Just Another Hiss on the Trail

Eric Woolson
Slither, slither: Eric Woolson, Iowa campaign director for Mike Huckabee, makes nice with a bushmaster in Costa Rica. "Some people call it a working vacation," Woolson says. "But I wouldn't be quite so unkind." (Brooks Woolson)
By Amy Argetsinger and Roxanne Roberts
Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Sometimes you stumble upon a phrase that burns into your brain and haunts your dreams. Such as in The Post's Sunday story about Mike Huckabee's surprising surge in Iowa . . . which was so unexpected, wrote our colleagues Michael Shear and Juliet Eilperin, that "his Iowa state director is in Costa Rica hunting snakes."

"It's the home of the bushmaster, the largest venomous snake in the Western Hemisphere," Eric Woolson told us yesterday, a day after returning to Des Moines headquarters. "If you're going to go, you might as well go big."

Woolson, 50, is a veteran Iowa political consultant who has worked full time since early last year on the former Arkansas governor's long-shot bid for the GOP nomination. But he's always been fascinated by snakes, even taking his son (then age 10), on an anaconda-hunting trip to Venezuela a few years ago.

Snakes -- hmmm, interesting hobby for a campaign operative. "Some people call it a working vacation, but I wouldn't be quite so unkind."

Does this involve . . . killing them? No, it's more like birdwatching. "But with this kind of animal you have to pick it up to get a good look at it." Last week, Woolson and son Brooks joined an adventure-travel team that slogged through the Costa Rican rain forest -- enduring bites from inch-long bala ants -- to get up close and personal with giant parrot snakes, false coral snakes, eyelash pit vipers and, of course, the famed bushmaster.

"You gotta move kind of fast," said Woolson, who scheduled the trip back when everyone was counting on a later caucus date. "These animals are in the brush or over the trees on top of you. It requires a lot of focus. They're either trying to get away from you or they're standing their ground. You don't spend any time thinking about the campaign when you're out there. If you do, bad things can happen."

A Fair Shake? Runner-Up Makes Light of Her Fate

Kate Michael, who represented Washington in this year's Miss America pageant, tried for another crown Saturday at the Miss D.C. USA contest but fell short. On Sunday, she shared her reaction on a friend's Facebook page: "I got 2nd runner up, which is incredible, since they were never going to pick a girl as 'pale' as me anyway."

Michael told us yesterday the post was an "inside joke" about not spending enough time in the tanning bed to look good in her swimsuit. "This had to do with tanning and swimsuit: I've never won the swimsuit preliminary, but that's always been my goal." Chelsey Rodgers, a third-year law student at Howard, will represent the District at the Miss USA pageant next year.

HEY, ISN'T THAT . . . ?

Jenna and Barbara Bush celebrating their birthday a day early at Middleburg's Red Fox Inn on Saturday. Their lively party of eight arrived by limo after a wine-tasting tour, dined in a semiprivate room, accepted a round of shooters from fellow diners and chocolate mousse cake from the restaurant, split the check evenly and tipped modestly. On Sunday, their actual 26th birthday, the twins dined with their parents and pals at the White House after taping their roles in Barney the dog's annual Christmas video.

Michael Kors in line for the National Gallery's Edward Hopper exhibit Saturday with a large fun-looking family-ish group, including kids. The fashion designer (familiar from his regular gig judging "Project Runway") wore jeans, a black hoodie, New Balance sneakers, and complimented another gallery-goer on her Michael Kors bag. Later, the whole gang was spotted shopping at Urban Outfitters in Georgetown.

Peter Jackson touring the Spy Museum on Friday with his wife and three young girls. The "Lord of the Rings" director (puffy coat, woolly hat, green cargos) came to town on a break from shooting "The Lovely Bones" in the Philly suburbs.


Romancing: Newly divorced French President Nicolas Sarkozy is apparently repairing his broken heart with French TV glamour girl Laurence Ferrari, who conducted an interview with him eight months ago. The political reporter, newly split from her husband, has been spotted having romantic dinners and even traveling with Sarkozy during a private visit to North Africa this month, European papers report. A spokesman says the president's personal life is "not open for discussion."

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