership with 41 — aka former President George H.W. Bush — on nationwide charity drives to aid tsunami victims and those displaced by Hurricane Katrina.

Clinton sat down with former aide George Stephanopoulos on “This Week” on Sept. 18 and was not shy about criticizing Bush 43, who eagerly tapped his father and Clinton to solicit contributions at a joint press conference a week after the storm.

“You can’t have an emergency plan that works if it only affects middle-class people and up,” Clinton said of the administration’s response to the Gulf Coast catastrophe.

Republican lawmakers watching at home were not amused at their former opponent’s sharp tongue. Did Clinton’s fundraising and golfing escapades with Bush 41 mean nothing?

“It was a clear retreat by President Clinton from the comity and cooperation that the two men had, frankly, become known for,” said Rep. Zach Wamp (R-Tenn.). “President Clinton is a smart man. … He stopped, reflected and still said it.”

Wamp compared Clinton’s words to ink dropped into a cup of water: “It just kind of taints things.”

But Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-N.C.) didn’t need metaphors to make his point. “When Clinton speaks, conservatives are outraged,” McHenry said. “Clinton has been soft during the tsunami relief thing, and now he’s getting back to his old ways.”

“It’s not like him,” said Rep. Dave Weldon (R-Fla.). “I’m surprised.”


Podcasting, etc.: Getting the GOP message out, Gen X style

The kinder, gentler GOP press operation marches on.

First we had Majority Leader Tom DeLay’s (R-Texas) staff transcribing and e-mailing his weekly pen-and-pad briefings. Now doing them perhaps one better is Rep. Deborah Pryce’s (R-Ohio) Republican Conference office, which has taken to uploading the weekly Conference briefings as podcasts for iPods.

Indeed, if you visit the iTunes Music Store, click on “podcasts” and search for “House Republican podcast” you can subscribe free to the audio of each week’s press stakeout, downloadable directly to your iPod. (And, really, what would you rather listen to on your commute home?)

“Chairman Pryce has given us a charge of trying to think outside the box as much as possible to get the message out,” said her spokesman, Sean Spicer.

He said they first offered streaming video on the gop.gov website and turned to the podcasts about a month ago. As of two weeks ago, he said, “up to 22,000” people had subscribed to the podcasts.

Pryce is encouraging other Republican members to do likewise, Spicer said.


Moonshine in the morning

Those aficionados at the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States (DISCUS) are at it again. Two years after a successful attempt to distill rye whiskey at Mount Vernon using a replica of George Washington’s original pot still and recipe, several

DISCUS members tomorrow morning will attempt to produce an authentic 18th century-style rum using the same still.

Made from molasses, rum requires an “entirely different process” than whiskey, said Frank Coleman, DISCUS’s senior vice president for communications.

He said that in Washington’s day rum was extremely popular. Martha Washington was even renowned for her rum punch.

Distillers from Bacardi and other top rum producers will join some top bourbon distillers from Kentucky to distill the spirit over an open fire before setting them down to age on site at Mount Vernon.

Also tomorrow, the group will lay the cornerstone of what will become the George Washington Distillery and Museum.

To further mark the occasion, Coleman said, they’ll bottle a limited-edition run of 250 bottles of blended whiskey, made from several famous American brands, most of which have been aging at Mount Vernon for around 10 years.

The event concludes with an evening reception at which Rep. Ron Lewis (R-Ky.) and former Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson will be inducted into the George Washington Spirits Society.

Bottoms up.


Attention grape lovers

Hurricane Katrina has certainly spawned no shortage of creative fundraisers in Washington. But an event coming up next Wednesday may beat them all for sheer Dionysian revelry and conspicuous consumption.

That’s when the Congressional Wine Caucus, the Wine Institute and other groups host a charity auction of some truly rare wines at 101 Constitution.

“We hope that this event will raise money for our fellow Americans who are in need of a helping hand,” said Rep. Mike Thompson (D-Calif.), co-chairman of the Wine Caucus. “So far, we have had a phenomenal response from the wine industry, and we will be auctioning some exception lots of rare wines.”

Among the lots are a 36-magnum lot of Napa Valley cabernets, an eight-magnum vertical of the coveted Turley wines, and cult wines from Screaming Eagle, Colgin Cellars and Dalla Valle.

Presiding will be Fritz Hatton, one of the world’s foremost wine auctioneers, although some wines will be offered via silent auction. Charlie Palmer Steak will provide the catering.


Career change for press-room veteran Larry O’Rourke

One of Washington’s senior political reporters is trading in his press credentials to begin a new career as a pro bono lawyer this month.

 Larry O’Rourke, congressional and national political correspondent for McClatchy Newspapers, will open his own law practice specializing in representing abused children, he said last week.

 O’Rourke, 66, is making the move after a distinguished career that includes covering 17 of the past 20 national political conventions.

 O’Rourke attended his first convention as a 10-year-old boy accompanying his father as Democrats met in his hometown of Philadelphia in 1948, and his last at the 2004 Republican convention in New York. He missed only the 1964 GOP convention in San Francisco and both 1980 conventions after leaving journalism to become a deputy assistant secretary of education in the Carter administration when his newspaper, the Philadelphia Bulletin, folded.

 A 1970 graduate of the Georgetown University Law Center, O’Rourke returned to journalism in 1981 as White House correspondent for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch before joining McClatchy.