Shakespearean Dilemma

Posted October 2, 2007 at 6:46pm

Go on, ask them about troop pullouts, renewable energy or children’s health insurance. Chances are, any Member of Congress has at least a cable-ready sound bite at the tip of their silvery tongue when it comes to the big issues. But Shakespeare? Give a Member a minute, will ya? [IMGCAP(1)]

Members who showed up at the Shakespeare Theatre Company’s Harman Center for the Arts opening gala Monday night found themselves at an uncharacteristic loss for words when asked which Shakespearean play was their favorite.

Even Rep. Jane Harman (D-Calif.), whose husband, audio-equipment baron Sidney Harman, put up about a quarter of the funds to build the arts center, stalled for time before settling on Shakespeare’s tragedies, including the Richard series and “King Lear,” as her most favorite. “I find them very relevant to the times in which we live,” she said of her decision.

Washington Democratic Rep. Norm Dicks followed Harman’s lead, taking a pass at the event Monday night but dutifully following up in an e-mail to HOH, citing his favorite versions of the dramas by “Sir John Gielgud, who ‘owned’ the character of Hamlet” and “modern day actors including Stacy Keach’s Macbeth at the Shakespeare Theatre and even Kevin Kline in a number of acclaimed productions.”

Harman’s close friend Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), however, was swiftest on her feet. Noting that she spent a year studying the Bard as an undergraduate, Collins put “Twelfth Night” on the top of her list. Too bad she wouldn’t take the bait as to which character she most identified with — saying only, “Definitely not Lady Macbeth.”

Other luminaries on hand for the drama-packed event included former first daughter Chelsea Clinton.

We Love Manlove. The upcoming cycle of Congressional races is looking like one of the most entertaining yet, at least for those of us whose sense of humor reached its peak of sophistication in approximately the sixth grade. Let’s extend a warm HOH welcome to our favorite candidates, whose names are sure to inspire bouts of infantile giggling (surely, it can’t just be us). Former Pasadena, Texas, Mayor John Manlove on Monday announced his GOP candidacy in the race in Texas’ 22nd district, joining Republican state Sen. Dick Day (who’s running in the Minnesota 1st district race) and a former Clinton administration official, Democrat Jay Footlik (Illinois’ 10th), in the best- candidate-name primary.

No doubt, headline writers haven’t been so excited since Rep. Virgil Goode (R-Va.) defeated Al Weed in the 2006 race.

In anticipation of some rib- tickling campaign bumper stickers, HOH talked to a few campaign- consultant types about the preponderance of Congressional hopefuls with naughty-sounding names.

Democratic ad man Erick Mullen says having a catchy name — even if it’s dirty-sounding — is a huge plus. “A name like those is pure gold,” he says. “There’s a stickiness to it that you can’t pay for.” Mullen’s theory is that the candidates could save lots of money in paid advertising simply by having names that people remember and repeat.

A GOP consultant — who didn’t want his name used, just in case he winds up repping one of our embarrassingly named candidates — says thick skin is key for such Congressional wannabes. “Each of these guys has been a kid at some point, so they’ve been dealing with it all their lives,” the GOP-er says. Now that they’ve arrived in the ultimate schoolyard, though, they have to expect more razzing. “It’s unfair to judge people by their names, but this is a juvenile business.”

Mullen insists, though, that it doesn’t matter if there’s a negative connotation to a candidate’s name. Voters already are predisposed to think the worst of an office-seeker, he says, so there’s almost nothing one could do to sink lower in the public eye. “There’s nothing but upside,” he says. And he reminded us of a few founding fathers of the Naughty-Name Caucus, like former Rep. Dick Swett (D-N.H.) and House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio), whose last name is often mispronounced to hilarious effect. Both of those guys did just fine for themselves.

Is that HOH’s phone? Must be that pesky 12-year-old calling again, saying he wants his jokes back …

Somebody Give Him a Staff ID. He was just a guy, chatting wonkily with chairmen and ranking members about wonky foreign policy issues. But it wasn’t just any lobbyist — it was Bono, U2 frontman and rock star extraordinaire, at the Capitol on Tuesday, meeting with the leaders of the House Foreign Affairs Committee and its Subcommittee on Africa and Global Health. Tipsters say that despite the dead giveaways (those trademark shades and the open-collar look he sported), Bono could have been any lobbyist pressing his cause.

Committee spokeswoman Lynne Weil says Bono requested the confab to talk about issues near and dear to his heart, including global poverty, anti-HIV/AIDS efforts, and debt relief for African nations. And it wasn’t just because he happens to be a rock legend that the founder of the nonprofit group DATA scored the meeting. His interest in the issues goes well beyond the usual celeb with a flavor-of-the-month cause, according to Weil.

“He was very serious and substantive,” Weil tells HOH. “You know he was Bono because he’s such an icon, but he didn’t act like an icon, just like someone with serious issues to discuss.”

Broken Window Theory. Two busted-out windows in the ground floor of the Dirksen Senate Office Building are the work of a vandal whom the Capitol Police nabbed in the act.

Capitol Police spokeswoman Sgt. Kimberly Schneider said at about noon on Monday, a staffer alerted an officer that a man was outside, allegedly throwing bricks at the building’s windows. Police swung into action and ordered the alleged brick-slinger, Ross Gardner Lee, to drop the brick he was holding. According to Schneider, the 44-year-old Washingtonian was arrested and charged with destruction of property.

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