More than a Dash of Bitter

Posted April 16, 2008 at 6:43pm

Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) set off a huge political brouhaha when he referred to middle-class voters as “bitter.” The word, it seemed, amounted to political TNT and touched off what some cable networks are breathlessly calling “Bitter-Gate.” Since the utterance, members of both parties have struggled to outdo one another to show that they are the least bitter of them all.

[IMGCAP(1)]But Obama is hardly the first to use the dreaded b-word. HOH rifled through the Congressional Record and found that the word

“bitter” — or a variation thereof — has been used in both chambers a total of 203 times this Congressional session.

And it appears that Republicans, who have made plenty of bitter hay over Obama’s remark, really are slightly less bitter than their colleagues across the aisle. Republicans were responsible for 90 uses of the now-loaded word, while Democrats coughed up 105 of them. The rest were found in bipartisan resolutions, and there were even a few mentions of the word by chaplains praying in both chambers.

And one interesting note from HOH’s bitter-seeking session: It seems that the most frequent user of the term (at a whopping 10 uses of the b-bomb) is none other than Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), one of Obama’s top surrogates in the Capitol.

B is for ‘Baloney’? Sen. Patrick Leahy might have most famously been on the receiving end of an expletive, when Vice President Cheney invited the Vermont Democrat to perform an anatomically impossible sexual act on himself (“Go f–k yourself,” was the veep’s reported provocation).

But Leahy on Wednesday proved that he can dish out the naughty words as well as he can take them.

During the opening statement of Office of Management and Budget Director Jim Nussle at a Senate Appropriations Committee hearing, Leahy turned away from the dais to talk to an aide. His assessment of Nussle’s statement was audible to those sitting close by in the audience — a group that just happened to include an HOH operative. “This is bullshit,” Leahy reportedly said.

A Leahy spokesman says the staffers at the hearing recall that the Senator actually used another dismissive word that starts with “b”: baloney.

Fur Fight. What started out as a sermon on the spirit of giving has landed Rep. Bobby Rush in the center of a fur-coat controversy. The Illinois Democrat, who also serves as a pastor at Beloved Community Christian Church in Englewood, Ill., is catching heck after he presided over a Jan. 6 raffle of 150 reconditioned fur coats and jackets for elderly churchgoers donated by a local retailer. The problem: A couple of participants, who weren’t able to find a jacket to fit their size 24 frames, thought they were promised a fur once the store had a returned jacket in their size. After several attempts to claim their jackets, including a phone call or two to Rush’s D.C. office, the fed-up churchwomen approached the Chicago Tribune’s “What’s Your Problem” columnist Jon Yates to see if he could figure it out.

The general manager of Adriana Furs, which donated the coats, told Yates that there was no guarantee that the women would get a coat in their size, but that he would keep an eye on inventory and give them to the ladies, if they became available.

Unsurprisingly, Rush, who says he was trying to instill the spirit of giving in his fellow churchgoers, didn’t take too kindly to the women airing their dirty laundry in the press. Rush spokeswoman Sharon Jenkins told HOH that his office wasn’t angry, just “bitter” (see HOH’s first item) about the publicity. “He’s done some really wonderful things for the area,” Jenkins said of her boss, who also put out his own statement trying to set the record straight.

“In the event that an individual could not receive a fur coat of their size, they were encouraged to nevertheless take a coat and give it to a loved one,” Rush said. “Apparently they had an expectation that they were entitled to a fur coat. To change the criteria established for the giving away of these coats after the fact would be wrong and certainly a disservice to seniors who could not find a coat in their size but took one to give to someone.”

Joe Baca, Ladies’ Man. Rep. Joe Baca is trying to mend fences with his colleagues of the X-chromosome persuasion. The California Democrat famously angered women in the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, particularly the Sanchez (or is it Sánchez?) sisters (Loretta and Linda, both California Democrats), who accused him and other male caucus leaders of treating women unfairly. Rep. Loretta Sanchez reportedly accused Baca of calling her a “whore,” a slight that led her to quit the Hispanic Caucus.

Baca is a little more popular with the ladies these days, though. He’s currently circulating a petition to give suffragette Alice Paul a Congressional Gold Medal, he tells HOH. Baca says he’s collected 341 signatures, including those of all the female Members on both sides of the aisle, and he’s hoping the legislation will come to the House floor early next week.

If the Hill’s A-Rockin’ … As Congress grinds to a slow halt amid partisan bickering, the last thing Hill staffers need is more frustration. But might HOH suggest The Frustrations?

They’re a D.C.-based rock band whose members’ day jobs have a decidedly inside-the-Beltway flavor. There’s Kristen Soltis, a pollster at the Winston Group, on lead vocals; James McEvoy, a news editor at McClatchy, on guitar; Lee Stafford, a tech whiz who works at Central Parking, on bass; Nick Marinakis, an economic consultant for Bates White, on drums; and Andrew Swanekamp, a prospective attorney (there’s that pesky passing-the-bar thing), on saxophone.

Soltis, whose résumé includes an internship at the National Republican Congressional Committee, says she’s gotten all her firm’s junior staff out to the band’s gigs, but so far the one holdout has been the big boss, David Winston (who is also a Roll Call contributing writer).

She’s hoping he’ll join the group as they play alongside New York City band Hello Tokyo at the Rock and Roll Hotel on April 26. The show starts at 9:30 p.m. and costs $10, with the group releasing its self-titled CD.

Jennifer Yachnin contributed to this report.

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