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Posted at 8:02 AM ET, 06/15/2010

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By Emily Ingram  |  June 15, 2010; 8:02 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (0)
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Posted at 4:35 PM ET, 09/30/2009

The Sleuth is Away

While the Sleuth is away, check out The Reliable Source for Inside the Beltway Gossip and Capitol Briefing for the latest Hill news. Visit 44 for the latest from Obama's Washington, and check in with the Fix for political news and analysis.

By Paul Volpe  |  September 30, 2009; 4:35 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (6)
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Posted at 12:14 PM ET, 09/10/2009

Did Joe Wilson Violate House Rules?

Updated, 1:38 pm ET

Regardless of how mortified Miss Manners would be, this much we know about Rep. Joe Wilson (R-S.C.): he may well have violated House rules Wednesday night when he yelled "You lie!" at President Obama.

The rules of decorum in the House explicitly state that a member cannot "call the president a 'liar.'"

While Senate rules on decorum do not prohibit personal references to the president, House rules do. According to section 370 of the House rules manual, members may not:

* call the President a "liar."
* call the President a "hypocrite."
* describe the President's veto of a bill as "cowardly."
* charge that the President has been "intellectually dishonest."
* refer to the President as "giving aid and comfort to the enemy."
* refer to alleged "sexual misconduct on the President's part."

(Hard to imagine how many members were in violation of the House rules during the Bill Clinton impeachment debate in 1998, but we digress.)

House Democratic leaders clearly view Wilson's outburst as a violation of the rules. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer told our colleague Ben Pershing Wednesday night that Wilson's behavior was "contrary to the rules of the House."

But House Speaker Nancy Pelosi suggested Thursday there should be no formal punishment of Wilson. "The episode was unfortunate," Pelosi said. "Congressman Wilson apologized, and it's time to turn our attention to health care."

House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.) didn't suggest a specific form of possible punishment for Wilson but he did say Thursday morning on the Bill Press Show that Wilson "ought to man up" and apologize to Obama in person. Clyburn said Wilson's release of a written apology late Wednesday night was "cowardly."

"I share counties with him ... these are people who may have political conservatism but they do have good manners, and I do believe that the first sign of a good education is in fact good manners," Clyburn said on Press's radio show.

Appearing on the same program, Sen. Arlen Specter (D-Pa.) suggested the House should "reprimand or censure" Wilson, later repeating his call on Twitter.

Retired Major General Paul Eaton, who has become a de facto Democratic spokesman on national security issues, says Wilson, a retired Colonel, may have violated military codes of conduct as well.

Writing on The Huffington Post, Eaton takes exception with Wilson's defenders who say Wilson is stressed out because his kids are serving in the military.

"Every parent whose children are serving -- as all three of mine are -- can respect the strain Col. Wilson might be feeling, and thank him for his sacrifice," Eaton writes. "Yet I would never expect to hear anything but the greatest respect for the elected President of the United States from these men and women, regardless of their political persuasion."

Meanwhile, Wilson's Web site was down and his phone lines were clogged.

"Due to exceptionally high traffic, this site is temporarily unavailable," his Web site read Thursday morning, having gone down shortly after the speech and not yet recovered from the surge in interest in the previously obscure congressman. "Please come back shortly."

A Capitol operator told The Sleuth that the switchboard was overloaded with callers to Wilson's office. His office line remained busy all morning.

By Mary Ann Akers  |  September 10, 2009; 12:14 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (50)
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Posted at 1:47 PM ET, 09/ 8/2009

Olbermann Readies a Glenn Beck Muckfest

Updated, 11:50 pm

UPDATE: It was less of a Smackdown and more of a 5th-grade style playground fight. MSNBC's Keith Olbermann did not deliver the goods he sought on his right-wing adversary, Glenn Beck. But he did make clear that in his view, Beck's attack on President Obama's green jobs czar, Van Jones, was all about "latent racism."

Olbermann charged that the coordinated effort to oust Jones, like the birther movement, was part of a "Candyland world of racism" in which President Obama's detractors will adopt "any rationalization" to conceal their true racially based motives.

But Olbermann had no dirt to dish on Beck, despite asking his viewers and blog readers to help him dig deep. He said he had decided to take the high road because "I have something Mr. Beck does not: a conscience, the respect of my colleagues and self-respect."

