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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.

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.

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