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Watergate auction begets 'Bidgate'

July 26, 2009|Andrew Malcolm and Johanna Neuman

No Longer For Sale: Luxury hotel site. Grt vus. Cent. location nation's capital. Famous site of historic 1972 political crime that torpedoed a presidency and caused global media to add "-gate" to the end of any possible scandal for the next 37 years at least.

Monicagate. Irangate. Travelgate. Koreagate. Camillagate. Billygate. Scootergate. Blagogate. Bittergate. Rathergate. Macacagate. Tollgate (just kidding). Spygate. Gategate. You get the idea.

The Watergate. Yes, there was a famous botched burglary there that eventually led, like some dark Robert Redford-Dustin Hoffman movie, all the way to the White House and prompted Richard "I am not a crook" Nixon to become the first U.S. president to resign.

The hotel is part of a large condo complex that's a nice place to live, if you've got a bundle.

Condoleezza Rice crashed there in between trips to global crises. Hillary Rodham Clinton dined there during a private tutor session with Rice before the inauguration.

But the hotel's owner, Monument Realty, fell behind on payments for its $40-million loan, a kind of Loangate. The creditors -- PB Capital Corp. -- watched its foreclosure expire. So last week, the historic complex went on the auction block, a kind of Auctiongate.

To demonstrate their seriousness for the auction, 10 potential bidders put down $1 million as deposit, Depositgate.

The bidding opened at $25 million Tuesday. And just as quickly the bidding closed. Not one bid.

Bidgate on Watergate.

Lawmaker goes gaga over video

Lady Gaga (real name Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta) is a singer and former stripper who sometimes wears lingerie onstage and has said she is bisexual. Nothing wrong with any of that, of course, but hardly fodder for the traditional-values-loving Republican Party.

So it came as something of a surprise last week when Republican Rep. Dave Reichert of Washington state played a video for his colleagues at their weekly conference -- a parody of the pop performer's song "Just Dance."

Called "Just Tax," the video was the brainchild of Peter Cowman, a 23-year-old who just graduated from the University of Washington.

In a song that rails against the debt foisted on his generation by President Obama and Congress, the singer intones, "The government's broke, but they're spending more money."

Noting that his district is home to a lot of tech companies, Reichert told colleagues that the Republican Party needs to encourage young people like Cowman who can use new media to sway other young people to the cause.

Asked by CNN about the video, House Republican Conference Chairman Mike Pence of Indiana laughed and said very few Republicans in Congress are familiar with the original Lady Gaga song.

Feingold gun vote triggers backlash

Russ Feingold is one of the most reliably liberal voices in the U.S. Senate.

First elected in 1992, the Wisconsin Democrat was the only senator to vote against the Patriot Act and was one of 23 to vote against authorizing George W. Bush's war in Iraq. He has a 98% lifetime average from Americans for Democratic Action, a liberal ratings group.

So it came as something of a surprise to some on Wednesday when Feingold voted in favor of an amendment by South Dakota Republican John Thune allowing interstate transfer of concealed weapons. The amendment, which fell only two votes short of mustering the needed 60-vote majority, was decried by its critics as the "handgun in every glove compartment" measure.

To be fair, Feingold was not the only Democrat to back the amendment.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, facing a potentially tough reelection fight next year in Nevada, voted for it. So did Virginia Democrat Jim Webb, who has a license to carry a concealed weapon and whose red-turning-to-blue state is big on gun rights. In fact, 20 Democrats voted for the measure.

Webb described the amendment as a safety measure for truck drivers who travel the interstate highways and sometimes sleep in their cabs.

But Feingold has no political motive to vote against a measure that New York Democratic Sen. Chuck Schumer said would have threatened the safety of New Yorkers.

One thing the senator from Wisconsin does have is a long history of backing gun rights. He voted to lift the ban on semiautomatic firearms, and to allow airline pilots to carry firearms in cockpits. Explaining his vote on the Thune amendment, he said, "Americans' right to possess a firearm to protect themselves or their families does not stop at a state border."


Neuman writes for The Times.

Top of the Ticket, The Times' blog on national politics (, is a blend of commentary, analysis and news. These are excerpts from the last week.

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