Harry Reid Calls Hu a 'Dictator'

Now some fresh pickings from the Political Grapevine:

To Tell the Truth

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is giving new meaning to the old saying -- "a gaffe in Washington is when you accidentally tell the truth."

Reid said during an interview Tuesday -- quote -- "[The president of China] is a dictator.... Maybe I shouldn't have said dictator, but they have a different type of government than we have."

A Reid spokesman later said the lawmaker reconsidered and decided -- quote -- "that wasn't the best choice of words and corrected it."

Give and Take

We've yet to learn what gifts President Hu is bringing his American host on his visit, but the State Department has released 52 pages of diplomatic gifts the Obama administration received during 2009.

The biggest spender was Saudi King Abdullah whose generosity totaled almost $187,000. That includes a ruby and diamond jewelry set for Mrs. Obama and diamond earrings and a necklace for each of Obama girls.

Italy's Silvio Berlusconi was next, with gifts including silk ties, a crystal table, candleholders and jackets totaling more than $32,000.

But all the gifts have been turned over to the National Archives.

Back to School

And finally, some of your elected officials apparently need a refresher course in civics.

A new survey shows people who identified themselves as having been elected to office at the federal, state or local level scored 5 points lower than ordinary folks on questions about the U.S. Constitution and basic civics.

Only 49 percent of them could name all three branches of government -- compared with 50 percent of the general public.

And 20 percent of elected officials said the Electoral College is a school for "training those aspiring for higher political office."