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Heard on the Hill: Michelle’s Right to Bare Arms

Michelle Obama’s exposed arms were all the talk of the faux State of the Union on Tuesday night, with cable news and fashion blogs abuzz over the first lady’s controversial choice to go sleeveless. But the trendsetting Obama had a few defenders in the chamber.

Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) thought the purple sleeveless ensemble was a definite fashion “do.”

“She’s got great arms and a great body, and she’s always wearing those sleeveless dresses,” she told us. And Waters countered critics who thought the first lady’s choice might be considered improper for such a buttoned-up occasion. “Jackie Kennedy wore sleeveless dresses all the time,” she insisted.

And HOH caught up with Teresa Heinz Kerry, wife of failed presidential candidate Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) and no stranger to being a political-spouse lightning rod. Heinz Kerry called Obama “smart and beautiful” in whatever she wears, and said the two women occasionally talk. “I talk to her like a big sister,” she said. “I give advice, but I try not to importune. ... She’s doing so well on her own.”

Robed in Secrecy. The six Supreme Court justices who attended the president’s speech on Tuesday donned their traditional black robes for the event (clearly, they dissent from first lady Michelle Obama’s “less is more” position on sleeves).

And after the speech, HOH caught an unusual sight: a court employee walking through the Capitol carrying all six robes on hangers. The court staffer chatted with HOH but didn’t give his name, explaining that safely shepherding the garments was part of his job, although it wasn’t his only duty.

He was tasked with toting the robes from the Cloakroom just off the House floor where the justices took them off, across the street and back to their permanent homes in the court chambers. Of course, HOH was fascinated.

They’re heavy, he told us, hence his strategy of carrying them on his back with the coat hangers resting on his shoulder. The black robes are of different sizes (Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg is tiny, while Chief Justice John Roberts is tall). But the court employee clammed up when we asked if each of the justices had only one robe or if they had multiple options — maybe a spare one for when the other is at the dry cleaner or perhaps a lighter-weight option for warm weather? “I can’t tell you that,” he said.

Moments later, we discovered that Ginsburg had exchanged one long black cloak for another. The petite justice, who got warm applause from Members of Congress in the chamber, recognition of her ongoing battle with cancer, traipsed through the Capitol wearing a full-length black fur coat.

While HOH didn’t touch it to determine if it was real, it sure looked like the genuine article, a rarity in politically correct official Washington.

Guess black is her color.

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