Heard on the Hill: That’s Mr. Obama to You

Posted November 26, 2008 at 2:56pm

Everyone knows that Barack Obama is the president-elect. Just look at any newspaper (including Roll Call) or flip on the TV to hear the soon-to-be-prez referred to that way.

[IMGCAP(1)]Not so fast, Barry.

One self-professed “geeky” HOH reader points out that until the Electoral College makes the selection of a new president official on Dec. 15, Obama has not technically been elected. And therefore, calling him the president-elect is premature.

HOH checked with an expert who confirms our geeky friend’s suspicions. Chris Arterton, dean of George Washington University’s Graduate School of Political Management, says that for the next two weeks, Obama should be content with the humble title of “Mr.” Until the Electoral College ratifies his new status, “we don’t have a president-elect,” he said, before dropping a Latin phrase that sent HOH running for her dictionary. “We are, in effect, in a period of interregnum,” he added (that means between reigns, for us nonscholars).

And we can’t even call Obama “Senator” anymore, since he gave up that title on Nov. 16, when he formally resigned his Illinois seat.

So what to call the guy?

Arterton suggests “presumptive president- elect,” harkening back to the primary season, when many people referred to Obama as the “presumptive nominee” before the contest ended but after he had collected enough delegates to win the nomination.

Maybe that’s OK in writing, but should you bump into him (an unlikely event given the phalanx of earpiece-wearing guys around him these days), HOH suggests using the old trick that we use on people whose names we can’t remember: “Hey … you!”

Holding Steady, Kinda. Like many a great social movement, the boycott of the House cafeterias started with fervent enthusiasm and big dreams. But a month after hundreds of staffers vowed to stay away from the House eateries after officials increased prices by about 10 percent, the effect has been more of a whimper than a bang.

And while the ragtag group of 200 or so who organized on Facebook and the Web are still officially boycotting the cafeterias, factors like the cold weather (who wants to trek to Subway in frigid temperatures?) and long hours have put a damper on the effort, which insiders say isn’t having much of an effect, anyway.

“I personally haven’t eaten at the cafeteria in a month and a half,” one diehard protester insisted to HOH, although he allows that others haven’t been as faithful to the cause. “It’s tough to keep up the momentum.”

“It’s been kind of dormant,” this protester says of the fading cause. “If people want to pick up and keep it going, I’m right there with them.”

Another boycott organizer is more optimistic, noting that many protesting staffers have completely changed their workplace habits, including a colleague who “now keeps milk and a box of Frosted Mini-Wheats in the office at all times to circumvent the price increases.”

“Without a doubt, the boycott is still happening, though to what extent I cannot attest,” the organizer admitted. “Since I never go in the House cafeterias anymore, I honestly have no idea how crowded they get throughout the day.”

Viva la boycott — or not.

A Thousand Pardons. Turkey pardoning: It’s not just for presidents. Apparently enamored of the photo opportunity of sparing a feathered friend, some governors have taken to issuing pardons, too.

In some states, it’s a long-held tradition, like in Alabama, where a lucky turkey has been escaping the Thanksgiving table since 1949. But others are newer to the game, like Missouri, where Gov. Matt Blunt (R) pardoned the first turkey last year. And Alaska — where in a recent infamous event, Gov. Sarah Palin (R) pardoned a bird and then proceeded to give an interview while less-fortunate turkeys were slaughtered in the background — appears to be a relatively recent addition.

National Turkey Federation spokeswoman Sherrie Rosenblatt says the practice is more common in large turkey-producing states. “In most cases, it’s a big honor for the heads of our state federations to present a turkey,” she says.

But not all governors want in on the action. A spokesman for Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine (D) says that even though the state has plenty of turkey farms, pardoning is not part of the tradition. Still, the governor is content with a different sort of annual brush with animal death: Each year, the guv is presented with a dead deer, courtesy of the state’s American Indian tribes, as “payment” for the tax breaks that the tribes traditionally get.

Having a Ball. The Inauguration Chronicles, in which HOH brings you notable events celebrating the swearing-in of President-elect Barack Obama on Jan. 20.

Ball: Black Tie & Boots Inaugural Ball

Date: Jan. 19

Place: Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center at the National Harbor

Sponsor: Texas State Society

Attire: Formal (with a Texas twist)

Cause: Like most balls sponsored by state societies, the event funds the society’s activities during noninaugural years.

Cost: Dues-paying state society members can nab up to four tickets for $200. Tickets aren’t available to the general public just yet, but corporate sponsorships are being offered — for $5,000 to $50,000.

Notable guests: For the past two inaugurations, Black Tie & Boots was the inaugural version of the Vanity Fair Oscar party, for one obvious reason: President George W. Bush was the VIP guest. Alas, the Texan likely won’t be showing up to two-step this year (we expect the 43rd president probably has had his fill of the nation’s capital), but organizers promise that plenty of other famed Texans will be there in his stead, including GOP Texas Sen. John Cornyn, the society’s chairman. Country artists Tracy Byrd, Jack Ingram, Asleep at the Wheel, Cross Canadian Ragweed, Kevin Fowler, Dale Watson, Kelly Willis, Bruce Robinson, Emory Quinn, Charlie Robison and Sunny Sweeney are set to perform.

The Tease: “There may not be a Texan in the White House next year, but that doesn’t stop Texans from throwing the best inaugural ball in town,” said Ed Pérez, the ball’s chairman. As proof, ball spokeswoman Jenifer Sarver told HOH that 9,500 people are already on the guest list. “I’ve actually been stunned by the interest,” she said.

Web site: texasstatesociety.org

Briefly Quoted. “Joe Biden, picked for veep, addressed the throng

But, showing discipline, for not too long.

(Joe carries many thoughts inside his head,

And often leaves but few of them unsaid.)”

— The Nation’s “deadline poet” Calvin Trillin, summarizing Vice President-elect Joseph Biden’s appearance at the 2008 Democratic National Convention in his new book, “Deciding the Next Decider,” which sums up the presidential race in verse.

Submit your hot tips, juicy gossip or comments here.