HOH’s One-Minute Recess: C-List Stands for Congress

Posted May 10, 2009 at 10:42am

Celebrities were a dime a dozen at Saturday night’s White House Correspondents’ Dinner: There was Eva Longoria (tinier in person than you’d think), Tom Cruise (who ordered the vegetarian entree, we’re told), Natalie Portman, Sting, Kyra Sedgwick and hubby Kevin Bacon, and the list goes on.

[IMGCAP(1)]Tripping over a Hollywood A-lister was as easy as stepping on one of the trailing gowns circulating around the Washington Hilton.

But that left HOH to wonder: whither the Members of Congress?

Lawmakers seemed in short supply at the dinner — they were certainly more sparse than in years past — and even more so at the after-parties. Perhaps they were simply outshined by the celebrity wattage, and some Hill staffers suggested the weekend was an inopportune one for Members, with it being Mother’s Day on Sunday and also the weekend of many college graduations (Congress-folk are popular commencement speakers).

Whatever the reason, the few who did turn out seemed content to stay out of the spotlight.

“I snuck in behind [Washington, D.C., Mayor] Adrian Fenty,— Sen. Jack Reed (D-R.I.) told HOH. “Everybody was waving at him, and nobody noticed the short guy.—

And Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.) — though the civil-rights legend looked like a star with attendees lining up to have their picture snapped with him — acknowledged that Congress was hardly where it was at. “Well, the President, of course,— he answered, when HOH asked him who he was most looking forward to seeing during the evening.

We also spotted Rep. Louise Slaughter directing Gwen Ifill to a little-used “secret— women’s restroom down a floor when the New York Democrat saw that Ifill was last in a long line at the restroom nearest the ballroom.

Others at the event included Rep. John Dingell (D-Mich.) who held court with wife, Debbie, at his side; House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), who we spotted chatting with AEI’s (and Roll Call contributing writer) Norm Ornstein and Democratic uber-fundraiser Patricia Duff, and Democratic Sens. Amy Klobuchar (Minn.) and Mark Warner (Va.).

And we found Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) trying unsuccessfully to hail a cab after the dinner for himself and his wife Nancy. The parents of young twins weren’t hitting the after-party scene, they said.Wyden, a veteran of the dinner, himself pointed out the shortage of his colleagues to HOH.

“I don’t know why it is — maybe because the White House is the center of things right now,— he postulated.

Members did figure into President Barack Obama’s comedy routine, though. One of his biggest laugh lines was when he called noted tanning-bed enthusiast House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) “a person of color.”

Not technically Hill-related, but irresistible nonetheless: An HOH spy noted an unlikely reunion of sorts taking place when former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales was seated at a table right next to the one where former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld was perched. Many of the jokes in Obama’s and comedian Wanda Sykes’ stand-up acts took hits at the old boss, President George Bush (and Sykes used waterboarding as a punch line a few times). But Rumsfeld, at least, was seen laughing at the program.

And we spied the much more likely duo of former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and conservative media guy Bill O’Reilly, who were tablemates at one of the Fox News tables, yukking it up post-dinner at the Round Robin bar at the Willard Hotel.