Heard on the Hill: Before They Were [Barack] Stars

Posted November 17, 2008 at 6:41pm

Old editions of Roll Call are like a yearbook: Dig through the archives long enough, and you’ll find plenty of embarrassing stuff from today’s Washington, D.C., VIPs in their younger, less buttoned-up days (many sporting now-cringe-worthy hairstyles).

[IMGCAP(1)]Take former Capitol Hill staffer Robert Gibbs, who is expected to serve as President-elect Barack Obama’s White House press secretary. In the Oct. 31, 1994, edition of Roll Call, a 23-year-old Gibbs is featured in “The Inquiring

Paparazzo,” a photo feature that posed lighthearted questions to respondents.

Gibbs, a fresh-faced staff assistant for then-Rep. Glen Browder (D-Ala.), is asked: “Which Member of Congress would you dress up as for Halloween?”

Gibbs revealed some of his now-trademark wit in his reply: “Rep. Jim Traficant. It would take me a while to accumulate … a tie, the suit, the pants, and the hair.”

[IMGCAP(2)]HOH is unsure whether Gibbs ever followed through and actually imitated Traficant’s flamboyant stylings (please send any photographic evidence thereof here). But Gibbs probably doesn’t want to follow the Ohioan’s career path — Traficant remains behind bars stemming from his 2002 conviction on racketeering, tax evasion and other charges.

Huckster Roundhouse Kicks Romney. Arkansas governor-turned-talk-show-host Mike Huckabee (R) might have cultivated an affable, aw-shucks persona, but in his new book, he’s anything but Mr. Nice Guy when it comes to his onetime rival, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney (R).

In “Do the Right Thing,” which chronicles Huck’s better-than-expected bid for the Republican presidential nomination, the former Arkansas governor labels fellow aspirant Romney as a “faux-con” who alienated folks so much that “while there was a generally good camaraderie among the candidates, there was an almost universal discomfort with Romney and his team.”

To be fair, the Huckster goes after a lot of other folks in the book, from lobbyists to chief executive officers — and even Capitol Hill staffers. (As he writes: “Capitol Hill today is a vast Versailles-like complex, where some thirty thousand staffers get to stroll around, basking in the reflected radiance of their respective sun kings and sun queens.”)

But nobody gets Huckabee’s wrath more than Romney. He takes multiple jabs at Romney, the only opponent who did not call offering congrats after Huckabee’s surprising win in the Iowa caucus. Huckabee’s team took the diss “as a sign of total disrespect — something that would continue to be a source of angst … even though we had grown used to this kind of treatment from the Romney camp.” Huckabee also goes after Romney’s policy reversals on abortion and other issues, writing: “He spent more time on the road to Damascus than a Syrian camel driver. And we thought nobody could fill John Kerry’s flip-flops!”

If Romney thinks he can challenge Huckabee to a duel over the allegations, he better watch himself — apparently the legendary Chuck Norris taught Huckabee a few moves.

After filming a TV ad together at Norris’ Texas ranch, the “Walker, Texas Ranger” star offered to give Huckabee a martial arts session in his personal gym (which is indeed equipped with that Total Gym thing Norris hawks in infomercials, Huckabee reveals).

Huckabee recalls that Norris lent him some workout attire. “After changing (I’m a tad bigger than he is!) I joined him in his fully equipped gym and started mimicking the moves of the master. Within forty-five minutes I was executing throw-down moves on my practice partner. I definitely felt the power. And it’s all on tape somewhere,” he writes.

HOH is hoping that footage eventually makes its way onto YouTube — and that Romney will consider himself warned.

Livin’ on a Prayer. With Washington’s stimulus packages and bailouts not actually doing anything (at least not yet) to fix the struggling economy, some folks are turning to an even higher authority.

About 40 clergy and 135 churchgoers will gather in prayer outside the Treasury Department building today to urge Secretary Henry Paulson to take greater steps to help Americans whose homes are being threatened or have already been lost because of the ongoing subprime loan crisis. Most of the folks at the rally will come from the People Improving Communities Through Organizing National Network, a coalition of faith-based groups who work to tackle problems afflicting their communities.

And the trickle-down effects of the housing crisis are draining cash-strapped parishes, PICO’s Gordon Whitman tells HOH. Congregations across the country “have just been overwhelmed by the number of families that are facing foreclosure and coming to them for help,” he says, adding that while parishes have had some individual successes saving homes, churches just can’t handle the load.

“There’s this broad consensus that the Treasury has to do much, much more than it’s done, and it needs to focus on this problem more significantly,” Whitman says.

Aside from praying, PICO will deliver a letter to the Treasury, signed by more than 500 clergy, asking that specific steps be taken to help people stay in their homes. Members also plan to meet with Treasury officials and House Financial Services Chairman Barney Frank (D-Mass.), Whitman says.

Book ’Em. Some Members will be in odd company tonight — think a diverse crowd that includes characters like pro wrestler Bret “the Hitman” Hart and Bon Appétit magazine Editor-in-Chief Barbara Fairchild.

The Members, including Sens. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.), Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.) and Mel Martinez (R-Fla.), as well as California Democratic Reps. Barbara Lee and sisters Loretta and Linda Sánchez, can thank the big-tent approach by the organizers of the National Press Club’s annual book fair for the unusual mixer.

The Members, all authors with books to hawk, will gather at the Press Club tonight, along with some distinctly non-Washington scribes, in an event that makes for some seriously unlikely bedfellows: A seating chart that HOH got a sneak peek at shows the sassy (and left-leaning) Sánchez sisters within spitting distance of conservative Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia.

Talk about stranger than fiction.

Briefly Quoted. “I was grocery shopping at the local Kroger … there I was in front of the cereal, talking to the new president on my cell phone.”

— Wheatie-browsing Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), describing a post-election phone call from President-elect Barack Obama, during a floor speech on Monday.

Lauren W. Whittington and CongressNow’s Vicki Needham contributed to this report.

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