By Mary Ann Akers And Paul Kane
Thursday, June 26, 2008
Nothing, not even skyrocketing gas prices, seems to slow down Roberta McCain, the indefatigable 96-year-old mother of Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and a notorious lead-foot behind the wheel. She's still speeding around like a NASCAR driver on the last lap.
Mrs. McCain told us at a recent cocktail party that she got a $40 speeding ticket in Chevy Chase a few weeks ago. "Don't speed up there," she warned with a wry smile.
Her latest citation is about the umpteenth she's received. "I know she has gotten a bunch of speeding tickets," McCain campaign spokesman Brian Rogers acknowledges.
The senator from Arizona often invokes his mother's spotty driving record on the campaign trail. One of his favorite stories is how Mom, some years ago, was given a ticket for going 112 mph in Arizona.
We found a record of one traffic citation against Roberta Wright McCain in Arizona court records, dated Sept. 30, 2002, but it didn't specify the violation or how fast Roberta McCain was driving. Our request for more information from the local court in Seligman, Ariz., where the citation was issued, went unanswered.
Arizona has two categories of speeding tickets: civil, for anything less than 20 mph over the legal speed limit, and criminal, for anything faster. State transportation officials say the highest legally allowable speed on Arizona highways is 75 mph, which, of course, would put Mrs. McCain's 112-mph ticket in the "criminal" category.
Regardless, we thought the nonagenarian would-be first mom could use some tips on how to avoid the blue lights in the future. So we turned to Rep. Tom Davis (R-Va.), a McCain supporter who, like the senator's mother, is known for his proclivity to put the pedal to the metal. (Davis brags about his "spotless record" of dodging radar-toting police but confesses to two speeding tickets in the past 25 years, none since 1998).
Beyond his own credo of "never speed if you can spot a police car nearby," Davis suggests Mrs. McCain follow this three-point plan for avoiding tickets:
· "Don't run a red light in the District. Those cameras will catch you."
· "Drive at rush hour. You won't have to worry about speeding, because the traffic is so bad. . . . Or drive on I-95 any time of the day between Richmond and Dale City."
· "Take Metro. We just authorized another $1.5 billion for it here in the House."
But here's perhaps better advice from Cydney DeModica, spokeswoman for the Arizona Department of Transportation's Motor Vehicle Division: "I'm thinking she needs to get a driver."The Sincerest Form of Flattery
Don Rhodes, a columnist for the Chronicle in Augusta, Ga., was at his nephew's graduation last month when he heard the commencement address by Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.) about "the six secret rules for living: learning, respect of others, ethics, love, faith, dreaming."
In a column last weekend, Rhodes wrote that he especially enjoyed a story Isakson told about Oklahoma humorist Will Rogers, whom Isakson quoted as saying, "Just remember this: Always love people and use things -- never use people and love things."
Rhodes went home and searched Google for the quote and discovered "an almost identical speech about the six secret rules for living had been given three years ago," by Rep. Jeff Miller (R-Fla.) at the University of West Florida.
Suspecting that Isakson had ripped off Miller, Rhodes contacted the senator's office to inquire about possible plagiarism. Isakson's aides did some digging and discovered that Isakson's speech was posted on Miller's Web site -- with no attribution.
So maybe it wasn't on par with the 1988 plagiarism of Sen. Joe Biden (D-Del.), but the speech was dear to Isakson's heart. He wrote it for his son's high school graduation in 1988 and has given it "over 100 times in the last 20 years," said his spokeswoman, Sheridan Watson.
Miller says he borrowed Isakson's speech for his commencement address to the University of West Florida in 2004 and attributed much of it to Isakson there. But whoever posted it on the congressman's Web site forgot to credit Isakson.
"It was certainly wrong to have it up like that and it was corrected as soon as we were notified," says Miller's chief of staff, Dan McFaul.
Rhodes's parting words for Miller came in the column's title: "Be honest when borrowing words."Making an Impression
Freshman House members rarely venture to the other side of the Capitol. But today a trio of the newest House members -- Reps. Bill Foster (D-Ill.), Don Cazayoux (D-La.) and Travis Childers (D-Miss.) -- are serving as guest lecturers to a luncheon of Senate Democrats.
The three newcomers, all elected in special elections this spring in districts long held by Republicans, have been invited to address the Senate Democratic Policy Committee. The weekly gathering usually hosts political strategists ( James Carville is a frequent attendee), authors (such as New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman) or businessmen ( Rupert Murdoch).
Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.), who chairs the lunch, acknowledged that "very seldom" do the senators invite House colleagues over to talk to the members of the upper chamber. But Dorgan said all three House freshmen "defied the odds" in winning races that could prove to be political road maps for the party. The victories came in districts once considered unattainable by Democrats.
Dorgan expects the lunch to be more than just a victory lap. "It'll give us a chance to learn how they did it," he said.Keeping It Clean
Speaking of crisscrossing the chamber, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) made her way across the Capitol yesterday to visit the House Democratic Caucus at its weekly meeting, part of the welcome-home-to-Congress tour that began Tuesday. Clinton was warmly greeted by a group of House members that had been almost evenly divided between her and Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) in the Democratic primary.
But before lots of rah-rah talk, Clinton couldn't resist taking a shot at the caucus chairman, Rep. Rahm Emanuel (Ill.). Emanuel is notoriously sharp-tongued and proficient with the seven dirty words that the late George Carlin put to use so well.
Emanuel and Clinton go back to Emanuel's days as a top adviser to President Bill Clinton, and he was sweet in welcoming her back. "The Senate is a club, the Democratic House caucus is your family," Emanuel told Clinton, according to the well-kept notes of our source in the room.
When it was her turn to speak, Clinton took note of Emanuel's tone. "That was my longest interaction with him without wincing," Clinton said, drawing lots of knowing laughter from colleagues who have been on the receiving end of Emanuel's foul-mouthed tirades.