Bush's Mystery Host

The Press Secretary, Up Close and Personal on 'The Daily Show'

Was it editor Helen Gurley Brown . . .
Was it editor Helen Gurley Brown . . .
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By Peter Baker
Monday, March 17, 2008

So it's the question every press secretary must dread. Your boss has just been accused of transporting hookers across state lines. What do you tell the jackals of the media now baying at your door?

Dana Perino has the answer: "It's a matter under litigation and I couldn't comment on it."

Fortunately for Perino, that question has never come up in her day job as White House press secretary. But it came up the other night on "The Daily Show," when host Jon Stewart asked how she would have handled the Eliot Spitzer scandal. "I have had to deal with a lot of things, a lot of crisis communication, but never that," Perino said with relief.

Still, a segment with Stewart can't be that much easier for an adviser to President Bush. But Perino was a good sport as he grilled her about Bush's relationship with Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), the Iraq war, Helen Thomas, the CIA leak case and so on. At one point, he pressed her on whether she had ever been put in a position where she was not telling the truth. She smiled and said no.

"Now is that because that's true," Stewart asked as the audience laughed, "or because they get you to the point where they break your spirit to the point where you truly believe?"

Perino must have gotten the unofficial "Daily Show" talking points -- guests should let Stewart do the jokes and gamely go along as his straight man. Perino laughed as Stewart skewered her predecessors, particularly Ari Fleischer, who was, he said, "tough to look at." Perino stood up for Fleischer and said he had female groupies, to which Stewart asked, "Is that like the women who visit murderers in prison?"

As they started to wrap up, Stewart noted that Bush often says he is going to "sprint to the finish," then asked, "Can you get him to run faster?"

"You're going to miss him," Perino retorted. "What in the world will you talk about when he's gone?"

"I'll think of something."

Mum in Manhattan

Speaking of comedians, guess whose home Bush visited while in New York on Friday? Jerry Seinfeld's?

Okay, actually, we're assuming the $1.4 million Republican National Committee fundraiser was probably hosted by one of Seinfeld's neighbors in the Beresford, the celebrity-packed, high-end co-op building overlooking Central Park. Especially since Jessica Seinfeld, his wife, has already donated $2,300 to Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton's campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination.

So, what other names are on the mailboxes at the three-towered Beresford? Glenn Close, the actress? No, hard to imagine that. Diplomat Richard Holbrooke? He's counting on another president soon to get back into the Cabinet. What about tennis great John McEnroe? Or Cosmopolitan's Helen Gurley Brown? A better guess might be Vikram Pandit, the Citigroup CEO and occasional political donor (mostly to Republicans), who bought the late actor Tony Randall's 10-room flat for a cool $17.9 million last year.

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