Washington Post, The Reliable Source – 11/27/07

November 28, 2007

Just Another Hiss on the Trail

Tuesday, November 27, 2007; Page C03

Sometimes you stumble upon a phrase that burns into your brain and haunts your dreams. Such as in The Post’s Sunday story about Mike Huckabee‘s surprising surge in Iowa . . . which was so unexpected, wrote our colleagues Michael Shear and Juliet Eilperin, that “his Iowa state director is in Costa Rica hunting snakes.”

“It’s the home of the bushmaster, the largest venomous snake in the Western Hemisphere,” Eric Woolson told us yesterday, a day after returning to Des Moines headquarters. “If you’re going to go, you might as well go big.”


Eric Woolson
Slither, slither: Eric Woolson, Iowa campaign director for Mike Huckabee, makes nice with a bushmaster in Costa Rica. “Some people call it a working vacation,” Woolson says. “But I wouldn’t be quite so unkind.” (Brooks Woolson)
Woolson, 50, is a veteran Iowa political consultant who has worked full time since early last year on the former Arkansas governor’s long-shot bid for the GOP nomination. But he’s always been fascinated by snakes, even taking his son (then age 10), on an anaconda-hunting trip to Venezuela a few years ago.

Snakes — hmmm, interesting hobby for a campaign operative. “Some people call it a working vacation, but I wouldn’t be quite so unkind.”

Does this involve . . . killing them? No, it’s more like birdwatching. “But with this kind of animal you have to pick it up to get a good look at it.” Last week, Woolson and son Brooks joined an adventure-travel team that slogged through the Costa Rican rain forest — enduring bites from inch-long bala ants — to get up close and personal with giant parrot snakes, false coral snakes, eyelash pit vipers and, of course, the famed bushmaster.

“You gotta move kind of fast,” said Woolson, who scheduled the trip back when everyone was counting on a later caucus date. “These animals are in the brush or over the trees on top of you. It requires a lot of focus. They’re either trying to get away from you or they’re standing their ground. You don’t spend any time thinking about the campaign when you’re out there. If you do, bad things can happen.”