Heard on the Hill: Reid’s Gender Gaffe

Posted July 22, 2008 at 6:48pm

Since Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) came so close to snagging her party’s nomination for a White House bid, the idea that there might be a “Madam President” someday doesn’t seem all that difficult to grasp.

[IMGCAP(1)]But Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has been having a tough time with the phrase. The Nevada Democrat stumbled several times in the past few weeks, identifying a female Senator presiding over the chamber as “Mr. President.”

On Tuesday, during a routine bit of floor business, he referred to Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) as “Mr. President,” before realizing his error and doing an elaborate song and dance to atone for it. After apologizing, Reid sought to make nice with the chamber’s female contingent.

“We sure have a lot more women than when I first came here. When I came here, we had Sen. Mikulski,” he said, referring to Sen. Barbara Mikulski (Md.), who at one time was the chamber’s lone female Democrat. “Now, on this side alone, we have 11 Democratic women, which has made the Senate a much better place.”

Aw.

Reid’s strenuous efforts to make nice might have stemmed from the fact that it wasn’t his only Victor/Victoria moment of late. On Thursday, he also called Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.) “Mr. President,” a mix-up that led him to make a lengthy speech by way of apology. In that speech, he gushed, “without any qualifications, this Senate is such a much better place because of women.”

He then wandered off on a tangent that appeared to unintentionally rib two of the chamber’s female Democratic Senators — Patty Murray (Wash.) and Barbara Boxer (Calif.) — for being short. Noting that in his family, “short jokes” are verboten (his wife is only 5 feet tall and one of their sons is 5 feet 2 inches tall), Reid went on to make a head-scratcher of one. “We were very busy here yesterday, and I looked to the back of the chamber, and there were Patty Murray and Barbara Boxer, both about 5 feet tall, back there talking, I am sure scheming as to what they were going to do to get something done,” he said.

Reid also dropped this bit of musing on the issue of gender: “Men and women are different. They have, at least in my opinion, different thought processes and they have different abilities.”

Thanks, Madam … er, Mr. Majority Leader.

Hatch Gash. On a CNBC interview and around the halls of the Senate on Tuesday, Sen. Orrin Hatch was spotted sporting what looked to be a nasty head injury. A splotchy red, oval-shaped mark covered up much of the right side of the Utah Republican’s forehead. It looked as if Hatch had gotten into some kind of fistfight — which is pretty unlikely, because the Senator is known for keeping his cool (and writing the occasional song).

HOH first ruled out Rep. Chip Pickering (R-Miss.), who accidentally clocked a fan in the head with an errant bat at the Annual Roll Call Congressional Baseball Game last week, as the possible culprit.

HOH contacted Hatch spokesman Mark Eddington, who tells us that the 74-year-old fell last weekend and hit his head on pavement.

Beauty Queen Versus the Bad Guys. When most beauty queens finish their reigns, they hang up their tiaras, take off their evening gowns and try to readjust to the lives of commoners.

But Miss America 2007 Lauren Nelson is doing the unspeakable — don’t worry, she’s not posing for Penthouse — and has kept up campaigning for her charitable cause.

Nelson appeared Tuesday at the National Press Club as part of the Third Annual Tween Summit on Internet Safety, raising awareness about the dangers kids face online. At 13, Nelson was contacted by a sexual predator via the Web and thus picked Internet safety as her platform for the Miss America contest.

“I know firsthand the dangers of this issue,” said Nelson, whose reign ended in January. “I still have a broad audience I am able to speak to.”

Also appearing at the press club was “America’s Most Wanted” host John Walsh, who recounted how Nelson assisted with an Internet-based sting that nabbed several child predators.

Working with police, the beauty queen posed online as a 14-year-old and lured men to a house in Long Island. But when the men arrived, they were greeted by Walsh and the “America’s Most Wanted” camera crew — and promptly arrested.

“I think 11 guys came to the house,” Walsh said. “Some of them drove two and a half hours to get there.”

Other than working to nab child predators, Nelson tells HOH her life is pretty quiet these days. She’s returned home to Oklahoma and plans to head to college in the fall.

“I’m loving life as a normal person,” she said. “I get to have a home, and I don’t have to live out of suitcases.”

Schumer Beats Schumer. Sen. Charles Schumer is one of those Members who wears two hats: one as the senior Senator from New York, the other as chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. And fittingly, Schumer has two staffs — and things sometimes get competitive between the two.

On Monday, the staffs faced off in softball game on the National Mall. And while the debate over who has superior political skills might rage on, the DSCC team left no doubt who is better with the bat — the group crushed Schumer’s personal office, 22-1.

“We had to turn on our own, it’s gotten boring constantly crushing the NRSC,” one DSCC player joked about the National Republican Senatorial Committee.

Leaders in Leather. If the Village People were made up of Members of Congress, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) would be the cowboy; Sen. Robert Byrd (D-W.Va.), the construction worker; Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), the policeman; House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), the Indian; House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio), the biker; and Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), the Air Force dude … er, dudette.

At least that’s how a party invitation from local law firm Holland & Knight imagines it. The firm is throwing a pre-recess rooftop party Thursday night, and the invite features a photo of the campy ’70s group with their faces replaced by members of Congressional leadership.

Boehner in chaps and Byrd in a hard hat? Just try to get that image out of your head.

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