Plaid Is the New Pink

Posted April 4, 2008 at 6:37pm

Congressmen don’t wear plaid … except, that is, Rep. Joe Wilson (R-S.C.).

[IMGCAP(1)]Wilson drew stares on Thursday when he stepped onto the House floor sporting a blazing-red plaid jacket. And although his flashy look had some observers wondering whether Wilson was attempting to set a new trend, it turns out the jacket has more to do with district pride than fashion pioneering.

Wilson’s blazer — made from a red Royal Stuart tartan called Heritage Plaid — is identical to the jacket presented to the winner of the Verizon Heritage PGA Tour event, held each year in his district on Hilton Head Island.

He was wearing the jacket Thursday because he met with a contingent of folks involved with the tournament, HOH hears.

When the tournament first began 40 years ago, the jackets were reserved for the winners — golf gods Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer have one in their closets — but now certain dignitaries, including Members of Congress, are given jackets.

Alex Salmond, the first minister of Scotland, also presented representatives from the Heritage Classic Foundation — Hilton Head Island Chamber of Commerce President Bill Miles and John Curry, the vice chairman of the foundation — with a hickory shaft golf club straight from the hallowed fairways of St. Andrews, where the British Open is held every five years.

But fashionistas inspired by Wilson’s ensemble be warned: You can’t buy the look off the rack. The tartan is ordered in bolts directly from Scotland, and jackets are made to order, costing about $600 each. Only the Heritage Classic Foundation can use the pattern.

So when Wilson heads down to Hilton Head — the tournament runs April 17-20 — to stroll Harbour Town Golf Links, he should feel right at home, in a sea of tartan plaid.

Leahy’s Message From the Pontiff. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) might run the floor schedule with an iron fist, but an exchange Friday revealed that he’s not really the guy calling the shots. (Hint: Think big hats.)

Reid announced Friday morning that the chamber would take a break in action Thursday, long enough for Members and staffers to attend the mass the pope is holding in Washington that day. But after making the announcement, Reid was corrected by no less an authority on all matters of Catholicism than Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), who informed the leader that the pope’s mass was to be held the following Thursday.

“The pope wants to make life easier for you, Mr. Leader,” Leahy told Reid.

“It’s a week from Thursday. That’s like an eternity in the Senate,” Reid said. “So we’re going to have to work all day on Thursday — I hate to break the bad news to you … we’ll work everyone’s schedule so it’s compatible with the pope.”

It Has a Good Beat. A CD of House Members speechifying in earnest tones might not be headed for the top of the Billboard charts, but Rep. Thaddeus McCotter (Mich.) is doing his rockin’ best to jazz up the Republican Policy Committee’s message.

On Friday, McCotter was distributing a bootleg version of a CD of the committee’s members giving speeches on not-so-sexy topics like health care, taxes and terrorism — all dressed up to look like a rock ’n’ roll album.

He tells HOH that the CD was an alternative to an “eight-foot stack of policy papers.”

“Hopefully, it’s much more conducive to thought and discussion,” he says. The CDs distributed last week were a preliminary version, he says, and he’ll present the final version to House Minority Leader John Boehner (Ohio) this week. “You don’t give Murray the K the session tapes,” he tells us. (He’s referring to Murray Kaufman, the rock impresario who influenced bands including the Beatles, natch).

In the liner notes, McCotter credits each of the speakers with “vocals” on the album’s tracks. The liner notes for “Freedom Songs: The American Empowerment Agenda” also include old black-and-white photographs of people listening to the radio, with a superimposed logo featuring McCotter playing guitar, rock-god-style, behind the back. Elsewhere in the notes, the zany McCotter thanks the American people: “You are the blessed children of liberty and the hope of humanity,” as well as “staffs of hard-working roadies.”

Instead of trying to make too much sense of the album, HOH figures it’s best to simply take McCotter’s own advice and just, as he implores listeners, “dig it.”

Hope and Hoops. Sen. Barack Obama might be a loser at bowling, but the Illinois Democrat wants to remind folks that it’s not really his game — basketball is. Obama is slated to be featured on HBO’s “Real Sports With Bryant Gumbel” on April 15 to talk about his love of the game.

After he infamously choked in March when an impromptu campaign stop at a bowling alley turned into an embarrassing game of gutter ball, Obama appears to be trying to regain some sports credibility. He’s also holding a drawing for Indiana students who register at least 20 of their friends to vote, with the winner getting to pick two friends to challenge the Senator in a three-on-three basketball game.

Obama’s camp was mum about his move to go on the offensive about his ball skills. But some in the GOP clearly haven’t forgotten the Democrat’s dismal bowling performance. “Obama bowls like a girl,” one Republican strategist snarks to HOH. “No matter how many jumps shots he makes, nothing will change that simple fact.”

Briefly Quoted. “I did not agree with the stimulus package we debated a month ago. I did not agree with borrowing $150 billion and standing on street corners and handing out $500 bills.”

— Sen. Larry Craig (R-Idaho), talking on the Senate floor Wednesday, on one reason not to frequent street corners

Vicki Needham of CongressNOW contributed to this report.

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