Heard on the Hill: Do You Know Who I Am, Part II

Posted March 16, 2009 at 6:36pm

There’s something in the air these days — or at least in the airports. On Monday, Rep. Peter DeFazio lost his temper in the Portland International Airport while going through security for a flight back to Washington, D.C.

[IMGCAP(1)]The Oregon Democrat became frustrated when he was singled out for a random inspection by Transportation Security Administration personnel. DeFazio admitted to HOH that he denounced the extra security as “stupid— and complained to the screeners that he was a Member of Congress who had actually helped found the TSA.

A source inside the airport said the Congressman was visibly angry, used the word bulls— (the Congressman “doesn’t recall— using that word) and caused a ruckus that drew extra security officers.

Unlike some Congressional airport meltdowns — such as the March 5 incident at Dulles International Airport in which Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) set off a security alarm and lost his cool with an airline worker — DeFazio’s airport anger was less about his own personal inconvenience than an affront to his security expertise.

DeFazio, a longtime member of the Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee on Aviation, told HOH that the random searches — conducted after the regular electronic baggage screenings — were unnecessary. “I want to know why they’re wasting resources … as a taxpayer and as an expert on security, this is not a good use of my money or their time,— he told HOH.

DeFazio said he has convened a meeting in his office today for TSA officials to explain the security measures, which he called ineffective. He said he was told several weeks ago after noticing other additional security measures at the Portland airport that the airport was participating in a voluntary pilot program for high-threat flights.

A TSA spokesman would not comment on the matter.

But DeFazio said he sees his own airport agitation as a learning experience. “By experiencing security, I can improve it,— he said.

Too bad Vitter didn’t think to use that line of defense.

Presidential Photo Goof. There’s a snazzy new piece of artwork in the Senate Daily Press Gallery — although it has a flaw that would boil the blood of copy editors everywhere.

Photographer Abbas Shirmohammadi took a breathtaking panoramic photograph of President Barack Obama’s Jan. 20 inauguration ceremony at the Capitol, which is now beautifully framed (replete with gold trim) and hanging in the gallery for all to see.

Included on the photo itself is white text marking the occasion: the swearing-in ceremony of “President Brack Obama.—

Oopsie.

The misspelling has since turned the panoramic into a bit of an attraction among gallery inhabitants, especially since the place is filled with spelling-conscious wordsmiths. (Read: nerds.)

So how was the “Brack— blunder overlooked?

HOH contacted Shirmohammadi at his studio, Panoramic Visions Photography, to find out how exactly the error went unnoticed — and whether the image would be replaced.

Shirmohammadi said he plans to fix things and replace the panoramic (although an appointment would need to be set up, he noted). And when we pressed him on the “Brack— error, he asked us whether we were going to write about it. “That’s not a nice thing to do,— Shirmohammadi said, adding that he had no comment and promptly hung up.

To be fair to Shirmohammadi, Obama’s first name isn’t exactly the easiest to spell. Web site goosegrade.com recently released a study finding that at least 60 million Web pages contain a misspelling of Obama’s first name.

The 12 Days of St. Paddy’s. Irish bars across town will be jammed to the brim with beer-guzzling lads and lassies tonight, but dozens of Members of Congress have already been celebrating good ole’ St. Paddy for days now.

The celebration began Wednesday, when Diageo, the company that owns Guinness beer, feted about 45 Members (and quite a few Congressional staffers) at its ninth annual “Night of Irish Treasures— at the Sewall-Belmont House.

While the event is always popular, famed Guinness brewmaster Fergal Murray attended for the first time this year, keeping a watchful eye over Members as they (per tradition) poured themselves a glass of the beloved Irish brew, said Elizabeth Wise, Diageo’s director of government affairs.

Not that Members needed much help.

“Many of the [Members] who have attended in the past are already experts,— Wise said. “I believe Fergal was quite impressed with their abilities.—

Reps. Shelley Berkley (D-Nev.), John Larson (D-Conn.), Jim Himes (D-Conn.), Chellie Pingree (D-Maine), Michael McMahon (D-N.Y.), John Shimkus (R-Ill.) and Bill Shuster (R-Pa.) and Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) were among those celebrating — not only for St. Patrick’s Day, but for Guinness’ 250th anniversary.

And officials also used the party to continue Guinness’ lobbying effort for “Proposition 3-17,— which would make St. Patrick’s Day an official national holiday.

Guinness has even written to President Barack “O’Bama,— urging him to name the day as an official holiday. “Congratulations. Americans have embraced your platform for change and now it’s time to make decisions,— the letter reads. “Tough decisions. But why not start with a fun, easy one?—

Now in its second year, Guinness officials hope to get a million people to sign a petition for Prop 3-17 (as of deadline, nearly 438,000 had signed).

“It’s kind of a tongue-in-cheek push to make it a national holiday,— Wise admitted. “But you ask somebody to sign it, and they’re like, Oh my gosh, where?’—

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