Revving Up Their Engines Against SUVs

Los Angeles pundit Arianna Huffington, who until last year drove a gas-guzzling Lincoln Navigator, has joined forces with Hollywood producer Laurence Bender and environmental activist Laurie David, wife of comedy auteur Larry David, to produce television commercials urging patriotic Americans to get their SUVs off the road and, for the sake of national security, drive fuel-efficient vehicles instead.

"Three weeks ago I wrote a column and asked this rhetorical question: What about a people's ad campaign?" Huffington, now a 50-miles-per-gallon Toyota Prius owner, told us yesterday from her Brentwood, Calif., home. "So we've started a little nonprofit called the SUV Ad Campaign, and we've raised $35,000 in small donations with no effort at all."

Talk about fuel-efficient!

The ads -- which "Got Milk?" campaign creator Scott Burns has agreed to direct pro bono, Huffington said -- are styled as biting parodies of the latest government-supported public service announcements linking illegal drugs to all manner of murder and mayhem.

One script calls for "quick cuts of various people in their SUVs looking out the window talking to camera and driving away. . . . Their deliveries should be mindlessly cheerful -- Person 1: 'I helped hijack an airplane.' Person 2: 'I helped blow up a nightclub.' Person 3: 'I funded a terrorist training camp in a foreign country.' . . . Group: 'And we did it all just by driving our SUVs.' Super 1: 'Where does the money you spend on gasoline really wind up?' Stock footage of terrorist training camp. Super 2: 'The biggest weapon of mass destruction is parked in your driveway.' " Huffington acknowledged that their crusade will be a difficult one -- especially in the precincts of Brentwood and Beverly Hills. "They're wildly popular here. The dealers can't even keep the Hummers in stock, they're selling so fast. SUVs are parked all over the place. But it's not like you need an SUV to drive to Starbucks."

We wondered: Will Huffington's campaign extend to corporate jets, which burn thousands of gallons an hour? "I don't have one, but if one is already going somewhere and there's a free seat, we would not refuse to take the trip. What's the logic of that?" Huffington answered. "Right now we're focused on SUVs. One step at a time."

So what's Harold Ford Jr. up to?

The conventional wisdom says the 32-year-old Tennessee congressman won't win today's election for House minority leader against 62-year-old Democratic Whip Nancy Pelosi. Some of the liberal Californian's loyalists, who claim she closed the deal days ago with a majority of the caucus, have been grumbling that Ford is in it for the exposure (which he can bank for a future political campaign).

After all, Ford announced his sudden candidacy last week on Don Imus's radio and MSNBC show and has presented his People magazine-certified "50 Most Beautiful People" mug on a dozen television shows since.

This week, as surprise-candidate Marcy Kaptur (D-Ohio) prepared to jump in, Ford and his staffers traipsed the halls, hand-delivering to all 208 Democratic House members copies of his four-minute campaign video. A Pelosi spokeswoman declined to comment on any of the above, other than to offer blandly that "challenge is good. Challenge brings out the best in people."

But Rep. Anna Eshoo, Pelosi's friend and fellow California Democrat, told us: "Look, what Harold has been doing is driven by what many politicians share: Ambition." Texan Rep. Martin Frost, briefly a Pelosi rival for the job, dropped out of the race on Monday. "That's because Martin is an adult. He can really count votes .... Harold, he's a young guy." As for Ford's attempt to frame the contest as a choice between Old Democrat failure and New Democrat success, "That's a bunch of malarky," Eshoo said.

Ford told us: "None of this is motivated by any desire on my part for publicity. It's motivated by the fact that the Democrats have lost four times in a row. The leadership told us over and over that we'd be in the majority. If a corporate CEO missed his profit projections like that year after year, he'd be gone."


* Good News for U.S. District Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson? The distinguished jurist might not, after all, have to preside over a trial involving rival drag queens and their performance of a parody game show titled "Feygele Feud" at competing Washington nightclubs. We hear that Michael Arrington, better known as Ester Goldberg in the establishments where he impersonates a feisty old Jewish lady, is ready to settle his 6-month-old lawsuit with JR's restaurant, drag artist David "Lena" Lett and a few others over who has the right to perform the "Feud." Intellectual property lawyer Bill Bradley, who represents Arrington's opponents, confirmed the budding agreement, which came as Arrington's Akin Gump lawyer, Larry Gondelman, prepared to grill Lett in a deposition. "I was loaded for bear," a somewhat disappointed-sounding Gondelman told us yesterday. "I was going to ask questions never before asked in an Akin Gump conference room." That's entertainment!