Coyness plays well in Kan.

Sen. Sam Brownback (R-Kan.) hasn’t announced whether he’s running for president in 2008, but why should he when he can get such sensational news coverage back home by just letting people know he’s thinking about it? Brownback’s thinly veiled presidential ambitions have prompted intense interest by the Kansas media, including two of the Sunflower State’s largest newspapers, which published eye-catching Page One stories about the 48-year-old, third-term conservative last month.

Sen. Sam Brownback (R-Kan.) hasn’t announced whether he’s running for president in 2008, but why should he when he can get such sensational news coverage back home by just letting people know he’s thinking about it?

Brownback’s thinly veiled presidential ambitions have prompted intense interest by the Kansas media, including two of the Sunflower State’s largest newspapers, which published eye-catching Page One stories about the 48-year-old, third-term conservative last month.

The Wichita Eagle weighed in April 17 with a story headlined “Brownback Coy on 2008 Bid for President,” and the Topeka Capital-Journal followed suit a week later with its “Testing the Waters: Sam Brownback has been laying the groundwork for a possible White House run” story.

Brownback, who has tested the waters in New Hampshire and Iowa in recent weeks, is a favorite of social conservatives because of his support for human rights and his opposition to abortion, embryonic stem cell research and euthanasia.

At a speech to a conservative group in Manchester, N.H., last month, the Eagle’s Washington correspondent Alan Bjerga reported, Randall Terry, spokesman for the parents of Terri Schiavo, urged Brownback to run, saying, “You can do it. You’ve got the juice. You’ve got the charisma.”

Charisma may be the last word that comes to mind for those who know the soft-spoken senator, but maybe he’ll cause people to quit asking for his views on the best-selling book What’s the Matter with Kansas?

Asked last week if he’s thinking of using the newspaper stories for campaign posters, Brownback merely smiled.

A first look at McCullough’s new history book

Better hurry down to your local bookstore May 24 because that’s when David Mccullough’s new book about the year that decided America’s fate goes on sale.

McCullough’s book, titled simply 1776, is about that crucial year, which he calls “the darkest time in this nation’s history when the prospects for the United States of America never looked worse.”

The Pulitzer Prize-winning biographer and historian said he sees the book as a companion work to his previous biography of Founding Father John Adams.

Although George Washington is the central figure in the new book, climaxed by his desperate, bold Christmas-night counterattack in New Jersey that changed history, McCullough said that many others were of equal importance.

“Without them, the Declaration of Independence would be nothing more than words on paper,” McCullough told The Hill from his home on Martha’s Vineyard.

He added, “In the last weeks of that year, it was very clear to almost everyone that the war was over and we had lost, but fortunately Washington chose not to see it that way. This is what we should be celebrating on July 4.”

McCullough, who will kick off a national promotional tour in New York on May 24 and will talk about his book at Mount Vernon and the Library of Congress in early June, said his book is already No. 124 on amazon.com.

“And it’s not even in the bookstores yet,” he marveled.

Asked what his next book will be, McCullough said he’s still recovering from this one. But he didn’t dispute the notion that it will be either a history of the U.S.-Mexican war or a biography of his hometown of Pittsburgh.

Stone-cold ambition: Jesse Jr. versus Obama

Looks as if media darling Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.), who’s already being touted as the first black president even before he finishes his first year in the Senate, may have to share the limelight with another Democrat from his home state.

An article in the current issue of Chicago magazine is stirring speculation that Rep. Jesse Jackson’s political ambitions go well beyond being mayor of Chicago.

The article, “What does Junior want?” notes that Jackson was widely thought to be running for mayor after he spoke out against corruption in Mayor Richard Daley’s administration. “But while city hall may be in his sights, the son of the famous Reverend seems to have other things on his mind.”

Although Jackson has talked about staying in Congress long enough to become the first black Speaker or chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, his immediate goal is to help build the proposed Abraham Lincoln Naitonal Airport in Peotone, 50 miles southwest of Chicago.

But after that, the magazine suggested he “would like to improve the entire country, beginning with nine amendments to the Constitution that would guarantee the right to health care and a good education, among other things.”

And then, according to his top aide, Frank Watkins, Jackson “sometimes says jokingly, ‘I want to be on Mount Rushmore.’”
At least we think is joking.

Drescher fete promises ‘hot personalities, cold martinis’

Fran Drescher is certainly making a name for herself in D.C. these days. Apart from her regular work with the Creative Coalition and penning an op-ed for this newspaper last month on broadcast indecency, tomorrow night she’ll be feted by Sens. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) and Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) and other local celebs at Chloe in Adams Morgan.

The star of the WB network’s “Living with Fran,” Drescher is being honored for her work on women’s cancer issues. A uterine-cancer survivor, this week she is promoting Johanna’s Law, which will provide programs to increase awareness of gynecologic cancers among women.

The party is being thrown by Capitol File, the new glossy magazine being launched by publishing wonderboy Jason Binn. Among those expected to attend are Rep. John Dingell (D-Mich.) and his wife, Debbie, Rep. Patrick Kennedy and AOL’s Jim Kimsey.

The invite promises “hot personalities and cold martinis.” We hope the senators and congressmen on hand can handle it.

Daughter speaks out for dad who’s held in China

Jean Ji, daughter of U.S. citizen David Ji, who has been imprisoned in China since October, will be meeting with congressional offices beginning today in an effort to tell officials and the American people her father’s story.

At first she was afraid that media attention might endanger her father’s safety. “But if I didn’t do something now, I might regret it for the rest of my life,” said Jean Ji, 26, David’s only child.

David Ji, 53, was born in China but became a naturalized American citizen in 2000. He is the president and chairman of Apex Digital Inc., which sells Chinese-made consumer electronics in the United States through large retailers such as Circuit City, Wal-Mart and Sears.

Apex is involved in a business dispute with Changhong Electronics, a government-owned and operated electronics manufacturer that has supplied products to Apex.

While in China on unrelated business last October, David Ji was detained by Chinese public security officers. He has been held in Mianyang ever since, although he has not been charged with a crime. He was allegedly forced to sign a number of agreements detrimental to his business before being allowed to see a lawyer.

His daughter said he has been denied his medication, and, while Chinese authorities insist he’s been held in a hotel, she suspects otherwise, given his confusion over the time of day during their rare phone conversations. May 29 is the deadline for David Ji to be charged formally or released.

The Congressional Executive Commission on China (CECC) is monitoring the case.

Jean Ji’s schedule this week includes meetings with Rep. Gary Miller (R-Calif.), her and her father’s congressman, as well as staff for the House International Relations Committee, Reps. Frank Wolf (R-Va.), Chris Cox (R-Calif.) and Wally Herger (R-Calif.) and Sens. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and John Kerry (D-Mass.). She’ll also be meeting with journalists from Radio Free Asia and Voice of America, officials from the state department and the CECC.

Thus far, Jean Ji said, she has only spoken about the case to Miller’s staff and officials of the American Embassy and consulates in China.