Plus, he said, "What could we possibly find out that would be more humiliating to Glenn Beck, more embarrassing to Glenn Beck, more disruptive about Glenn Beck than this one fact: he's Glenn Beck!"

For his part, on his Fox News TV show earlier, Glenn Beck continued gloating over Van Jones' resignation under a veiled guise of humility. "I'm not the one to congratulate," he said. "I didn't bring down Van Jones. You didn't bring down Van Jones. Van Jones brought down Van Jones."

He breezed through a litany of Jones' alleged sins and played video clips in which Jones talked about "white polluters" intentionally poisoning minority neighborhoods, called Republicans "assholes," and said it was time for African-Americans other than Obama to get "a little bit uppity."

He made clear that while Jones has resigned from the administration, his obsession won't end. "It's not about Van Jones, it's about the president...Does the president believe in communism? Does the president believe in radicalism, in black nationalism?"

Beck said it would be difficult for Olbermann or any other of his left-wing foes to dig up much new dirt on him. "You want stuff on me, you just read my books," Beck said, referencing his personal confessions of struggling with alcoholism and mistreating his family and colleagues.

Original post, 1:47 pm ET:
Tonight's cable television forecast for hardcore political mudslinging could be a muckraker's delight.

Keith Olbermann, the liberal host of MSNBC's "Countdown," promises that starting tonight on his show, he'll dish all the dirt he and his followers have dug on his conservative nemesis du jour, Fox News talk show host Glenn Beck.

Olbermann began his political archeology expedition to counter Beck's breathless all-caps appeal to his many followers on Twitter recently to "FIND EVERYTHING YOU CAN ON CASS SUNSTEIN, MARK LLOYD AND CAROL BROWNER." (They are, respectively: President Obama's nominee to be regulatory "czar" at the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs; the Federal Communications Commission's associate general counsel and chief diversity officer; and Obama's energy/climate "czar.")

Blogging on Daily Kos over the Labor Day weekend, Olbermann wrote, "I don't know why I've got this phrasing in my head, but: Find everything you can about Glenn Beck, Stu Burguiere, and Roger Ailes."

There's little secret as to why Olbermann and the lefties have it in for Beck right now. The right-wing radio and TV talk show host claimed his biggest scalp over the weekend, with the resignation of White House "green jobs" adviser Anthony "Van" Jones.

It was Beck who publicized Jones' foibles, including his flirtation with the far-out 9/11 conspiracy crowd.

Beck gloated on his radio show today, a transcript of which was posted on his Web site, that "My phone and my e-mail and Twitter hammered all weekend long, people offering congratulations."

On his way out the door, Jones called the attacks "a vicious smear campaign." Beck countered today: "I play his words on radio and television. How is it smear to quote him in context? You want me to take him out of context?"

Olbermann is readying for a cage fight tonight. "Tuesday we will expand this to the television audience and have a dedicated email address to accept leads, tips, contacts, on Beck, his radio producer Burguiere, and the chief of his tv enablers, Ailes (even though Ailes' power was desperately undercut when he failed to pull off his phony 'truce' push)," Olbermann wrote on Daily Kos.

We'll update you after we see both Beck's and Olbermann's shows tonight. Have at it, kids.

By Mary Ann Akers  |  September 8, 2009; 1:47 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (87)
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Posted at 2:27 PM ET, 09/ 3/2009

'Wide Stance,' a Play Based On Larry Craig

One of Washington's more colorful recent scandals is heading to the stage.

A playwright and filmmaker who splits his time between New York and Los Angeles is writing a fictionalized play about former senator Larry Craig's 2007 arrest in an airport men's room sex sting, The Sleuth has learned.

The work-in-progress, titled -- what else? -- "Wide Stance," is already scheduled for a debut reading in Craig's hometown of Boise in January at the spectacular home of former Washingtonian artistic power couple Liz Wolf and her husband, Bill Blahd.

But don't expect to see Craig there.

Asked if the former senator would be invited to the reading, the playwright, Tim Kirkman, told us, "Oh God, no. I wouldn't want him to come to the reading. That would be torture for him. I feel bad for him."

Kirkman, a North Carolinian, has a history of focusing on the foibles of conservative Republican politicians: he made a documentary in 1998 about his home state's senator, Jesse Helms.

