Heard on the Hill: Mini-Trend — the Mini-Me

Posted October 20, 2009 at 6:31pm

Politicians might be so busy, they wish they could clone themselves. A few of them are doing just that, virtually, creating itty-bitty versions of themselves on their Web sites.

[IMGCAP(1)]But the results are getting not-so-tiny laughs.

Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele drew giggles all over town with a small walking, talking version of himself that appears on the RNC’s redesigned Web site, gop.com. And at least three Members of Congress also are on the mini-me bandwagon.

Visit Rep. Howard McKeon’s (R-Calif.) Congressional Web site and a tiny (and, strangely, footless) McKeon strolls across your screen. “Welcome,— the tiny Congressman says. A torso-only version of Rep. Mike Conaway (R-Texas) warns visitors to his site not to “mess with Texas.— And Rep. Bob Latta (R-Ohio) invites users into his “virtual office.—

The Members say the feature is a nifty way to engage visitors.

“It’s a personal touch for constituents who visit the Web site,— Conaway spokeswoman Anna Koch says.

“The digital video of the Congressman is just one of the ways Rep. McKeon is reaching out to his constituents using new media,— says McKeon spokeswoman Lindsey Mask, noting that her boss also uses Facebook, Twitter, Digg, Flickr and YouTube.

And Patrick Ruffini, a partner at GOP new media firm Engage, says it’s a way for Members to stand out from online “clutter.—

But the downsized politicians aren’t universally popular.

“Goofy,— says one staffer. “Lame,— proclaims another.

“Just because the technology is there doesn’t mean you should use it,— said one political media consultant, who noted that the small version of Steele actually blocked the “donate— button that allowed visitors to give money to the RNC.

The lesson: Less isn’t always more.

Speaker’s Orders. Democratic leadership has a message for Rep. Phil Gingrey: You might be a doctor, but don’t even think of wearing that white lab coat of yours on the House floor.

While sitting in the Speaker’s chair on Tuesday afternoon, Rep. John Salazar (D-Colo.) took time to remind Members that the chamber maintains a strict dress code. That little message appeared to be a not-so-veiled reference to the Georgia Republican, who earlier this month held up his doctor’s smock on the House floor to protest President Barack Obama’s health care push.

“The chair must remind Members that … the standard of dress on the floor of the House is proper business attire for gentlemen, coat and tie,— Salazar said. “The donning of a lab coat or other attire in the nature of a significant uniform of another occupation is not proper. The chair expects the cooperation of all Members in upholding the standard of decorum.—

Gingrey — an obstetrician and gynecologist by trade — has said he held up the coat to send a message to the president, who staged a photo op with physicians (wearing white coats over their suits) but wouldn’t meet with any Republican M.D.s from Congress.

And in a statement to HOH on Tuesday, a Gingrey spokeswoman said he stands by his white-coat-wearing decision.

“Congressman Gingrey agrees with President Obama that a white coat with a shirt and tie looks pretty spiffy, and if it’s appropriate at the Rose Garden — so much so that White House staff handed out white coats at their last doctors’ photo op — it should be considered proper attire,— the spokeswoman said.

She later added that Gingrey “appreciates the attention his white coat has garnered from the Speaker — unfortunately, like [the Democrats’] plan of attack on health care, she is focused on the packaging and spin, not the substance behind it.—

A Democratic leadership aide noted that reminders about the dress code go out periodically. Wearing a lab coat on the floor “is just a distraction,— the aide said, further noting that it’s been 125 days since Republicans said they would release their own health care reform bill.

Edwards Talks Divorce. When Elizabeth Edwards testified on Capitol Hill on Tuesday, the casual audience member might have forgotten that she was suffering through a sex scandal starring her husband, former Sen. John Edwards (D-N.C.) ­— except for during one awkward moment.

Mrs. Edwards, who is also battling cancer, mostly stuck to the subject of the Senate hearing: the hardships of people bankrupted by medical bills. But Edwards, an attorney and a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, came up with an unusual metaphor that raised one or two eyebrows in the hearing room.

She was talking about how families who are going through bankruptcy often find it shameful and don’t talk about it. It’s frequently done in secret, unlike other more public family dramas, she said.

“If there’s a divorce next door, you know,— she said. “Somebody moves out; there are suitcases on the lawn.—

Tackled Pink. In addition to mauling opponents on the gridiron, the players of the National Football League have been wearing pink this October. A lot of pink.

Players have sported gloves, sweatbands and even shoes in the bubble-gum hue, all for the NFL’s “Crucial Catch— program, which encourages women older than 40 to get yearly mammograms.

The effort came to Capitol Hill on Tuesday, with Washington Redskins guard Derrick Dockery and breast cancer survivor Tanya Snyder — wife of Redskins owner Dan Snyder — appearing alongside Rep. Donna Edwards (and about half a dozen Redskins and Baltimore Ravens cheerleaders) to talk about their personal experiences with the disease.

Both Dockery’s mother and mother-in-law suffered from breast cancer, he said. Dockery’s mother-in-law eventually died from the disease, and he recalled the “pain it caused her— and the family. “I have also experienced jubilation, seeing my mother [defeat] breast cancer due to early detection,— Dockery added.

Since this was an uplifting charity event, no mention of the Redskins’ dismal season was made, but Edwards still was willing to admit that the Redskins and Ravens are “two of my favorite teams.—

Edwards’ busy Congressional schedule doesn’t allow for much football-watching time, but the Maryland Democrat noted that she did manage to catch a few games on Sunday. “It was really tremendous to be able to see the pink gloves and the bands around the arms and the cleats and the towels,— said Edwards, who was sporting a pink sports coat and a pink ribbon pinned together with an NFL button.

Dan Peake of GalleryWatch contributed to this report.

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