Skip to content

Portrait of a Progressive

For an underdog, Rep. David Obey (D-Wis.) doesn’t look too shabby in his new official Appropriations Committee portrait. Remember? Obey was chairman of the committee for about eight months in 1994, between the death of William Natcher (D-Ky.) and the Republican takeover following the 1994 elections. [IMGCAP(1)]

The portrait was unveiled by Obey’s two sons, Doug and Craig Obey, during a ceremony in the Appropriations Committee hearing room Tuesday afternoon. Like the Congressman himself, the portrait is multi-dimensional, thoughtful, a bit confusing and steeped in liberal political symbolism.

For a man who never wanted a portrait in the first place, he certainly didn’t hold back on his demands. Obey wanted a work that conveyed the ebb and flow of Congress and the fact that he served as both chairman and ranking member on Appropriations. He wanted it to reflect the gap between the rich and the poor. He wanted references to the “social gospel” and to his “LaFollette progressive” tradition. He wanted a harmonica in the portrait, because of the bluegrass music he plays. He wanted it to be obvious that he’s from Wisconsin. And he insisted his wife appear in the portrait.

The result? The artist painted Obey in front of the fireplace in the minority office. Superimposed over it is a view of the Speaker’s lobby, as seen from the chairman’s office. A picture of former Sen. Robert LaFollette (R-Wis.), a founder of the Progressive movement, hangs on the wall over Obey’s shoulder. A picture of the Congressman’s wife hangs over the mantel. Books on the shelf refer to the “distribution of wealth,” symbolic of the anti-Joe McCarthy movement, which led Obey to leave the Republican Party and become a Democrat in the 1950s. And an image of the state of Wisconsin is superimposed over the entire portrait.

“I like it,” Obey told HOH. “I think it conveys the reality that everything here is transitory. We’re here, and then we’re gone.”

Geo-Political Love. Conservative stalwart and man-about-town Grover Norquist tied the knot last weekend in a second wedding ceremony to his new (and first) wife, Samah Alrayyes, who used to work at the Islamic Institute, which Norquist founded. This latest ceremony, held at the Lansdowne resort in Virginia, was the public celebration for friends. The first wedding, a private occasion, was held in Weston, Mass., at Norquist’s parents’ church.

Rabbi Daniel Lapin, a radio and television host, was the master of ceremonies at the VIP Virginia wedding, which was attended by about 250 people, mostly politicos, including former Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.); Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.); Labor Secretary Elaine Chao; R. Emmett Tyrrell, editor in chief of The American Spectator, and his wife; Kayne Robinson, president of the National Rifle Association, and his wife; and Vanity Fair special correspondent Christopher Hitchens.

One wedding attendee described the ceremony as “very moving” as well as “touching and classy.” The guest said Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform, was “moved to tears” at one point. Perhaps it was when Lapin quipped, “We all know Grover will keep his vows. Because if he doesn’t, we’ll go out and raise taxes.”

Lapin also spent much time extolling the virtues of Norquist’s patriotism. Maybe that was to defuse criticism by some within the conservative community of Norquist’s recruitment of Arab Americans to the Republican Party.

A professional belly dancer performed after the sit-down dinner, and a DJ played Arabic music and 1940s big-band swing. Norquist is an accomplished ballroom dancer, and his new wife, an Arab American, is said to be “a graceful performer of traditional Arabic dance.”

Payback Time. In this particular bet, the payoff would have been a lot better had the University of Illinois won the NCAA tournament. Sens. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and Barack Obama (D-Ill.) and their staffs would be eating some down-home North Carolina barbecue with all the fixins right about now.

But since the mighty University of North Carolina Tar Heels pulled out a 5-point victory over the Fighting Illini, Durbin and Obama are the ones who will be treating North Carolina GOP Sens. Elizabeth Dole and Richard Burr and their staffs to lunch. But the winners didn’t fare so well. Their treat? Horseshoe sandwiches and Illini orange cheesecake. In a word, yuck.

Obama’s office explains that the horseshoe sandwich — invented in Springfield, Ill. — is “a base of Texas toast with a choice of meat and vegetables. It’s served open-faced and covered with french fries and cheese sauce.” Heart attack on a plate, anyone?

But Burr’s office can hardly wait to eat it. “We’re thrilled with the victory,” said Burr spokesman Doug Heye, himself a UNC alum. “We can’t wait to get our horseshoe sandwiches, even if we aren’t exactly sure what one is.”

An ashamed and unnamed Obama spokesman — an N.C. State graduate no less — had only this terse comment: “At least it wasn’t Duke.” One UNC fan who wishes to remain anonymous retorted, “Duke is puke, Wake is Fake, but the team I hate is N.C. State.”

Dole and Burr, by the way, are so elated with their home state team’s victory that they’re offering a resolution in the Senate honoring the Tar Heels.

Kerry Hobbled. All that snowboarding and windsurfing must have caught up to Sen. John Kerry (Mass.): The 2004 Democratic presidential candidate was seen walking around on crutches Tuesday.

Asked about the Senator’s condition, Kerry’s spokesman, David Wade, joked, “You should see the other guy.”

But seriously, folks: Wade said that Kerry, a former marathon runner, had arthroscopic surgery on his knee during the recess. He described it as an “outpatient procedure” to repair some cartilage damage. Wade said the Senator is using crutches to keep weight off his knee for a couple of weeks.

Kerry is “paying a very small price for years of soccer, hockey and running,” Wade said.

Celebrity Sighting. What is it with celebrities hanging out on Capitol Hill lately? First it was Dave Chappelle, who, as HOH reported, opened an account at the Congressional Federal Credit Union this week. Now, it’s Adam. You know, Adam King — the aspiring rapper from “Real World Paris.”

King was spotted watching the NCAA game and playing quarters with three unidentified twentysomethings who looked like they might be Hill staffers. Two GOP denizens of the Capitol Lounge, one of them a crazy Tar Heel fan who works for a Senator closely associated with that team and the other a House Republican leadership aide, spotted King.

The crazy Tar Heel fan also happens to be a crazy “Real World” fan. The aide, who apparently had been imbibing while watching the game, immediately spotted King and then began harassing the poor guy, begging him to “rap the Carolina fight song.” King, who was arrested two summers ago in Georgia for loitering and being a pedestrian under the influence, was not amused.

“Clearly this guy wanted nothing to do with [name redacted] and he kept trying to ignore him,” says the House GOP leadership aide who was hanging out with the Senate staffer, a close friend of his. He described his friend as “more than a little enthusiastic” about the UNC game.

The Senate staffer was amused that King blew him off. “I couldn’t believe he wouldn’t rap,” the staffer said. “I loved it when he’d do it on the ‘Real World’ wearing that ridiculous hat.”

Please send your hot tips, juicy gossip or comments to

Recent Stories

Capitol Lens | Republican National Convention, Day 1

Not your father’s (or grandfather’s or great-grandfather’s) GOP

Bandaged Trump met with thunderous reaction at RNC light on policy plans

Congress launches investigations of security failure at Trump rally

Running mate Vance is ardent Trump backer with brief Hill tenure

Florida federal judge tosses out Trump classified documents case