Heard on the Hill: Chelsea’s Engagement — A Long Slog

Posted December 2, 2009 at 6:39pm

Who knew that Chelsea Clinton’s engagement and the White House’s Afghanistan strategy had something in common?

[IMGCAP(1)]Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton revealed the connection between the two during an appearance at the House Foreign Affairs Committee on Wednesday. Clinton, whose daughter announced this week that she’s getting hitched, withstood a full day of Congressional grilling — first from a Senate panel and then the House committee — on the newly announced plan for the war in Afghanistan. But the former first lady still managed to keep her cool and crack a joke.

When it was his time to ask Clinton a question, Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-N.Y.) first congratulated Clinton on her daughter’s engagement.

Without missing a beat, the secretary replied (referring, of course, to the criticisms that the White House had taken too long to formulate its Afghanistan plan), “Thank you — it was a very long, thoughtful process.—

Maybe Clinton should save that material for a wedding toast.

A Mouse in the House. We’re guessing cafeteria employees in the Rayburn House Office Building weren’t planning to serve the furry, four-legged diner spotted there Wednesday morning.

An HOH tipster eyed a mouse roaming around the cafeteria, causing a bit of a stir among grossed-out House staffers and visitors. Our tipster said it was probably a small field mouse, adding that it crawled along the cafeteria wall near the salad buffet and then headed into the kitchen.

And the cafeteria critter wasn’t the first mouse that our tipster has spotted on Capitol Hill in recent weeks. “I’ve seen larger ones,— the tipster said.

A spokeswoman for the Architect of the Capitol, which oversees pest control management on Capitol Hill, told HOH that workers immediately headed to the Rayburn cafeteria when they heard a mouse had been spotted. Spokeswoman Eva Malecki added that as the weather cools outside, it’s not unusual to see more rodents roaming indoors, noting that efforts are in place to control the pest population.

A spokesman for Chief Administrative Officer Dan Beard, who oversees the House cafeterias, echoed those comments.

“The Hill is not without its share of pests, none of whom are welcome to dine in our cafeterias,— spokesman Jeff Ventura said. “Staff and guests should be assured that every effort is made to ensure that all of our customers pay for their meals and that none of them have tails.—

Urine the Club. Democrats are usually identified with the color blue, but on Tuesday night, a group of them seemed to favor a mellower shade of yellow.

A high-powered group of Hill and political staffers gathered at Adams Morgan restaurant Leftbank to toast a new book co-authored by former Democratic fundraiser Josh Richman titled “What’s My Pee Telling Me?— The humorous-but-informative tome is a follow-up to Richman’s icky first book, “What’s Your Poo Telling You?—

Revelers included co-hosts Jill Daschle and Kimball Stroud, Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Executive Director Jon Vogel (who happens to be the author’s cousin), Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee Finance Director Liz Lowery and lobbyist Diane Blagman.

Richman, who now works for a California energy company, penned the books with a friend, gastroenterologist Anish Sheth.

HOH hears the usually sophisticated crowd cracked bathroom jokes that a third-grader would love while sipping the evening’s signature drink, a suspicious-looking vodka-lemonade concoction.

And we thought the only leaks political types cared about were of information.

Keep Your Day Job. Several things come to mind when one thinks of Jon Bon Jovi.

Big hair and bad outfits. Mediocre rock music. New Jersey.

Policy wonk? Eh, not so much.

But on Wednesday at the Newseum, the singer acted as a regular big-thinker, appearing at the USA Network-sponsored “Characters Unite National Town Hall,— a forum hosted by journalist Tom Brokaw.

Several far-more-serious types joined Bon Jovi on stage to talk about ways to tackle tough issues, including Reps. Anh “Joseph— Cao (R-La.) and Xavier Becerra (D-Calif.), former Sen. Max Cleland (D-Ga.), and Newark, N.J., Mayor Cory Booker.

Overcoming racial bias was a common theme, with several panelists arguing that more should be done to ensure all children have the same opportunity. Bon Jovi served as the resident optimist, calling his own children and most young people “colorblind.—

But Michelle Rhee, D.C. Public Schools chancellor, argued that most children are aware racial differences exist. She recalled a conversation she had earlier in the day with her own 10-year-old daughter, who said: ‘“A bunch of girls in my class are having an Asian-themed party. Does that mean a bunch of white girls are going to sit around using chop sticks?’—

Rhee’s tidbit drew laughter, but Bon Jovi seemed a bit miffed at Rhee, arguing it’s up to adults to spread the message of racial equality.

“Michelle needs to get that message across to her daughter,— he said. “Because, I sure wouldn’t [let] my kids talk about having a white-themed party.—

Political Theater. Today is Illinois Statehood Day, and some Prairie State natives are celebrating by poking a bit of fun at the Land of Lincoln’s kooky government.

The Illinois State Society will host the staging of “Unlawful Assembly,— a fictional play about the comedic hijinks that take place during the last night of a session of the Illinois Legislature, tonight at the Comedy Spot in Arlington.

Former Illinois state Sen. Mark Rhoads wrote the production, while his acting-coach sister Cheryl Felicia Rhoads directed. Inspiration came easy for Mark Rhoads, considering his former government gig.

“I didn’t have to make much up,— he admitted, adding that state legislatures make for great comedic material because most maintain a more relaxed culture than Congress.

“They feel free to let their hair down a little bit,— Rhoads said. “The irony is that state legislatures are a lot more responsive and quicker to act … because their committee system really does work well.—

One of the play’s plotlines sees several legislators killing time by playing poker — which, apparently, is how many of them get work done.

Think: I’ll raise you your community center for my highway extension.

“By the end of the play you realize it’s not a metaphor; it’s actually part of the appropriations process,— Rhoads said.

Several Illinois natives are starring in the production, including P.J. Megaw, the grandson of former U.S. Sen. Alan Dixon (D-Ill.).

Overheard on the Hill. “Maybe the columnist has not seen the movie ‘The Big Fat Greek Wedding,’ where the man said, ‘I am the head of the house,’ and the woman said, ‘I am the neck.’—

— Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), quoting (loosely) on the Senate floor from one of the, er, great classics of American cinema. Washington Post scribe Dana Milbank wrote a Tuesday column about a speech Alexander made in which he lamented that the Democrats’ health care bill would cut Medicare for “Grandma— but didn’t mention its effect on poor “Grandpa.—

Submit your hot tips, juicy gossip or comments here.