Tom DeLay Gets Catty About Kitty

House Majority Leader Tom DeLay brought the hammer down on Doubleday for daring to send him a free copy of Kitty Kelley's Bush-whacking book, "The Family." The Texas Republican noted in a letter to John Pitts, a Doubleday marketing exec, that the book was "unfortunately delivered to my Washington office last week." He returned it c.o.d.

DeLay's letter went on: "The book would reflect poorly on its author, if in fact any reasonable person still respected her at this advanced stage of her pathological career. Instead, Mr. Pitts, it reflects poorly on the Doubleday name and everyone associated with your company. Ms. Kelley is neither journalist nor scholar. She is a junior-high gossipmonger whose writing should be passed in notes during study hall, not printed in books by the same company that published Rudyard Kipling, Booker T. Washington, and Anne Frank. Her books are malicious, dishonest, undermine political discourse, and corrupt the good name of American letters. Doubleday's disgraceful complicity in this scandalous and mendacious enterprise is disgusting, and evidence of the moral collapse of a once-great company. But perhaps I understate."

A spokesman for Doubleday, which routinely sends free books to influential politicos on both sides of the aisle, told us yesterday: "We certainly respect Mr. DeLay's right to his opinion but we are proud to publish KK's work." And a spokeswoman for Kelley had this to say: "Considering the many ethical inquiries surrounding Representative DeLay, we understand why he prefers not to accept anything free right now."

Sincerely, the Irate Communicator

* What, he didn't really like us? Previously unpublished letters from Ronald Reagan express opinions on Hollywood and the media that validate his icon status among today's conservatives. "The media has taken over and delivers news in the framework of their bias," the Great Communicator wrote in May 1988 to a longtime friend and fellow former actor, the late Sen. George Murphy of California, according to excerpts released yesterday by the Raab Collection, a Philadelphia historic documents house. "Your letter," Reagan wrote, "was an antidote to the daily poison of the New York Times and Washington Post -- plus now the Los Angeles Times."

After his nomination at the 1984 convention, the prez reported to Murphy that "all in all it was darn good. The press of course isn't happy -- no blood on the floor."

In a 1990 missive, Reagan shared with Murphy his thoughts on the Screen Actors Guild, of which both were past presidents. Reagan lamented the influence of liberal 1980s SAG chief Ed Asner. "Being back in Calif. has made me more aware of what the Asner types have done to . . . the S.A.G. If it was what it used to be the Guild members would refuse to read lines with 4 letter words and profanity. I'm sure we would have ruled out the nudity and sex too."

A Raab spokesman, who valued the 41 letters at $225,000, said they revealed a harder-hitting side of Reagan than he displayed publicly. The documents house is looking for a buyer willing donate the letters to a museum or "Reagan institution."

SQUIBS

* According to his new memoir, "Chronicles: Volume One," excerpted in the current Newsweek, counterculture hero Bob Dylan wanted to sell out before selling out was cool. "What I was fantasizing about was a nine-to-five existence, a house on a tree-lined block with a white picket fence, pink roses in the backyard. That would have been nice." At the time he was being set upon by what he called hordes of "moochers," "dropouts," "druggies" and other hippie stalkers in his late '60s home of Woodstock, N.Y. The sheriff had to warn the folk singer against taking potshots at trespassers with his Colt single-shot repeater pistols or clip-fed Winchester rifle. "Goons were breaking into our place all hours of the night," Dylan writes. "I wanted to set fire to these people."

The Usual Suspects

An occasional feature revealing the secret lives of much-quoted experts.

FRANK LUNTZ

Occupation: Republican pollster. Thursday night he will conduct a nonpartisan focus group for MSNBC, gauging reaction to the presidential debate.

Born: Feb. 23, 1962, in West Hartford, Conn.

Marital status: Single "and searching."

Celebrity I most resemble: "A cross between Jason Alexander and Larry David."

If I could meet anyone living or dead: "It would definitely be Paul McCartney. A couple years ago I attended a PETA event in Los Angeles and gave up eating for an entire evening just to meet him. Peter Max invited me -- he's my favorite artist of all time. I made it into the area for special VIPs, along with Bob Costas, Jamie Lee Curtis, Richard Pryor and Monica Lewinsky. But only Peter Max got into the private-private VIP area to shake Paul's hand. I only got to stand six feet from Paul."

Most embarrassing professional moment: "That time at the Playboy Mansion when Bill Maher told me in front of a gaggle of journalists and a few Playmates that I asked stupid questions. I didn't get a date that night. Then again, most of the women were topless, so it wasn't a complete loss."

Favorite film comedy: The original "Airplane."

Memorable incident on an airplane: "A few weeks after 9/11, I correctly identified the two undercover air marshals on a Delta Shuttle flight. They told me I had endangered everyone on the flight with my '[expletive] mouth' and threw me off the plane. It was really awful."

Favorite quote: "I tell politicians and all of my clients, 'It's not what you say that matters, it's what people hear.' "

Nobody knows: "How little I read. I haven't read a book cover-to-cover in two years and I only read the free newspapers at hotels and on planes."

Presidential debate prediction: "None for you, but I'll do it on MSNBC. They pay me."

With Robert Massey