The President's Trophy Room
The pistol wielded by Saddam Hussein when he was captured in his spider hole last year isn't the only war relic President Bush is fond of showing visitors to the White House. Recent guests tell us that Bush proudly displays two other iconic items in a study off the Oval Office: a brick from Taliban leader Mohammad Omar's home in Kandahar, and a roughly two-foot-high cross made of steel recovered from the World Trade Center wreckage.
In this week's issue, Time magazine discloses that Saddam's pistol was given to Bush by military officials. The White House confirmed to us yesterday that he keeps the cross and the brick on display with the gun but gave no details.
"They're things that mark for him major events in the war on terror," Washington philanthropist George Vradenburg, who saw the president's memorabilia in March, told us yesterday. Another visitor, who asked not to be identified, said the collection is in the same private area where Bush's predecessor once trysted with Monica Lewinsky.
The three items seem to symbolize "the terrorists' declaration of war on us and two responses, two successes -- removing Mullah Omar from power and capturing Saddam Hussein," Vradenburg said. "These things obviously have meaning to him and importance to him. And rightfully so."
The collection isn't entirely somber. It also includes a few bobble-head dolls depicting the president -- which, we're told, Bush likes to flick with his finger for guests' amusement.
California Aftershocks: Nasty Talk About Energy
* The Energy Daily, a Washington newsletter that covers the gas and electric industry, shocked some of its readers last week by printing obscenity-laced transcripts of Enron Corp. traders bragging about driving up prices as a way to steal millions "from those poor grandmothers in California" during the state's energy crisis a few years ago. Employing a common expletive for sexual intercourse in its first paragraph, the story also quotes one Enron official as saying the "best thing" for California would be an earthquake: "Let that thing float out to the Pacific and [give] 'em [expletive] candles. . . . They should just bring back [expletive] horses and carriages, [expletive] lamps, [expletive] kerosene lamps."
The recently unearthed transcripts, reported on by the newsletter's Tina Davis, are from recorded phone conversations and are in the hands of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. After readers complained, publisher Llewellyn King ran a note Friday apologizing "if The Energy Daily has caused offense." But yesterday he told us he was glad the publication (which charges $1,700 a year) published obscenities for the first time since he founded it in 1973. "By far, more people have sent me e-mails saying 'Good on you.'
"It's a special circumstance," King said. "When you consider that enormity of the Enron malfeasance, somehow using the language explains the feeling on the trading floor: Screw the people as hard as you can without regard to the consequences. That's what they were saying."
Well, actually they were saying [expletive] the people.
Which Way to the Convent?
* What a difference nine years (and a presidential election) make. In 1995, before marrying Democrat John Kerry, then-Republican Teresa Heinz told W magazine: "I'll go down the aisle, but I won't cross the aisle."
As the mag reminds its readers in an upcoming article, Heinz wasn't thrilled about the idea of her husband running for president one day. "God knows, in history those things happen, but I wouldn't spend two minutes thinking about it," she said. "For anyone who loves life," she added, the idea of being first
lady was "worse than going to a Carmelite convent."
* If you haven't made vacation plans yet, how could you pass up the opportunity to take a guided tour of Germany, Austria and the Czech Republic in September with none other than Linda Tripp and her fiance, German native (and childhood sweetheart) Dieter Rausch? "It truly is a trip of a lifetime," Rausch, who owns a Christmas shop in Middleburg, says in a prospectus outlining the 17-day trip. Tripp told us yesterday: "I don't know how many people have signed up, but I know he doesn't want to take more than 35." The $7,400-per-person excursion is not open to press coverage, she said. "Oh, can you imagine? Gee, I need more ugly pictures of me."
* Mayor Anthony Williams, who has been trying hard to lure a new superintendent of D.C. schools with a compensation package of nearly $600,000, introduced Secretary of Education Rod Paige at a public policy roundtable yesterday and noted that Paige once held the superintendent's post in Houston. "I actually have a job for you," Williams said. "And it pays a whole lot better," added Institute for Education founder Kathy Kemper, who hosted the breakfast meeting. Paige didn't rise to the humorous overture -- but it never hurts to ask.
* Julia Roberts is going to be a pretty mommy. The 36-year-old actress is expecting twins with her husband, cameraman Danny Moder. They're due in early 2005.
With Anne Schroeder