'Passing the Bong' to Remake Politics

'Passing the Bong' to Remake Politics

He is, we think, speaking figuratively when describing late-night "pass the bong" conversations with fellow former Washington Post reporter Jim VandeHei about building a new political journalism model on the Internet. But as Editor-in-Chief John Harris gets ready to debut a thrice-weekly paper and website called the Politico, he concedes that he, Executive Editor VandeHei, and the Allbritton Communications team aim to "provide a needle in the vein" to those hooked on politics, starting January 23. "We're political junkies," says Harris, a former Post editor and reporter, "and we're writing for political junkies." News sources are eager for change, too: Bush political adviser Karl Rove has even talked up the Politico to allies.

Leave the Post for the Web? They're not crazy, says former Minneapolis Star Tribune Editor Tim McGuire. Considering the mass layoffs at fading newspapers, he says, "this is a sanity test, and they are passing." The money is good, rumored at $250,000 for the two top editors and generous for the small staff of big names. But Harris says it's more than cash: The industry is changing, and now's the time to pounce since readers are more in tune with the Web. He and VandeHei are maybe on to something. Since raiding other publications for staff, competitors like the Post have stepped up Web operations and hiring. "We've shaken everybody by the lapels," says Harris.

Is the 'Governator'a 'Senatenator'?

There's growing buzz in Washington and California that just re-elected Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger likes this government stuff so much that he's got his eye on the Senate. Specifically, the seat held by Sen. Barbara Boxer, who's up for re-election in 2010 when the Terminator ends his second term.

The Speaker Gets the Symbolism

As the first-ever woman speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi understands the importance of symbols. And she was full of her trademark touches of style and substance last week as she took the gavel. Three examples: First, she's on a personal enviro-kick, asking her security detail to drive SUVs that run on E20, a mix of 20 percent ethanol and 80 percent gas, insiders tell us. While E10 is more common, E20 is a long-term goal, but associates say she wants to speed up the shift and to lead by example. Despite her victory, it is a compromise: She initially asked for a hybrid Chevy Suburban. Second, that wasn't Lenten purple Pelosi wore the day she was sworn in. It was the color of the original suffragettes. And finally, as simply a nice act, she gave ex-House Speaker Dennis Hastert one of those coveted secret "hideaways" in the Capitol to use as his retreat.

The Collapse of the CIA's 'Berlin Wall'

With the nation's spy agencies in full reform mode, the CIA has finally torn down its own version of the Berlin Wall. For years, its 24-hour operations center had a wall running down the middle, separating the agency's analysts from its ultrasecret clandestine spooks. Not only did CIA Director Gen. Michael Hayden remove the wall, but he invited in representatives from other intel agencies. The move kicks off a new four-year strategic plan for the CIA.

Time for Bush to Steer Noah's Ark

Some major gestures of conciliation are due from President Bush, says Republican wordsmith and pollster Frank Luntz, who offers this suggestion for the State of the Union address January 23: The prez should point out, by name, five Democratic legislators and five Republican legislators and praise them for a specific idea or piece of legislation for which he would request bipartisan support. Why? "So the American people see that the president is pulling ideas from both sides, not only Republicans and not only Democrats," ads the author of the new Words That Work: It's Not What You Say, It's What People Hear. Luntz calls it the "Noah's Ark" strategy: Bush gets the message from the elections and is ready to lock arms with Dems.

Only Newt Worries This Candidate

In a week when former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney joined the 2008 GOP presidential primary race and former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani started hiring aides to man his bid, allies of front-runner Sen. John McCain suggested that the guy he's most concerned about is former House Speaker Newt Gingrich. The reason: While Giuliani and Romney are moving to the right, Gingrich is already there. But he's not that worried: Gingrich still hasn't decided to run, and it's getting late.

Sen. Gobbledygook vs. Gov. Plain Talk

The new head of the National Governors Association, Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano, doesn't sound as if she likes either top 2008 presidential contender-Democratic Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton or Arizona favorite son John McCain. She clearly leans to those in her line of statehouse politics-the job most recent presidents have held. "The longer people are in Congress," she tells us, "the harder it is for them to speak in short, declarative sentences."

Hardball Loves Rocky's Softball

We shouldn't be surprised that Chris Matthews, the jabbing host of MSNBC's Hardball, is a fan of the heroic fighter Rocky series. "I saw the first one; I saw the third one. They were the really great ones," he tells us. So what's he think of the latest, Rocky Balboa? He loved it. "There were some great moments: When he talks to his son and says, 'You know, you were my dream when I held you in my hand when you were small, and then you grew up. But somewhere along the line, you began to look for an excuse for failure, and I'm your excuse.' It was unbelievable. It was so strong," coos Matthews. "The soliloquies-it's an odd word to use for Rocky-his soliloquies that [actor-director Sylvester Stallone] obviously wrote were fantastic," he says. "It was slow moving like all Rockys," adds the critic, "but at the end, it was unbelievable."

By Paul Bedard, with Kevin Whitelaw and Kenneth T. Walsh