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Take Five: Rep. Gary Palmer

(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)
(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

It’s time again for Take Five, when HOH  talks with a member of Congress about topics relatively unrelated to legislative work.  

This week, Rep. Gary Palmer, R-Ala., talks about living in the Capitol, baseball and Led Zeppelin. Q: What’s your favorite song? And you can’t say “Sweet Home Alabama.” A: I’ve got a bunch of ’em. “Hotel California” has got one of the greatest guitar runs in music. One of the greatest albums ever. I like Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway to Heaven.” That’s one of my favorite songs.  

Q: So where are you living here in Washington? A: Right here. [Pats couch cushion in his office.] There are about 60 or 70 members that sleep in their offices . This makes out into a bed. I had this custom made in a place in Dallas that makes ‘em. I know two other members have bought these sofas. It’s comfortable as any bed that you’ll sleep on. People are always surprised when I tell them that, but when you think about our schedule [it makes sense.] … I’ll run into people all the time and they say, “Well, is it like the ‘House of Cards?'” and I’ll say, “Well, first of all, I haven’t seen ‘House of Cards,’ but I can tell ya if anyone ever made a TV show about what it’s like to be in Congress, no one would watch it. And by the way, there is one, and it’s called C-SPAN.” [Laughs.]  

Q: You played football at the University of Alabama and you also played in the Roll Call Congressional Baseball Game. Do you have a favorite sport?

(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)
(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

A: Well, it’s kind of a tie between college football and baseball. I’m a huge Braves fan, have been since I was a little kid. You didn’t have 24/7 sports back then, and, matter of fact, we had a black and white TV, so it was rare to get to see the Braves play. But I’d asked for a radio for Christmas and my parents got me one of the old Western Auto radios — which Western Auto was long gone before you were born. … But I would listen to the Braves play and I would literally take a ruler and draw a baseball diamond on the back of the page, and on the front of the page I’d make my own scorecard. And I’d listen to the games and that probably explains why I never had a date in high school, but I loved it. I love sports. Something about picking up a ball brings back the boy in me.  

Q: You must get asked a lot if you play golf with that last name. A: I’ll tell you what I get asked a lot is, “Hey, are you kin to Arnold Palmer?” And I got tired of it one day. A guy asked me that and I said, “Yeah. He’s my uncle.” And he said, “You’re kidding!” And I said, “I am, but I’m tired of being asked.” The funny thing is, I had never run for office before, and in January 2014 there was a poll that showed my name ID was at 4 percent. And half the people who thought they knew my name thought I was a golfer. And the sad thing is, that was our own poll.  

Q: Is there anything I should have asked? A: When I ran a think tank, there was this perception that I was not an outgoing, warm person. And there was a high-profile radio talk show host — it was actually Laura Ingraham. The first time I met her, we had only been around each other maybe an hour, and she looks up and says, “You know, if you’d smile you’d be a really good looking man.” And that’s been kind of an inside joke — that I started smiling and then the next thing I know I got elected to Congress.


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