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Close Encounters Of the Fourth Kind

By Richard Leiby
The Washington Post
Thursday, October 7, 2004; Page C03

It depends on what the meaning of the word "met" is: Some debate viewers thought Vice President Cheney, who also serves as president of the Senate, got off a good zinger Tuesday night when he ripped into John Edwards's attendance in the Senate. Like a stern principal, Cheney lectured Edwards, the boyish truant: "The first time I ever met you was when you walked on the stage tonight."

Ooops. Turns out they'd met at least three times before. One of the meetings was caught on camera: on Feb. 1, 2001, when the vice president thanked the North Carolina senator by name and dined next to him at a Senate prayer breakfast. Then on Jan. 8, 2003, Edwards accompanied Elizabeth Dole (R-N.C.) to her swearing-in -- conducted by Cheney. And, according to Tim Russert, a pretty good eyewitness, Edwards and Cheney also met backstage and shook hands on April 8, 2001, during a taping of NBC's "Meet the Press."

Edwards and Cheney at Prayer Breakfast
Edwards and Cheney at Prayer Breakfast
Edwards and Cheney, dining at a Senate prayer breakfast in February 2001. (C-SPAN)

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Was Cheney dissembling -- as Edwards suggested post-debate -- or misremembering? Of course not! The Bush-Cheney camp yesterday portrayed those occasions as "casual encounters," not meetings.

"The fact is that the vice president has never seen John Edwards at work. . . . He's never met John Edwards at work in the U.S. Senate," campaign spokesman Steve Schmidt told us. "The vice president meets thousands of people and he's had three casual encounters with John Edwards. . . . I think most people understand that a casual encounter -- a breakfast, Elizabeth Dole's swearing-in -- is different from John Edwards showing up at work."

And now we'll go stand in the corner, having learned the true meaning of the word "spin."


• Calling Jenna Bush: Austin Grill wants YOU! The Tex-Mex joint in Glover Park is offering VIP treatment to Dubya's blond daughter -- that is, free drinks. There's a catch. The booze is available only on Tuesdays and Wednesdays from 11 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., when bartender Mike Holden is working. It was his idea, but he swears there's no crush. "The offer's good to Barbara or to any first daughters, present or past," the 29-year-old told us. "No, no crush. Besides, I don't know if I could go through with it, meeting the dad and all." (Holden also notes that his place is modeled after one of the twins' favorite underage hangouts in Austin, which may or may not stir fond memories.)

Bill Russell, the man who once defined basketball and led the Boston Celtics to 11 championships in 13 years, stopped by the National Museum of American History yesterday to launch "Sports: Breaking Records, Breaking Barriers," a show combed from the extensive sports collection at the Smithsonian. A student asked who his favorite player is today, reports The Post's Jacqueline Trescott. " Kevin Garnett," Russell responded. "He plays with enthusiasm, intelligence and works very hard, and he has to be the loneliest man playing today because his team gives him no support." Timberwolves, listen up!

• The GOP can't seem to resist giving Michael Moore publicity. The Michigan Republican Party this week demanded that county prosecutors file charges against the rotund liberal filmmaker, claiming his "Slacker Uprising Tour" of college campuses -- during which Moore offers prizes of clean underwear and ramen noodles to first-time student voters -- amounts to bribery. On his Web site yesterday, Moore posted this pledge: "The slackers of America shall not be denied their noodles, they will proudly wear their clean underwear as free Americans, and they will vote Bush out of office come November 2nd (though they will not show up to the polls until well after noon)!"

• If you want to relive those heady days in Florida during the 2000 election, visit the Avalon Theatre at 7 tonight to see "Trouble in Paradise," a documentary by Laurel Greenberg, and meet Washington filmmaker Aviva Kempner, who is screening her short feature "Today I Vote for My Joey." It depicts a group of elderly Jews who backed Joe Lieberman for veep but mistakenly voted for Pat Buchanan for prez. "I made this tragicomedy because of what my mother said on election evening 2000: 'No Jew ever knowingly voted for Pat Buchanan,' " Kempner told us.

• CNN seems to be going to lengths to ensure that Daryn Kagan, its midmorning anchor, doesn't touch news regarding her sweetie pie, Rush Limbaugh. Yesterday Limbaugh lost an appeal on his medical records case, and Kagan abruptly tossed the story to early afternoon anchor Kyra Phillips. Said a CNN spokesman: "We value the trust our viewers place in us and this is the right way to handle it, plain and simple."

This Date in Gossip

Wilbur Mills with Fanne Foxe. (AP)
30 years ago: Rep. Wilbur Mills, one of the most powerful men in Congress, splashes into history with a bridge-leaping Argentine stripper who would come to be known as the "Tidal Basin Bombshell." In the wee hours of Oct. 7, Mills (D-Ark.), chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, and four companions were pulled over near the Tidal Basin by U.S. Park Police for speeding with no lights on. One of the occupants jumped off a bridge into the murky water below. Her name: Annabell Battistella, also known as Fanne Foxe. Mills, clearly intoxicated, was bleeding from the nose and had scratch marks on his face. He later said the injuries were a result of his trying to restrain Foxe.

The married congressmen and the married stripper (also billed as "the Argentine Firecracker") were reported to have been frequent companions, though he initially denied even being at the scene when she took her famous dive. Despite the scandal, Arkansas voters reelected him to another term. But later, after a bizarre appearance onstage with Foxe in Boston, he stepped down from his chairmanship of Ways and Means.

With Anne Schroeder

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