- The Washington Times - Monday, January 30, 2006

Big powwow

Toss an unresolved political scandal or two into the mix of your convention and watch the press swarm.

Rep. Mike Pence, Indiana Republican and chairman of the Republican Study Committee (RSC), will welcome a record number of congressmen — and reporters — to the annual Conservative Members Retreat in Baltimore today. And don’t think the selection of a new House majority leader isn’t on everybody’s minds, given the recent resignation of embattled Rep. Tom DeLay of Texas.

Inside the Beltway has learned from Mr. Pence’s spokesman, Matt Lloyd, that no less than 60 RSC members — more than half of its body — will be in Baltimore today and tomorrow, the “biggest attendance ever,” while “twice as many media” have signed up for credentials compared with last year.

In addition, space has been reserved for the “first-ever blogs row” of Internet reporters, which Mr. Lloyd says will provide a “new dynamic” to proceedings in which Republicans will hear from candidates for both majority leader and majority whip.

Perhaps just as important given that the entire House is up for re-election in November, RSC members will be visited tomorrow by Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, the “first real big talk our guys will have about the war — very significant,” Mr. Lloyd states.

“Rummy was an RSC member,” adds the spokesman, referring to Mr. Rumsfeld’s years as a congressman from Illinois.

As for the rest of the schedule, participants in the Heritage Foundation-sponsored retreat will hear today from Rep. Joe Pitts of Pennsylvania, chairman of the Values Action Team, and Rep. Jeb Hensarling of Texas, chairman of the RSC Budget and Spending Task Force. And given the ongoing controversy surrounding disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff, an afternoon session today centers on “lobbying reform.”

Later this afternoon, there will be presentations from the Republican candidates for majority leader (Reps. Roy Blunt of Missouri, John A. Boehner of Ohio, and John Shadegg of Arizona) and majority whip (Reps. Mike Rogers of Michigan, Zach Wamp of Tennessee, Todd Tiahrt of Kansas, and Eric Cantor of Virginia.)

Before Mr. Rumsfeld’s address tomorrow, RSC members will hear from columnist George Will, former Sen. Phil Gramm of Texas, and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich of Georgia.

Here’s your slices

Eight Washington political insiders, including three Capitol Hill staffers, two lobbyists, one lawyer and one public relations executive — three of them who happen to be seven months’ pregnant — got more than they ordered Friday night at A.V. Ristorante, the venerable Italian restaurant along New York Avenue Northwest where House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia and former Attorney General Janet Reno have dined.

“The whole thing started because seven of us had actually finished our dinners and one had yet to be served,” one of the women tells this column. “After having asked about the status of the pizza a number of times, the owner became agitated.”

So agitated, she says, that when the party refused to pay for the one entree, which finally arrived at the table, “a very loud screaming match ensued.”

“Someone in our party said that he shouldn’t treat his customers that way,” she says of the man who identified himself as the owner. “The seemingly unstable man then pulled a kitchen knife on one of the dinner guests.”

Metropolitan Police responded, but not before the trio of pregnant women fled the restaurant “in a state of panic,” she says. Reached yesterday, police spokesman Sgt. Joe Gentile was not aware of any charges filed, although responding cops said their incident report would be referred to a detective. Nobody at AV Ristorante could be reached for comment yesterday.

Say it with a thong

When it comes to seeking the presidency, a politician can be judged by his underwear.

No, we’re not talking about whether one like Bill Clinton wears boxers or briefs. Instead, you can judge whether a politician is well on the road to the White House when he has underwear named after him.

Take Sen. George Allen of Virginia, who has his eyes on the Oval Office in 2008. A California-based company, with no ties to the Republican, is peddling the “George Allen for President Classic Thong” and “George Allen for President Boxer Shorts.”

We’ll be the first to warn you when the “Hillary Clinton for President Thong” crops up.

John McCaslin, whose column is nationally syndicated, can be reached at 202/636-3284 or jmccaslin@washingtontimes.com.

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