Why a play about Craig? "I was totally obsessed with this Larry Craig thing, as the rest of the country was," he explained.

But the Craig character in Kirkman's play will be a fictional North Carolina congressman. Kirkman said the play will focus more on the personal lives of the characters than on what happened in the airport men's room when Craig was caught tapping his foot, which the arresting undercover police officer in the next stall recognized as a signal soliciting sex.

"I broke it apart, started thinking how many lives" were affected by it, including that of the undercover cop," Kirkman said. "I wonder what that cop's day was like when he went home that night, who is he married to, or is he married."

Still, the men's room stall may make a cameo in Kirkman's play. "I may end the play with all six people in the restroom," he told The Sleuth.

All six people would be the fictional congressman and his wife, the police officer and his wife, and a cable TV newscaster and "someone in his life," Kirkman elaborated.

Kirkman, who is gay, said "Wide Stance" will explore the meaning of "gay" to the lead character. (Craig has always insisted he is not gay.)

"I already have a lot more compassion for Larry Craig than I ever imagined I would have," Kirkman said. "You end up getting in the heads of all these people."

By Mary Ann Akers  |  September 3, 2009; 2:27 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (15)
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Posted at 2:14 PM ET, 09/ 1/2009

Harry Reid: Just Kidding About Wanting Paper to Go Under

No doubt these are tough times for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, what with a new Nevada newspaper poll showing him lagging behind his 2010 Republican challengers. But Reid says he was wasn't venting anger at the press when he told an advertising executive at the Las Vegas Review-Journal, "I hope you go out of business."

Reid's comment before the start of his speech last week to the Las Vegas Chamber of Commerce has created a firestorm in Vegas political circles.

The conservative-leaning Review-Journal editors are apoplectic over the perceived threat, but Reid and political reporters at the editorially liberal Las Vegas Sun (owned by Reid's friend, Brian Greenspun), think the Review-Journal ought to lighten up.

"Clearly he wasn't serious," Reid spokesman Jim Manley says. "Once again, the editors at the Review-Journal got it wrong."

The publisher of the Review-Journal, Sherman Frederick, penned a scathing editorial on Sunday titled "Enough is enough, Harry. Stop the childish bullying." Frederick depicted Reid as a menacing mobster, calling the senator's comment a "full-on threat perpetrated by a bully who has forgotten that he was elected to office to protect Nevadans, not sound like he's shaking them down."

Nevada's leading political reporter, Jon Ralston of the Las Vegas Sun, countered that Frederick's "ridiculous rant" was "garbage."

Ralston wrote that Frederick's editorial was nothing more than "an effective, if transparent, marketing gimmick," adding that "I suppose it is possible he actually believes what he wrote, even a more frightening proposition."

Ralston tells The Sleuth he can't imagine anyone in Nevada politics not understanding that Reid was joking to the Review-Journal ad exec. "It's just so typical of Harry Reid's humor to say something like 'I hope you go out of business.'"

Indeed, Reid does have a penchant of saying whatever comes to mind. He once called President George W. Bush "a loser." He called Justice Clarence Thomas "an embarrassment," and blasted former Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan as "one of the biggest political hacks we have here in Washington."

No dispute about it, Ralston says, Reid's poll numbers are "horrible." But knowing the senator as well as he does, Ralston says Reid isn't the type to take polling seriously, especially poll numbers released in August of 2009 involving a race to take place in November of 2010. He says there's zero chance Reid was seriously threatening the Review-Journal and he can't imagine the paper's editors truly perceived Reid's comment to be a threat.

"I find it unfathomable that anyone would think Harry Reid was not joking," Ralston said.

A new poll conducted by the Review-Journal shows Reid losing to either of the top two emerging Republican challengers if the election were held today.

Not a good situation for Reid. But Republicans still lack a clear viable candidate and Reid, as of the end of June, had $7.3 million cash on hand.

By Mary Ann Akers  |  September 1, 2009; 2:14 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (15)
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Posted at 3:36 PM ET, 08/28/2009

Rep. Rehberg Hospitalized, Boat Crash Under Investigation

Authorities investigate the scene of a boat accident near Bigfork, Mont., that sent five people to the hospital, including Rep. Denny Rehberg. (Alex Strickland/Bigfork Eagle via AP)

Updated 7:10 p.m.
Rep. Denny Rehberg (R-Mont.) and four others were hospitalized Thursday after a serious boating accident, and Montana law enforcement officials are investigating whether alcohol played any role in the crash, state officials said Friday.

