Barkley Watch

An irregular feature in which we chronicle the short, happy career of the "Dean" of the Senate -- that is, Minnesota's temporary senator Dean Barkley.

The latest developments:

* Our resident Barkley watcher, The Post's Mark Leibovich, reports that the senator's first hire -- for the job of personal aide -- is recent Harvard graduate Matt Dost. The job interview took place on a golf course Sunday as the senator and his pal Tom D'Amore played at the Army-Navy Country Club in Arlington. Club employee Dost, after finishing his shift at the front desk, accepted their invitation to play with them. After 18 holes, the senator asked the 23-year-old to join his temporary staff. Dost said "Sure."

* The senator, an Independent, has been under heavy recruiting pressure from both the Republicans and the Democrats. He recently decided not to join up with either group, but Leibovich reports that the senator has been thinking about using Minnesota Vikings games as a political football. The senator recently imagined taking bets from colleagues representing the states of Vikings opponents and saying: "If the Vikings win, I caucus with the other guy. If your guys win, I'll caucus with you."

* On Monday Leibovich went to see the senator in his out-of-the-way makeshift quarters in the Russell Building, but forgot his press I.D. The security guard stopped Leibovich at the entrance and phoned the senator's office for an escort. After several minutes, a dazed-looking man emerged from an elevator and motioned Leibovich to follow. "Excuse me, are you from Senator Barkley's office?" the security guard asked. "Yes," the man replied. "I'm Sen. Barkley."

Journeys With Nancy?

We hear there was grumbling among House Democrats yesterday when documentary filmmaker Alexandra Pelosi, daughter of Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), tried to bring her digital camera into the members-only caucus at which her mother was elected Minority Leader.

The writer-director of "Journeys with George," the HBO documentary about George W. Bush's presidential campaign, has been following her mom around Capitol Hill this week and recording events for posterity. Yesterday Nancy Pelosi's opponents, Tennessee's Harold Ford Jr. and Ohio's Marcy Kaptur, agreed to let her daughter attend the closed-door meeting in the Cannon Caucus Room, but the younger Pelosi was told to leave the camera outside.

Instead she gave it to avocational photographer Sam Farr, a member from California and staunch Pelosi partisan who videotaped portions of the secret proceedings. "She didn't slip the camera to me; I demanded that she give it to me because I like to record history," Farr told us. "My style as a photographer is photojournalism -- so my focus was people .... I think Alexandra and I will have to decide what we do with the video, depending."

Farr added: "Whatever grumbling there was came from the staffers. I didn't hear anything from members....We're the party of transparency." But another witness, who asked for anonymity, told us: "Some members were grumbling that it was inappropriate and disrespectful to have a camera in a closed caucus meeting. One member said, 'This is not George Bush's press plane.' " Our efforts to reach Alexandra Pelosi were unsuccessful.

* There was much ado about yesterday's item regarding Los Angeles pundit Arianna Huffington and her incipient ad campaign against gas-guzzling SUVs. A swarm of television news producers immediately booked Huffington on this and that, and readers e-mailed us in amusement and outrage.

Washington Post columnist James Glassman wrote: "Enjoyed your item on Arianna, who has gone completely off the deep end.... I am the one who got her to buy an SUV in the first place and created a monster. Was on a radio show with her and she kept ranting and raving about SUVs, and I said to her, 'But you own one, right? Why don't you get rid of it?' Which she did a week or so later." Huffington said she had already made arrangements to lose the Lincoln Navigator and buy her 50-miles-per-gallon Toyota Prius by the time she appeared with Glassman.

Time magazine writer Amy Dickinson wrote: "I loved your item about Arianna Huffington 'driving' and now 'not driving' an SUV, but -- as I'm sure you know -- Arianna doesn't drive. Arianna gets driven." Huffington said that these days she's behind the wheel.

Ritz-Carlton Hotel publicity director Colleen Evans wrote: "Puleeeeze -- I am not giving up my Cadillac Escalade SLV (Sport Luxury Vehicle). Since I'm only 5'3 I love the 'on top of the world' feel....Ms. Huffington is once again sounding very 'fuelish'."

And Tom Riley of the Office National Drug Control Policy, whose ubiquitous television commercials are parodied in Huffington's proposed anti-SUV campaign, wrote: "We're pleased that Ms. Huffington has joined with millions of other Americans in recognizing the power and impact of our ads linking drug trafficking with international terror." Huffington told us: "Actually, their ads have been totally ineffective."