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French Kisses

The days of “freedom fries” and pouring champagne into the gutter (which utterly horrified HOH) are long over, as witnessed by the amour shown on Wednesday to visiting French President Nicolas Sarkozy.

[IMGCAP(1)]Apparently, it’s chic to like the French again. Sarkozy addressed a joint session of the House and Senate, touting the bonds between France and the U.S. and making nice by thanking the country — again — for its help during World War II. And Members were happy to return the goodwill. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) even broke out the mother of Republican compliments, likening Sarkozy to the party’s biggest hero. Sarkozy gave “a Ronald Reagan speech,” McConnell told reporters.

Wait, that’s the Gipper, right? The cowboy-hat-wearing former president who liked to snack on tres déclassé jelly beans? Oui, McConnell said.

McConnell was criticizing the Democrats’ legislative agenda with the usual labels, saying it’s all tax-and-spend, socialized medicine and unbridled union power. He added that Sarkozy wants to move France away from those things, saying of the Democrats, “They want to turn us into France, when even the French are having second thoughts.”

Other details from the visit: Sen. Patrick Leahy was escorting Sarkozy along a pre-cleared route into the House chamber when the Vermont Democrat asked the French president if he had had a chance to see the Capitol’s Rotunda. When the answer was no, Leahy and Sarkozy made a spontaneous detour, throwing the French security detail into a hubbub. Sarkozy’s assessment: “C’est magnifique!” a Leahy spokesman tells HOH.

“To visit the Capitol and come that close to the Rotunda and miss seeing it would be like visiting Les Invalides in Paris and missing a peek at Napoleon’s tomb,” Leahy explained.

Leahy and Sens. John Kerry (D-Mass.) and Norm Coleman (R-Minn.) were among those forgoing the earphones offered to audience members during Sarkozy’s speech. The francophones instead listened to the remarks in the original French. Leahy’s wife, Marcelle, is of French-Canadian descent but says Kerry is even more fluent than he. Coleman, a spokesman says, studied French and “understood a great deal” of the speech.

Staffers and journos hoping the invasion of the Frenchies would spill over into the lunch menus of Capitol-complex eateries were disappointed. The fare in the House-side basement cafeteria starred the usual Wednesday offering, which hailed from a country a little closer to home: taco salad. Bon appetit!

The Bride Wore Green. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.) and her husband-to-be might be over the moon about their wedding this Saturday, but the nuptials themselves will be decidedly earth-friendly. Giffords, a self- proclaimed environmentalist, will be keeping the affair as green as possible, her spokesman, C.J. Karamargin, tells HOH. The event will feature local produce on the menu, biodegradable supplies and even a “recycled” Vera Wang dress for the bride.

And further highlighting the Congresswoman’s love of the outdoors, the ceremony and reception will take place on a working farm located south of Tucson, in Giffords’ district. Her prospective groom is Mark Kelly, an astronaut who will command a crew headed for the International Space Station next year. In attendance at the wedding will be Kelly’s crew and his twin brother, who also is an astronaut.

Other notable guests include former Labor Secretary Robert Reich, a mentor and friend of Gifford’s.

Two bands, including a local mariachi ensemble, will serenade the couple and their estimated 300-350 guests.

The dress, HOH is told, is white, not green.

Ships in the Night. In his 1987 novel “The Bonfire of the Vanities,” Tom Wolfe created an unforgettable character called the Rev. Bacon who was loosely based on the real-life Rev. Al Sharpton. So HOH always has kind of wondered whether Wolfe and his muse Sharpton have met.

They almost did on Tuesday night in the Empress Lounge, the lobby bar of the Mandarin Oriental Hotel. When an HOH spy entered the bar, Sharpton and three acquaintances were sitting in a corner and remained there for almost two hours, though one of the men in Sharpton’s party kept jumping up to take cell phone calls. Just minutes after the good reverend left, Wolfe, resplendent in a white tux, sauntered in with friends and sat just a few feet from where Sharpton had been.

Wolfe, as it happens, was in the hotel keynoting the Tuesday night gala of American Spectator magazine. A friend of the HOH spy went up to both Sharpton and Wolfe to offer well wishes. Sharpton was indifferent, Wolfe was gracious. Later, another barfly bought a round of drinks for Wolfe’s party — and came away with the author’s autograph.

Madam Glam. Comedy Central funnyman and short-lived presidential candidate Stephen Colbert has finally caught on to what the rest of us in Washington have known for a while: Speaker Nancy Pelosi is a fashion icon. Colbert introduced the California Democrat at Glamour magazine’s “Women of the Year” awards Monday night in New York, calling her the most fashionable Speaker in history. Ever the politician, Colbert made sure to give a shout-out to Pelosi’s male predecessors, touting Newt Gingrich’s (R-Ga.) stylish pinstripes and power ties, Tip O’Neill’s (D-Mass.) four-inch eyebrows and matching “earbrows,” and the little-known fact, according to Colbert, that Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) spent time as a plus-size model for Lane Bryant.

“Nothing completes a look like children’s health care legislation,” Colbert quipped of Pelosi’s recent legislative focus. “And I think we all know the fashion moment of the year has got to be Nancy Pelosi marching the SCHIP legislation up to the White House in her veto-me pumps.”

Josh Kurtz and Emily Pierce contributed to this report.

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