Front-Page Pages

Posted December 11, 2007 at 6:45pm

Despite what those placemats at the Chinese restaurants say, 2007 is not the Year of the Pig. HOH declares this the Year of the Page, and the new House telephone directory makes it official. [IMGCAP(1)]

Congressional pages — those blue-polyester-suited, badge-wearing kids —stepped into the national spotlight last year when then-Rep. Mark Foley (R-Fla.) was caught sending inappropriate messages to boys in their ranks. The scandal prompted plenty of hand-wringing about the page program and a flurry of news stories recalling seamy page scandals from the 1980s.

In recent weeks, several pages have been busted for naughty doings, including sexual activity in the elevator of their dormitory and shoplifting. Predictably, the revelations of pages behaving badly set off a new round of worry. Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) even promised a thorough review of the page program.

That’s why some staffers were snickering when the latest edition of the House telephone directory landed on their desks: The cover features a photo depicting a group of the young folks cavorting on the steps of the Capitol. The pages in the photo are fresh-faced and most are smiling, with some cracking up while perched with their legs dangling from the balcony over the stairs. The image, which was snapped several years ago by Jim Oliver, the assistant manager in the Republican Cloakroom, is meant to draw attention to the more wholesome element of the page program, says Kyle Anderson, spokesman for the House Administration Committee. The image was chosen “largely to bring positive exposure to the page program and to highlight its significance in the history of the House,” he says.

The phone book is meant to help Hill folks “reach out and touch someone,” as the old phone company slogan goes — just not the pages.

The Other Charlie Wilson. Rep. Charlie Wilson is a lowly freshman Democrat from Ohio — hardly the stuff of a big-budget Hollywood movie. It’s that other Charlie Wilson — the legendary fast-living former Member from Texas — whose life has been turned into a movie debuting next week starring Oscar-winning actor Tom Hanks. The Wilson who’s currently serving in Congress tells HOH that people are always confusing the two. “I’ve been asked what seems like a thousand times if the book and story are about me,” he says.

He says he hasn’t met his better-known doppelganger, but he has gotten a taste of the Texan’s fame.

While walking through the Atlanta airport about a year ago, Wilson of Ohio saw the book “Charlie Wilson’s War” featured in the window of a store (that would be the book by George Crile on which the movie of the same name is based).

The clerk was a bit shocked when he ran Wilson’s credit card and spotted the cardholder’s name. “When the clerk tore off the receipt he looked at it and did a double-take,” Wilson of Ohio said.

The Ohio Democrat hopes to take in one of the upcoming Washington premieres of the movie to get a chance to meet the Texan for the first time. What would he say? “I’ve heard so much about you. Really, I have.”

Christmas Smackdown. Everyone who has ever watched a Hallmark card commercial knows that the holidays are a time for mistletoe, good cheer and love for one’s fellow man. Or, if you’re a staffer in the offices of Sens. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) and Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), it’s a time for all-out, bare-knuckles war with your neighbors.

Staffers in the two offices, which share a hallway on the third floor of the Russell Senate Office Building, have a holiday tradition of competing to see whose holiday decorations reign supreme, and this year, the title went to DeMint’s folks.

This year’s contest, which was judged on Friday by three nonaffiliated chiefs of staff, was more competitive than last year’s. Smack talk started early. Home-state pride set in. Things got a little out of hand.

With the Senate in gridlock, both staffs took the affair to a new level, breaking out decorated Christmas trees, train sets, elves and even a real live Santa Claus. DeMint staffers even went so far as to woo the judges with an ad hoc caroling group. “We weren’t on key, but there was a lot of holiday spirit,” DeMint spokesman Wesley Denton said. Denton credited the South Carolinians’ victory to their use of classy white lights versus the Sessions staffers’ more pedestrian colored lights. “We appealed to the judges’ Beltway sensibility,” he said. “Although I’m more of a colored light guy.”

“I Didn’t Know There Was Such a Thing.”
— Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) during a Tuesday conference call with reporters, after a caller identified herself as being from the blog johnkerryismyhero.com. She then wished him a happy birthday. (Tuesday was, in fact, Kerry’s birthday).

Submit your hot tips, juicy gossip or comments here.