Armed with poetry

Peace activists armed with poetry occupied the Capitol Hill office of Rep. Chris Van Hollen (Md.), chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, through much of Tuesday to protest Democrats’ support for a bill funding the Iraq war.

They camped out in his office for nearly eight hours, reading verse and reciting the names and biographies of soldiers killed in Iraq, punctuating each by banging on a gong they had brought with them.

The protesters also taped pictures of soldiers onto the walls of Van Hollen’s office. They were finally led out of the office at 11:35 p.m. by Capitol Police, said Kevin Zeese, the director of Democracy Rising and one of the organizers of the protest.
Zeese and his fellow activists live in Van Hollen’s district and are angry because they say his anti-war rhetoric does not match his support for legislation funding the U.S. military mission in Iraq.

“We want his actions to line up behind his words,” said Stuart Morris, an activist from Mt. Rainier, Md., who added that Van Hollen’s staff tried to ignore the protesters but made no attempt to evict them during the height of the protest.

The activists said 16 to 20 protesters occupied Van Hollen’s office. The group included Tina Richards, whose son is a Marine reservist required to report for duty on March 24. Richards said she would attempt to occupy more congressional offices.

“Obviously, when you have a group of people in your office sounding a gong and reading off names it’s somewhat distracting, but it did not disrupt the workflow,” said Marilyn Campbell, Van Hollen’s spokeswoman.

Earlier this week anti-war protesters in Michigan vandalized the district office of Rep. Mike Rogers (R) by splashing red paint on a “Support our Troops” sign and hanging a banner accusing Rogers of having blood on his hands. 

Campbell said she was not aware of any vandalism in Van Hollen’s office. She said that fewer people showed up than the activists claimed.

 


Hoop dreams

 

Following the release of a damning report on the FBI’s use of National Security Letters earlier this month, some Department of Justice officials might have wished that Inspector General (IG) Glenn Fine had chosen a different career path — such as playing in the National Basketball Association.

According to basketball-reference.com, Fine was the fourth-to-last pick in the 1979 NBA draft. The San Antonio Spurs selected the 5-foot-9 Fine, who decided to pursue a legal career instead of one on the hardwood.

The website also shows that Fine is one of only 11 players from Harvard University ever to be drafted.

Asked at a hearing on the National Security Letter investigation Tuesday if he regretted not pursuing an NBA career, Fine said he was happy with the choice he made.

“But I tell people who don’t believe I actually played basketball when they see me at five-nine [that] before I started this job as the IG, I was six-nine,” Fine quipped.

 


Rep. Schmidt: Walter Reed controversy is ‘overblown’

 

Under the Dome misses former Reps. Cynthia McKinney (D-Ga.) and Bob Dornan (R-Calif.), who were always good for copy. But thank goodness Rep. Jean Schmidt (R-Ohio) survived the elections last year.

On her website Monday, Schmidt wrote that media reports about living conditions at Walter Reed Army Medical Center were “overblown.”

After visiting the hospital a month after The Washington Post’s articles on substandard care, Schmidt deemed the problem a relatively minor one.

“I toured all four outpatient housing facilities, and was pleasantly surprised to find that three of the buildings contained clean living spaces, updated television and computer access, and full access to cooking units or cafeterias,” she wrote.
Schmidt added, “While I found the situation at Walter Reed to be overblown by both politicians and the media, I hope future accounts will bring more light to the real issues.”

More bad news for Schmidt: Her views on Walter Reed were first reported in her home state by The Cincinnati Enquirer.
Barry Bennett, Schmidt’s chief of staff, noted that his boss believes the conditions in Building 18 were deplorable, but added that Walter Reed is “a phenomenal institution” where doctors and nurses do outstanding work. He added that Schmidt had visited Walter Reed before the controversy exploded.

 


Kerry goes March Mad

 

 Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) might have caught March Madness a little bit late (the tournament’s already been going on for a week, Senator!), but at least his brackets involve a little cold hard cash.

No, you won’t win money by filling out a bracket, but you could help fill the campaign coffers of your favorite senator or House member running for reelection.

Kerry’s brackets, described in an e-mail to supporters yesterday, pit four senators and eight House members against each other to find out who should be the first four recipients of his campaign committee’s “first round of fundraising.”

 


Hear ye, hear ye, reporters

 

Reporters have a lot of access on Capitol Hill, but the Standing Committee of Correspondents made it clear this week that such access has its limits.

Following an incident in which a reporter mistakenly walked onto the House floor, the standing committee issued a memo Tuesday stating, “Reporters are not allowed on the floor of the House or the Senate.”


Aaron Blake, Alexander Bolton and Klaus Marre contributed to this page.