Michelle Cottle

Jeri Rigged

No one thought Jeri Kehn could do it. Back in 2000, the dishy young Republican operative, then 33, had Washington wags atwitter over her high-profile quest to capture the famously footloose Fred Thompson. Divorced from his high school sweetheart in 1985, the senator and erstwhile actor, then 57, had become one of the hottest tickets in town. A deep- drawling, broad-shouldered six-and-half footer, Thompson had a devastating Southern charm, with a gilding of movie-star glamour.

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In today's Washington Post, a piece about older folks having sex contains a priceless quote from an area psychologist that pretty much confirms my long-held, unscientifically researched biases about marriage, relationships, and men in general: "A man can have all these problems with his wife, but when we fix the sex life, the other things go away." Have truer words ever been spoken? Seriously. Men are simple creatures, God love 'em, especially when it comes to their personal lives. Just give them more nookie and--whammo!--they become infinitely more pleasant to live with.

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The Enforcer

Patti Solis Doyle, Hillary Clinton's campaign manager, is laboring to explain why she doesn't like the word "family" used to describe Hillaryland, the circle of longtime loyalists who dominate the candidate's political empire. Because it sounds too precious? Too insular? Too Mafiaesque? This last suggestion sends Solis Doyle into a full-bodied fit of laughter. Her head flies back, her dark hair sweeps her shoulders, her lean frame twists in the chair pulled up to the small, oval conference table in her blue-carpeted corner office of the campaign's suburban Virginia headquarters. "Yeah!

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Toy Terror

Both my kids' birthdays are this month, and let me just say that the recent toy recalls from Mattel have certainly added a frisson of excitement to the whole business of shopping for presents. For Alexandra, should I go with the lead-paint coated Dora's Talking Pony Place or the Polly Pocket doll, featuring tiny, powerful magnets that tend to break off and, if ingested, could choke her or perforate her intestines? As for Tom, I'm torn between the lead-decorated figurine based on the Sarge character from the movie Cars or the deadly-magnet-adorned Batman action set. Decisions. Decisions.

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Divine Comedy

Now let's see if I've got this straight: This week, an Iowa pastoral supporter of Republican POTUS wannabe, ex-Arkansas governor, and ordained Baptist minister Mike Huckabee was caught e-mailing around disparaging remarks about rival Senator Sam Brownback's conversion from Methodism to Catholicism. This comes less than two months after an Iowa field operative for Brownback was busted for sending out an e-mail talking trash about Mormonism, the faith of choice of rival Mitt Romney.

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  Thwack! An elaborately beaded elephant handbag lands solidly on Fred Thompson's upper arm. "Law and Order on the Border!" the bag's owner, a short, sassy, middle-aged brunette, crows at the presumed presidential candidate.

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Message Machine

Hillary Clinton personally e-mailed me and several hundred thousand of her closest friends on Tuesday to let us know that her much-anticipated HillCam was up and running, granting us quickie glimpses of Hill and Bill as they shake hands, kiss babies, and snack their way across the great state of Iowa. Make no mistake: These aren't your run-of-the-mill, glossy, overproduced TV spots loosely rejiggered for the Web. Rather, the campaign assures us, they are "groundbreaking," "unvarnished," "exclusive behind-the-scenes" snapshots of the Clintons' most "spontaneous moments" on the trail together.

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Congratulations to New York City Mayor Michael Boomberg! This week, by changing his party affiliation from Republican to Independent and touching off a storm of speculation about his possible plans to mount a third-party bid for president, the diminutive multibillionaire entrepreneur turned self-financed pol officially knocked off Rudy Giuliani as the reigning king of New York provincialist chutzpah.

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Country music prides itself on being the voice of red-state America. So it's hardly surprising that, in the years immediately following September 11, country music artists came out loud and proud with a variety of fightin'-mad anthems. But, sometime around 2004, the in-your-face calls to arms faded, and the war-themed offerings coming out of Nashville started taking on a more somber tone.

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Team Hillary aimed to drum up a little Girl Power this week with the kick off of Club 44, its outreach effort targeting younger women voters. Rated G for all audiences, the Washington block party offered such delights as a face painter, a juggler, a castle-shaped moon bounce, ice cream, hot dogs, and those fat red-white-and-blue popsicles that dye your lips a disturbing shade of purple.

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