Heard on the Hill: Lady in Red

Posted January 23, 2009 at 6:08pm

First lady Michelle Obama went relatively edgy for her inaugural ball gown, choosing a frock designed by under-the-radar newbie Jason Wu. But Speaker Nancy Pelosi kept her inaugural fashion choices tried-and-true.

[IMGCAP(1)]A knowledgeable source tells HOH that the California Democrat opted for Armani — one of her longtime favorite designers — for her inauguration-ball ensemble. Pelosi

wore a floor-length black skirt and a fitted red jacket from the Italian fashion designer for her evening attending the official West/Southwest inaugural ball.

The always-impeccable Speaker frequently dons Armani suits for work in the Capitol.

And while Pelosi often pays lip service to change (as in “Change We Can Believe In”), that sentiment clearly doesn’t apply to her style.

McCain’s a Ladies Man. Since returning to Capitol Hill from the presidential campaign trail, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) just hasn’t seemed like his usual jovial self. Oh, wait, he never was a big cutup, unless you count the biting sarcasm.

Still, McCain showed he hasn’t lost his charm — or his campaign-induced baby-kissing habit.

Thursday, McCain was saved from a pack of inquisitive reporters when an elevator he was standing near opened to let out new Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet (D), his wife and three daughters, and newly confirmed Interior Secretary Ken Salazar. “Hello,” McCain said to the party as they spilled into the hallway. “I’m the greeter here. Nice to see you.”

When Bennet’s littlest daughter exited, McCain doled out an even warmer greeting, bending down to say “hello.” “Aren’t you beautiful?” he said.

Louie Gohmert, Renaissance Man. Quick, need a quote on Guantánamo Bay? Ask Rep. Louie Gohmert. Or perhaps you need someone to break down the finer points of the stimulus package? Gohmert’s your man.

The House Republican Conference on Friday put out a tipsheet of experts for producers and reporters looking for GOP perspective on various issues. And we couldn’t help but notice that the Texas Republican is one of the go-to guys on every issue but health care …

But does he do windows?

Presidential Spell Check. Members of Congress have had a lot of nice things to say about our new president, but many of them have had trouble simply spelling the guy’s name.

That wouldn’t come as a surprise to the people behind Web site gooseGrade.com, which released a study earlier this month finding that at least 60 million Web pages contain a misspelling of Democratic President Barack Obama’s first name.

HOH conducted a (highly scientific, natch) Internet search of Member Web sites on Friday to see if anyone had referred to the prez using two of the most common misspellings — “Barak” and “Barrack.”

Members who favored “Barak” included Rep. Mark Souder (R-Ind.), in a photo caption from Tuesday’s inauguration; Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), in a press release on Obama’s swearing-in; Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), in a photo caption from the inauguration (which has since been fixed); Rep. John Carter (R-Texas), in a Jan. 9 press release urging Obama to work with Republicans on tax cuts; and Sen. Sam Brownback (R-Kan.), in a November 2008 statement congratulating Obama on his election victory.

Among those using “Barrack:” Rep. Jack Kingston (R-Ga.), in a Jan. 20 speech on Obama’s inauguration address and in a December 2008 press release urging constituents to make early plans for the inauguration; Rep. Gary Ackerman (D-N.Y.), in a December 2008 press release urging Obama to increase the international affairs budget; Sen. Kit Bond (R-Mo.), in a June 2008 press release on FISA legislation; and Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.), in a July 2008 press release on energy.

Members can take comfort in knowing they aren’t alone — 4 million new Web pages have popped up misspelling Obama’s first name just in the days since the inauguration, said gooseGrade Chief Executive Officer John Brooks Pounders (whose site allows readers to identify punctual and factual mistakes and post corrections).

And if you think that Congressional offices just need to run spell check more often, think again — it’s actually part of the problem. The 2007 edition of Microsoft Office actually has “Barrack” as the suggested spelling for “Barack,”which could lead to more misspellings, gooseGrade spokesman Tim Williams said.

To be fair, “Barak,” er, “Barack” is a pretty hard name to spell.

Warner Returns. HOH suspects that former Sen. John Warner is going through Senate bean soup withdrawal. The recently retired Virginia Republican was spotted lunching last Thursday in the Dirksen cafeteria.

After three decades in the Senate, one has to figure that old habits die hard.

A ‘Good Night’ at the Newseum. HOH knows that Washingtonians are suffering from a case of famous-people-fatigue syndrome following last week’s inaugural festivities, but there’s a major A-lister headed to town tonight that we just couldn’t help but mention.

We’re talking George Clooney here.

The one-time “Sexiest Man Alive” is slated to screen his 2005 film “Good Night and Good Luck” at the Newseum tonight, part of the museum’s new “Reel Journalism” series. And Clooney’s newsman dad, Nick, is even going to host the event.

We’re practicing not swooning.

All in the (American) Family. Washington, D.C., was a mecca for the celeb set last week, as famous faces from the A-list to the D-list showed up to watch President Barack Obama take the oath of office — and maybe get a little bit of press for themselves (we’re looking at you, Star Jones).

But legendary television producer Norman Lear isn’t planning to stop his civic involvement anytime soon, as he’s launching a new campaign called “Born Again American” designed to keep young people engaged in politics. Lear, the mind behind classics such as “All in the Family” and “The Jeffersons,” says the effort is kind of like becoming a born-again Christian, only instead of pledging devotion to Jesus, one undertakes “a rebirth of citizenship.”

The 86-year-old wants young Americans to lobby their city council, write their Member of Congress or even run for office. At the center of the campaign is the “Born Again American” song, penned by Academy Award-winner Keith Carradine, which features a slew of previously unknown performers singing of their dreams for America.

“We found these wonderful voices we’ve never seen before,” said the patriotic Lear, who in 2001 bought an original copy of the Declaration of Independence for $8.1 million.

And what can Members of Congress do to help with the effort? Well, just stay tuned.

“If we are successful, and we turn out a generation … of young people who will participate,” Lear told HOH, “then the people you’re asking about will have to pay attention.”

David M. Drucker, Jackie Kucinich and CongressNow’s Vicki Needham contributed to his report.

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