Monday, December 1, 2003

Inside Washington

Bush disses predecessor during tour

By Carl Weiser
Enquirer Washington bureau

Rutherford B. Hayes, the onetime Cincinnati city solicitor elected president in 1876, doesn't get much respect. Even, it turns out, from President Bush.

While showing off the Oval Office to British reporters, President Bush mentioned that he had replaced a painting of George Washington above a fireplace with a painting of Abraham Lincoln. Lincoln was the country's greatest president, Bush explained.

"It's kind of hard to envision Rutherford B. Hayes, above the mantel, isn't it?" he joked.

That line drew a chuckle from Nancy Kleinhenz, spokeswoman for the Hayes Presidential Center in Fremont.

"That's interesting - because he's sitting at the desk given to Hayes by Queen Victoria,'' she said.

No hard feelings over the remark though.

"That's a hoot,'' she said.

Hayes, a Republican, moved to Cincinnati in 1849 and was named city solicitor in 1858.

His 1876 election, like Bush's, was so close that it was disputed. The 2000 election brought a flurry of articles about the Hayes election and presidency. So Bush, in fact, has proved to be a big help for Hayes fans and scholars trying to bring their guy publicity.

OFFICE ROMANCE: Maybe it was Cincinnati in summer. Maybe it was the excitement of a campaign.

Maybe it was the free cups.

Whatever it was, two campaign workers on Rep. Steve Chabot's 2000 re-election campaign fell in love. On Nov. 8 in Cleveland, Chabot aide Mike Smullen married Dana Bearer, an Elyria native who now works for Sen. George Voinovich.

Chabot is famous for giving out plastic cups featuring his picture and "Chabot for Congress" slogan

"She was the volunteer coordinator, and I was the campaign coordinator," recalled Smullen, 28, a December 1997 University of Cincinnati graduate and son of Kevin and Jane Smullen of Anderson Township.

That election worked out for everyone. Mike and Dana got married. Steve Chabot won a fourth term. And Democratic challenger John Cranley's loss meant he was available a month later to be appointed to a vacant seat on City Council.

CHABOT CHALLENGER? Speaking of Chabot, his 2002 opponent, Greg Harris, said he is thinking of another run.

He was invited to a Democratic recruitment meeting in Columbus, and said the party and Democrats in the delegation "are definitely willing to invest more time and resources in Ohio's 1st District this time around."

Chabot spent 23 times as much money as Harris in the 2002 election and beat him soundly, 65 percent to 35 percent. That was Chabot's easiest victory since he first ran in 1994.

Harris said he would decide soon.

Carl Weiser covers Washington news for the Enquirer. E-mail at or(202) 906-8134.

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