Rehberg and state Senate Majority Whip Greg Barkus were hospitalized in Kalispell, Montana, along with Barkus's wife, Kathy, and two Rehberg aides. All five were in stable condition Friday afternoon, Kalispell Regional Medical Center spokesman Jim Oliverson told The Sleuth.

Their 22-foot boat ran aground on the rocky shore of Flathead Lake, near the town of Bigfork, sometime between 10 p.m. and midnight Thursday.

The congressman sustained a broken left ankle and "quite a bump on the head" in the boat crash, Rehberg's former chief of staff, Eric Iverson, told Montana state reporters during a conference call. Iverson, who still does crisis management for Rehberg, reportedly said the congressman underwent surgery to repair his ankle.

He said the congressman was not driving the boat.

Jim Satterfield, the regional director of Montana's Fish, Wildlife and Parks agency, tells The Sleuth that his agency, the Montana Highway Patrol and the Flathead County Sheriff's office are jointly investigating how fast the boat was going, who was driving and "whether alcohol and drugs were involved."

Asked if alcohol was found on board the boat, Satterfield declined to comment. "An investigation is underway," he said.

Continue reading this post »

By Mary Ann Akers  |  August 28, 2009; 3:36 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (32)
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Posted at 5:12 PM ET, 08/20/2009

Elizabeth Edwards Expects Paternity Test

Elizabeth Edwards, unwittingly perhaps, continues to draw attention to the story of her husband's extramarital affair with a campaign aide and the question of whether he fathered his mistress's child.

In her latest television appearance, on CNN's "Larry King Live" Wednesday night, Edwards said she expects the issue will at some point be settled once and for all. Asked if there might be a "solution" such as a paternity or DNA test, Edwards replied, "My expectation is at some point, something happens. And I hope for the -- for the sake of, of this child -- that it happens, you know, in a quiet way."

John Edwards himself has not denied that he either has or will soon take a paternity test to determine whether he is the father of Rielle Hunter's 18-month-old baby, Frances Quinn Hunter.

The former North Carolina Democratic senator and presidential candidate previously vehemently denied he is the father of the baby. But he admitted last summer that he had had an affair with Hunter after first dismissing the original National Inquirer report on the subject as "completely untrue, ridiculous" and "tabloid trash."

A federal grand jury in Raleigh is still investigating whether Edwards made illegal campaign or other federal payments to Hunter as hush money to conceal the nature of their relationship. Hunter has spoken to prosecutors in the case, as has former Edwards aide Andrew Young, who initially claimed paternity of Hunter's baby and now says he did so only to protect Edwards.

Young has signed a deal with a publisher to write a tell-all book in which he reportedly explains why he claimed last summer to be the father of the Hunter baby. He also reportedly claims to have a copy of a sex tape of Edwards and Hunter.

A year ago, Hunter ruled out genetic testing to determine the father of her baby. Her lawyer, Robert Gordon, issued a statement saying, "Rielle will not participate in DNA testing or any other invasion of her or her daughter's privacy now or in the future."

The statement was issued at a time when Hunter and her baby, as well as Young and his family, were being financially supported by the late Fred Baron, a wealthy longtime friend and donor to Edwards. Baron, who had cancer, died in October of last year.

Any personal payments that may have been made by Edwards to Hunter would not be part of the ongoing federal investigation, nor would his decision to take a paternity test.

By Mary Ann Akers  |  August 20, 2009; 5:12 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (27)
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Posted at 2:37 PM ET, 08/20/2009

Are Birthers High On DeLay's Dance Card?

Tom DeLay has announced that his dance partner on "Dancing With the Stars" will be Cheryl Burke, a two-time winner of the ABC show. Laser-focused on winning, the Hammer, as the disciplinarian former House majority leader was known in Congress, is already compiling a list of e-mail addresses and phone numbers through his Web site for an anticipated massive get-out-vote effort.

