Capitol Hillbillies

Hillary: Calm in hostage crisis

When the hostages had been released and their alleged captor arrested, a regal-looking Hillary Rodham Clinton strolled out of her Washington home, the picture of calm in the face of crisis.

The image, broadcast just as the network news began, conveyed the message a thousand town hall meetings and campaign commercials strive for — namely, that the Democratic presidential contender can face disorder in a most orderly manner.

“I am very grateful that this difficult day has ended so well,” she declared as she stood alone at the microphone.

Flip-flopping Harry Reid

Pity poor Harry Reid. Back in April, the Senate Democratic leader proclaimed the war in Iraq “lost.” Two months before Gen. David Petraeus had in place the reinforcements he needed to implement his bold, new strategy, which included a “surge” of operations against al Qaeda forces in Iraq, Reid also said: “The surge is not accomplishing anything.”

America’s worst Congressman

America’s worst congressman, Tom Tancredo, caused quite a stir recently when he aired a television ad for his presidential campaign. The ad features a man in a hooded sweatshirt detonating a backpack bomb in a shopping mall, then cuts to scenes of carnage from terrorist attacks in Europe.

Cheney’s heart gets a jolt

Doctors administered an electrical shock to Vice President Dick Cheney’s heart and restored it to a normal rhythm during a 2 1/2 hour hospital visit Monday. The procedure was described as a low-risk, standard practice. Cheney, 66, went home from George Washington University Hospital and was expected back at work on Tuesday.

Lott resigns from Senate

Trent Lott, the second-ranking Republican in the U.S. Senate, said on Monday he will retire, ending a 34-year career in Congress in which he became a powerful conservative figure.

“I am announcing today that I will be retiring from the Senate by the end of the year,” Lott, a former college cheerleader, said in his hometown of Pascagoula, Mississippi.

“Let me make it clear, there are no (health) problems. I feel fine. I may look my 66 years, but I honestly feel good.”

Lott made a remarkable political recovery from a gaffe in 2002 that cost him his position as Senate majority leader.

Republicans threaten Iraq aid cut

Two Republican senators said Monday that unless Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki makes more political progress by January, the U.S. should consider pulling political or financial support for his government.

The stern warnings, coming from Sens. Lindsey Graham and Saxby Chambliss, are an indication that while GOP patience on the war has greatly increased this fall because of security gains made by the military, it isn’t bottomless.

Hastert calls it quits

Former House Speaker Dennis Hastert, who made a farewell speech to House colleagues 11 day earlier, made his resignation official Monday with a letter to Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich.

Hastert’s formal resignation, which was to take effect at 11:59 p.m. EST Monday, came the same day that Mississippi GOP Sen. Trent Lott announced he would retire by year’s end after 35 years in Congress.

Hastert had announced in August he wouldn’t seek another term and earlier this month confirmed he wouldn’t finish his 11th term, but he hadn’t said when he would resign his seat.

Lott will resign by year’s end

Sen. Trent Lott of Mississippi, the Senate’s No. 2 Republican, plans to resign his seat by the end of the year, congressional and Bush administration officials said Monday.

Lott, 66, scheduled two news conferences in Pascagoula and Jackson later in the day to reveal his plans. According to the officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity ahead of the announcement, Lott intends to resign effective at the end of the year.

Fatcat political donations hit record levels

The volume of political donations from industries and interest groups is gushing to new records even before the first 2008 primaries are held, and Democrats are pocketing most of it.

The biggest wave comes from the securities and investment industries, which have increased their giving 91 percent over 2004, giving a whopping $50 million already. Of that, Democrats have gotten 61 percent.

Lawyers and law firms have spent $76 million so far, a jump of 52 percent from 2004, with Democrats scoring 77 percent of this cash.

Few friends for troubled lawmaker

Rep. John Doolittle is garnering tepid public support from his California GOP colleagues in the latest sign of his slumping political fortunes as he aims for re-election while under criminal investigation.

Doolittle, a nine-term conservative who represents a heavily Republican district in northernmost California, is under scrutiny along with his wife, Julie, for their ties to jailed lobbyist Jack Abramoff. The ethics cloud nearly cost him re-election last year and since then his legal problems have worsened with grand jury subpoenas issued to him and aides and an FBI raid on his home.