Heard on the Hill: Yes, He Did

Posted November 7, 2008 at 6:41pm

Forget “a little off the top.” The newest look for patrons of the House barbershop is a little bolder — and a lot more Barack-y.

[IMGCAP(1)]David Beraka, a 24-year-old junior professional staffer on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, eschewed a more traditional trim last week and got a large “O” — a la the logo used in the campaign of President-elect Obama — shaved onto the back of his head.

It all started when Beraka, who is obviously an Obama enthusiast, and a few friends were joking around about how to mark their candidate’s victory. The idea of a commemorative ’do came up, and Beraka told us he didn’t even have to be double-

dog-dared to go under the razor. “This felt like a good way to celebrate before the president-elect has to begin digging us out of all the problems the country faces right now,” he said.

On Thursday, barber Khanh Nguyen of the House Barber Shop, who usually specializes in much more conservative styles, complied with his client’s unusual request.

After the cut, it occurred to the newly shorn staffer that perhaps his new ’do might not be the most professional look to sport around the oh-so-buttoned-up halls of Congress, where even facial hair can earn one a few stares. But he’s betting that his boss, Rep. Howard Berman (D-Calif.), will like it — or at least appreciate the sentiment behind it. “Chairman Berman was one of Obama’s biggest backers, so he could hardly disapprove,” he told us.

Obama Forever (Really). While hair might grow back quickly (see previous item), a tattoo is forever. Just ask stars like Angelina Jolie and Johnny Depp, who’ve had the names of their beloveds inked on their skin, only to break up with those not-quite-forever loves.

And for some locals, the 2008 presidential race will never be a distant memory — at least unless they get a painful tattoo- removal procedure.

At Capitol Tattoo in Silver Spring, Md., artist Chris Thayer said a customer came in before the elections and had President- elect Obama’s campaign logo tattooed on his hand, a piece of skin artwork that set the Obama-lover back $160. Thayer says he and his colleagues urged their client to think it through first. “We warned him at the maximum, [Obama’s] president for eight years,” Thayer said. “To get it before he won, that’s ballsy.”

And at Handmade Tattoo Parlor in Manassas, Va., tattoo apprentice Will Armstrong told HOH he’s planning to have an illustration of Obama’s face etched onto his leg. He had been talking with his boss, a supporter of Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), about it for a little while now, he said, although the additional art wouldn’t be a big stretch — Armstrong even has tattoos on his eyelids (ouch!). Such a detailed, portrait-style tattoo would run about $800, he estimated, but it’s free for him because he’s an employee. “It’s something we were talking about,” he said. “I’ve got tattoos already so it’s not out of the norm.”

And if the recipient of an Obama tattoo ever changes his political stripes, there’s always the tattoo makeover: Depp, for example had his “Winona Forever” tat (in honor of his girlfriend, actress Winona Ryder) changed to “Wino Forever.” Former “Baywatch” babe Pamela Anderson had her homage to ex-husband, rocker Tommy Lee changed from “Tommy” to “Mommy.”

Change Is a Comin’ … Soon. President-elect Obama is promising change in Washington, but he’s already had trouble bringing it to the Internet.

Last week, just hours after Obama won the presidency, his aides began working on the transition to the White House. Among their ambitious plans: a one-stop Web site where visitors could keep track of Cabinet appointments, submit résumés and witness the formation of a new administration.

A press release announced that change.gov would launch Wednesday, and many newspapers included that factoid in their stories. But as of Thursday afternoon, change was just a blue background with an “under construction” message.

Obama’s transition team hadn’t realized that the General Services Administration could create the domain that quickly and the Obama folks weren’t quite ready with the content, said one source involved with the Web site.

Visitors thus got an array of results when trying to visit the site Wednesday and Thursday. Early on, a box popped up asking for a username and password. Then came a white page with just change.gov in block letters, before the transition team was finally able to create a blue background. The site finally went live later on Thursday.

A person answering the phone at Obama’s transition office on Thursday said the team was still coming to a consensus on what to include on the Web site and the level of security needed.

“We are desperately trying to get it up,” he said. “I don’t know whether it’s a technical thing or a tactical thing.”

Godless? That’s Fine by California’s 13th District. Last week’s historic elections certainly meant a lot of things to the Washington lobby scene, but for one small nonprofit, the most significant was the re-election of California Democratic Rep. Pete Stark.

Yes, that Pete Stark.

In 2007, Stark did something that few if any other Members of Congress had ever done before — he announced he didn’t believe in God. It was a watershed moment for the advocacy group Secular Coalition for America — although one met with doubt.

“A number of people said to us, ‘Wow, that’s wonderful, but I bet he’s getting ready to retire,’” recalled Lori Lipman Brown, the group’s director. “Because nobody would announce that and then run.”

Stark did run, and won with 76 percent of the vote. Combine Stark’s big victory with the other big election win for the secularist community — Sen. Elizabeth Dole’s (R-N.C.) ouster from her seat after she painted Democratic opponent Kay Hagan as “godless” in that now-infamous television ad — and 2008 marked an important year for the 3-year-old coalition.

So will more Members soon come out as atheists?

God — or you know, whoever — only knows.

“I think a lot of it will depend on who their constituents are,” Lipman Brown said. “There are still parts of the country where saying something like that, no matter how qualified you are … will tank your election.”

Briefly Quoted. “Congradulations, President-Elect Barack Obama,”

— The banner headline on Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s (D-Nev.) Web page, giveemhellharry.com, indicating Reid just might be better at running the Senate than he is at running spell-check.

Emily Yehle and Daniel Strauss contributed to this report.

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