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TSA pat-down showdown: Kerry no-show

With controversial airport pat-downs among the nation’s top stories lately, it might seem strange that U.S. Sen. John Kerry recently blew off a Senate Commerce Committee hearing at which Transportation Security Administrator John Pistole was grilled.

It shouldn’t.

His staff said Kerry, D-Mass., missed the hearing because of a scheduling conflict with the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. But as the Boston Herald’s Howie Carr noted, the senator has no emotional investment in the pat-down issue.

Kerry doesn’t have to worry about being frisked, groped or fondled by TSA employees as do the commoners who are forced to fly commercial. His wife, Pittsburgh ketchup heiress Teresa Heinz , owns a $35 million Gulfstream V airplane.

The chestnut-red jet is dubbed the “Flying Squirrel” — not in tribute to Bullwinkle ‘s good buddy Rocky , but, as Carr notes, to “a ski trail in Idaho near one of (Kerry’s) second wife’s first husband’s trust fund’s five mansions.”

Carr believes that’s why the committee hearing with Pistole was a nonstarter for the senator.

“After all, who does John Kerry hobnob with who travels by commercial airliner?” Carr mused. “These roiling problems at the nation’s security gates are but a rumor in (his) social circles.”

GUV ‘GOING HOLLYWOOD’? Ed Rendell appears to already have one foot out the door of the governor’s mansion.

Rendell, who leaves office in January, reportedly has hired high-powered Hollywood agent Ari Emanuel to manage his post-gubernatorial career, according to the Philadelphia Daily News.

Emanuel heads William Morris Endeavor Entertainment in Beverly Hills, whose past clients with political backgrounds include former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice , U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and former U.S. Sen. Fred Thompson of Tennessee.

Emanuel is the brother of Rahm Emanuel , the former Illinois congressman who recently left his post as President Barack Obama ‘s chief of staff to run for mayor in Chicago.

Some might opine that given his already ubiquitous TV presence, Rendell doesn’t need an agent. He’s a regular talking head on the cable news shows and long has been a presence on Comcast’s post-game Philadelphia Eagles telecasts.

But as “The View” panelist Joyce Behar noted back in August, Rendell tried and failed in his bid to sit down with the cackling ladies on that show. Perhaps he’s bringing in Emanuel in a last-ditch attempt to achieve that goal.

CASEY GETS FIRST CHALLENGER. Marc Scaringi likely won’t be the biggest name to enter the battle to unseat U.S. Sen. Bob Casey in 2012.

But he is the first.

Scaringi, a one-time aide to former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum and former state Attorney General Mike Fisher , formally entered the race Tuesday — an incredible 18 months before the next U.S. Senate primary.

The Harrisburg attorney almost certainly won’t be the only Republican trying to knock off Casey, D-MIA. The National Journal recently identified several possible candidates with greater name recognition.

They include Pittsburgh businessman Glen Meakem , U.S. Rep. Jim Gerlach of Chester County, U.S. Rep. Charlie Dent of Allentown and state Sen. Jake Corman of Centre County.

WE BET IT GETS A “CHILE” RECEPTION. How well will communist-flavored cinema play in Crafton?

That’s a question Pittsburgh-based filmmaker Jeff Sewald might consider pondering as he develops a movie based on the life of Chilean author Isabel Allende .

Isabel Allende’s father was a cousin of Salvador Allende , the Marxist Chilean president who died in the 1973 fighting that overthrew his government. She shares the same name as Salvador Allende’s daughter, who is a socialist politician in Chile.

The Isabel Allende who is the subject of Sewald’s work is a naturalized American who has lived in California for two decades.

Sewald started his moviemaking career by chronicling Western Pennsylvania’s love affair with football in the 2000 film “Gridiron & Steel.” After that black-and-gold beginning, it’s a shame to see his work take on a decidedly different hue: red.

EARLY START. A second Westmoreland Republican is getting a head start on the 2011 race for county sheriff.

Wayne P. McGrew , a former FBI agent and assistant district attorney, has a campaign kickoff party scheduled for 6 to 8 p.m. Dec. 6 at the Greensburg Garden and Civic Center. Admission is free; donations will be accepted.

McGrew, of Sewickley Township, made an unsuccessful bid for county commissioner in 2007. Another GOP sheriff hopeful, Jonathan Held , recently kicked off his campaign with an appearance by Richard Mack , renowned Arizona sheriff.

Mack, author of “The County Sheriff: America’s Last Hope,” gained notoriety in the 1990s for taking the Clinton administration to court over his opposition to the Brady Handgun Violence Act. Mack, who contended the law unconstitutionally forced state officers to execute federal law, won.

Seeking the Westmoreland sheriff’s job on the Democrat side are John Rock of Crabtree, a former state trooper, and Chuck Moore , interim sheriff.

CELEBRATING. The Westmoreland County Republican Committee will celebrate its gains in the 2010 election with a victory party at 6:30 p.m. Dec. 9 at the Palace Theatre in Greensburg.

Among GOP winners were 54th District state Rep.-elect Eli Evankovich of Murrysville and 56th District state Rep.-elect George Dunbar of Penn Township.

For tickets, $25, call 724-836-0570.

STAYING PUT. Tired of rampant rumors that the Hi-Way Drive-In, a Unity Township landmark, would close to make way for another strip mall, owners took matters into their own hands.

Posted on the Route 30 billboard that usually announces the latest shows or the times for the drive-in’s popular Sunday flea market is this message: “No. Target did not buy us.”

Have some dirt to dish• A tip to flip• E-mail the intrepid Whispers desk at: [email protected] .


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