Steele walking in the footsteps of ...

The Baltimore Sun

If Michael Steele's critics were right, that he wasn't ready for prime time, then the unsuccessful Senate candidate has landed the perfect job - leading the GOP farm team.

The ex-lieutenant governor yesterday was named chairman of GOPAC, which recruits Republicans across the country to run for public office.

Steele had the White House to twist his arm for the Senate run. GOPAC is for the little guys, the ones for whom lieutenant governor is not an entry-level position.

The group seeks to "build a farm team of Republican officeholders who could then run for congress or higher state offices," according to the GOPAC Web site.

Previous GOPAC chairmen include former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, former Oklahoma Governor Frank Keating and former U.S. Rep. J.C. Watts of Oklahoma.

Rumsfeld as roadblock

Steele clinched the GOPAC job days after he appeared on national TV - distancing himself from George Bush.

When he was running for Senate, Steele was careful not to criticize his homeboy. He took the gloves off once - at one of those only in Washington, no-names-please, but-go-ahead-and-describe-me-right-down-to-my-cufflinks luncheons with half the D.C. press corps.

The former lieutenant governor was more candid in a televised interview the other day, disagreeing with Bush's plan for a troop surge and blaming the president for his loss to Ben Cardin.

Steele made the comments to Comedy Central's Stephen Colbert. So he can always claim - like after the press luncheon - that he was just joshing.

Colbert: Do you like the Iraq plan - 20,000 more troops? What do you think we should do? Pull out?

Steele: No, if you're going to do a surge, then you do 100,000-plus. You get it done.

Colbert: I'll one better you - 300 million. Then we're all in. OK? Nobody's left here to attack. Homeland secure."

Later in the interview ...

Colbert: Do you think that if George Bush had fired Don Rumsfeld earlier you'd be a senator right now?

Steele: Oh, Lord have mercy. Yes.

Blinkin', but not noddin' or winkin'

Uneasy about the war, the health of the planet and all manner of domestic woes, Americans tuned in to the president the other night to hear his solutions. Many switched off their TVs sure of just one thing:

Nancy Pelosi blinks a lot.

Three short weeks into the job, the first female speaker of the House has inspired what is surely another first - a speaker-themed drinking game.

Two guys watching the State of the Union at Tortilla Coast on Capitol Hill told CNN they did shots every time Pelosi blinked. They didn't last long.

"After about 10, we were, of course, stopped," one said.

Wonkette mused that it was no easy task to sit on camera for an hour with nothing to do. "Pelosi, to her credit, didn't roll her eyes," the blog said. "But she did act like there was something wrong with her contacts (or her eye job) the entire time."

Pelosi's fluttering was all the more noticeable because rostrum sidekick Dick Cheney was the picture of reptilian reserve.

"While Pelosi clocked a good 25-30 blinks per minute, Cheney barely mustered 3 or 4," the blog reported.

Even Pelosi's brother, former Mayor Tommy D'Alesandro III, noticed the blinking. Like other viewers, he also thought the speaker had something in her mouth. "A lozenge," he figured.

Pelosi spokesman Drew Hammill blamed the blinking on the bright lights added "to illuminate the floor and make it TV friendly."

"She's sensitive to those lights," he said. "It's really quite overwhelming. We're literally talking about like a concert, those racks of lights. They're quite intense."

What about the alleged lozenge?

Hammill said Pelosi had nothing in her mouth, but acknowledged lots of people got that impression. "We've had that question a couple times today."

A pleasing touch for Pelosi

President Bush kicked off his speech with a nod not just to Pelosi, but to her father, the late Tommy D'Alesandro Jr., who served as a congressman and mayor of Baltimore. Watching on TV, Tommy III nearly fell off the couch.

"I almost cried, to tell you the truth. I almost cried," he said. "My father worked so hard all his life and this is like a crowning achievement to be mentioned by the president."

Pelosi was surprised and touched, too, spokesman Hammill said.

"She was very honored and very pleased that he would take the time not only to acknowledge her ascendancy to be speaker, but her family history within the House," Hammill said. "It was very touching and kind of the president."

So now Bush can get whatever he wants from Pelosi, right?

"Not quite," Hammill said.

Right place at the right time

What was with that lingering shot of Gov. Martin O'Malley during the State of the Union Address? Any chance that Pelosi asked the pool camera to showcase her new favorite governor, who's a great pal of her brother, the ex-mayor? Her spokesman said no, but that it's "natural to show shots of the speaker's box."

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