A source close to DeLay says the former Texas Republican congressman, who was forced to resign his leadership position -- and, ultimately, his seat in Congress -- in 2006 amid an ethics scandal, isn't plotting a political comeback. He's doing the show because "he just likes to dance," the source tells us.

But his strategy of winning is as political as anything and apparently involves rallying the base of his party.

On Wednesday night, DeLay appeared on MSNBC's "Hardball," where he embraced the birther movement's argument that President Obama is not a natural-born citizen as constitutionally required for the office of the presidency.

"I would like the president to produce his birth certificate,'' DeLay said in response to a question from Chris Matthews, openly addressing a thorny issue that his successors in the House GOP leadership have been silent on.

"Most illegal aliens here in America can.... Why can't the president produce a birth certificate?'' he asked.

DeLay doesn't mention the birther issue on his Web site or any place else. For now, he's staying focused on practicing for his debut on "Dancing With the Stars" next month.

He's dancing five hours a day, with cigar breaks in between, we're told.

On Twitter Wednesday night, DeLay wrote, "After two dance sessions I can tell you Cheryl Burke is the most patient person I have ever met."

While DeLay certainly has his cheerleaders -- lead among them his daughter, Dani DeLay Ferro -- he also has his detractors, especially online. When they tell the former majority leader to "break a leg" on stage, they aren't exactly wishing him luck.

"To @tomdelay: Break a leg. No, literally. I'd actually watch the show if he did that," tweeted Bruce Cough of Portland, Ore., under the name "Bodiegroup."

Another liberal foe named Ellie Carlson wrote, "Drop the Hammer! Send the Hammer to the Slammer!"

Twitterer Exurban Jon joked that C-SPAN should create its own reality show -- "So You Think You Can Redistrict?" -- a reference to DeLay's lopsided congressional redistricting plan in Texas to benefit Republicans.

Here's our original posting on the surprise announcement about DeLay's reemergence into the limelight via the disco ball.

By Mary Ann Akers  |  August 20, 2009; 2:37 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (23)
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Posted at 4:03 PM ET, 08/17/2009

Jenny Sanford Unplugged in Vogue

(Jonathan Becker/Vogue)

South Carolina first lady Jenny Sanford likened her estranged husband's affair with an Argentine woman to pornography addiction or alcoholism in an interview in the September issue of Vogue magazine, set to hit newsstands this week.

"Over the course of both pastoral and marriage counseling, it became clear to me that he was just obsessed with going to see this woman. I have learned that these affairs are almost like an addiction to alcohol or pornography. They just can't break away from them," Sanford told the fashion magazine.

Gov. Mark Sanford certainly proved he couldn't break away when he was busted visiting his girlfriend in Argentina in June instead of hiking the Appalachian Trail (alone) as he had claimed.

Other notable quotes from Mrs. Sanford's interview with Vogue include:

"It never occurred to me that he would do something like that. The person I married was centered on a core of morals. The person who did this is not centered on those morals."

"Everybody would like to escape sometimes. I'd like somebody 5,000 miles away I could E-mail. It's not exclusive to men, but I know that isn't realistic."

"I also feel sorry for the other woman. I am sure she is a fine person. It can't be fun for her, though I do sometimes question her judgment. If she knew the newspaper had those E-mails back in December, why did she want him to come in June? But I can't go there too much. All I can do is pray for her because she made some poor choices."

The other woman is Maria Belén Chapur of Argentina, she of the "magnificently gentle kisses" and "erotic beauty of you holding yourself (or two magnificent parts of yourself)," as her boyfriend, the South Carolina governor, wrote to his paramour in one of his love e-mails to her.

Mrs. Sanford, incidentally, tells Vogue she and her husband didn't share such passion when they met. "We weren't madly in love, but we were compatible and good friends."

As for the future, Sanford, who has been living at the family's oceanfront cottage while Mark Sanford remains in the governor's mansion, says she's open to getting back together with her husband, difficult as it may be. "I am not in charge of revenge. That's not up to me. That's for the Lord to decide, and it's important for me to teach that to my boys," she tells Vogue. "All I can do is forgive. Reconciliation is something else, and that is going to be a harder road. I have put my heart and soul into being a good mother and wife. Now I think it's up to my husband to do the soul-searching to see if he wants to stay married. The ball is in his court."

By Mary Ann Akers  |  August 17, 2009; 4:03 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (62)
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