Heard on the Hill: Michelle’s Right to Bare Arms
Michelle Obamas exposed arms were all the talk of the faux State of the Union on Tuesday night, with cable news and fashion blogs abuzz over the first ladys controversial choice to go sleeveless. But the trendsetting Obama had a few defenders in the chamber.
[IMGCAP(1)]Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) thought the purple sleeveless ensemble was a definite fashion do.
Shes got great arms and a great body, and shes always wearing those sleeveless dresses, she told us. And Waters countered critics who thought the first ladys choice might be considered improper for such a buttoned-up occasion. Jackie Kennedy wore sleeveless dresses all the time, she insisted.
And HOH caught up with Teresa Heinz Kerry, wife of failed presidential candidate Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) and no stranger to being a political-spouse lightning rod. Heinz Kerry called Obama smart and beautiful in whatever she wears, and said the two women occasionally talk. I talk to her like a big sister, she said. I give advice, but I try not to importune. … Shes doing so well on her own.
Robed in Secrecy. The six Supreme Court justices who attended the presidents speech on Tuesday donned their traditional black robes for the event (clearly, they dissent from first lady Michelle Obamas less is more position on sleeves).
And after the speech, HOH caught an unusual sight: a court employee walking through the Capitol carrying all six robes on hangers. The court staffer chatted with HOH but didnt give his name, explaining that safely shepherding the garments was part of his job, although it wasnt his only duty.
He was tasked with toting the robes from the Cloakroom just off the House floor where the justices took them off, across the street and back to their permanent homes in the court chambers. Of course, HOH was fascinated.
Theyre heavy, he told us, hence his strategy of carrying them on his back with the coat hangers resting on his shoulder. The black robes are of different sizes (Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg is tiny, while Chief Justice John Roberts is tall). But the court employee clammed up when we asked if each of the justices had only one robe or if they had multiple options maybe a spare one for when the other is at the dry cleaner or perhaps a lighter-weight option for warm weather? I cant tell you that, he said.
Moments later, we discovered that Ginsburg had exchanged one long black cloak for another. The petite justice, who got warm applause from Members of Congress in the chamber, recognition of her ongoing battle with cancer, traipsed through the Capitol wearing a full-length black fur coat.
While HOH didnt touch it to determine if it was real, it sure looked like the genuine article, a rarity in politically correct official Washington.
Guess black is her color.
Field Guide to the Big Speech. And because anytime you cram roughly 535 Members of Congress, the Cabinet, Supreme Court justices and a bunch of reporters into one space, theres bound to be plenty of action, Tuesdays joint session yielded these tidbits:
Yep, that was feisty nonagenarian Roberta McCain in the Capitol to catch Obamas speech. The 97-year-old mother of Sen. John McCain, a brassy presence during the Arizona Republicans unsuccessful presidential campaign, was spotted striding through the halls en route to her primo seat.
Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) swears she didnt touch her beloved BlackBerry for most of the presidents speech. McCaskill, one of Capitol Hills most prolific Twitter-ers, said she sent a few messages before things got under way, but spent the rest of the time enjoying the proceedings the old-fashioned way. I wanted to really listen to the speech, she told us.
Rep. Jared Polis watched the speech from enemy territory that is, a seat surrounded by Republicans, across the aisle from the rest of his fellow Democrats. The freshman Coloradan told HOH he staked his seat out early, and knowing that Democrats ranks have swollen so much they cant all fit in their half of the chamber, chose a seat on the other side.
And the ever on-message Polis told HOH that geography didnt matter. It was all friendly territory for the president tonight, he said.
After Obamas speech, Connecticut Rep. Jim Himes grabbed a post-session drink at the Capitol Lounge, an HOH spy reports. While were sure the Democratic freshman was in good spirits, we wonder if the rest of the folks at the Republican-heavy hangout were in as celebratory a mood …
Ushers Congressional Confessions. Despite his wifes recent life-threatening plastic surgery debacle, R&B mainstay Usher made it to Capitol Hill on Wednesday to testify about volunteerism.
But HOH has learned that the platinum-album-selling, bling-sporting crooner had a list of demands before he agreed to make an appearance before the House Education and Labor Committee namely, his entourage had to come along.
When they asked him to testify, he said right away that hed do it if they allowed a youth to testify, Shawn Wilson, the chief executive officer of Ushers New Look foundation, told HOH.
Appearing alongside Usher was 18-year-old James Harris, who told Members that Ushers Camp New Look inspired him to volunteer and helped him attend college. And while Usher was the A-list celebrity on hand, Harris stole the show, earning repeated praise from Members for his eloquence.
Not that Members didnt lavish attention on Usher, too.
I will tell you that my daughters, who are 16 and 14, finally think I have done something with meaning, Rep. Robert Andrews (D-N.J.) joked.
To see someone who has taken their good fortune and passed it along is very, very exciting, Chairman George Miller (D-Calif.) said.
Even former Sen. Harris Wofford (D-Pa.), who also testified, chimed in: My grandsons, when they heard I was going to be on a panel with Usher, came to life. [They] said, Thats really cool.
Usher didnt do any press interviews, perhaps to avoid questions about his wife, Tameka Raymond, who has since recovered from her liposuction gone wrong. But Wilson said Usher had always made it a priority to attend, noting the singer even took time from recording his next album to come.
When you have the opportunity to go before Congress … its a beautiful thing, Wilson said.
Overheard on the Hill. I am not going to get involved in the Illinois situation. We have a lot going on in Minnesota right now.
Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), speaking about Sen. Roland Burris (D-Ill.) during an appearance at MSNBC on Wednesday.
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