Connery to politicians: Come visit Scotland

Sean Connery can make even the most powerful American lawmakers claim Scottish heritage for a night.

The legendary actor with the universally recognized brogue mingled and laughed with several members of Congress on Tuesday night at a reception to honor the newly formed Senate Friends of Scotland Caucus, which complements the already established companion caucus in the House.

Connery also joined Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond in cheerleading their country’s attractiveness to tourists.

“I’m not here to act, I’m not here to make a speech,” he told a crowd gathered in the Library of Congress’s members room.

“I’m actually thrilled about the idea that 98 percent of you are going to come to Scotland,” Connery joked . “You come to Scotland, you tell them you know me, and you’ll get a good deal.”

Lawmakers seemed eager to take him up on the offer.

“I want to wiggle an invitation from him to St. Andrews,” said caucus member Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), referring to the world-famous Scottish golf club (which many Capitol Hill aides might remember for being the location of one of the congressional junkets that got convicted ex-lobbyist Jack Abramoff and others into trouble).

Graham said he was told his Scottish relatives were cattle thieves in the country’s border region.

“I feel like I let them down by going into politics,” he said.

Perhaps the proudest Scottish-American lawmaker at the event was Sen. Jim Webb (D-Va.), the co-founder of the Senate’s caucus and the author of Born Fighting: How the Scots-Irish Shaped America.

Salmond heaped praise on Webb, who told him a year ago that he could persuade at least 20 of his colleagues to join the caucus. Webb rounded up more than 30.

The senator said among the many reasons for lawmakers to acknowledge Scotland are the contributions its American descendents, who number around 30 million, have made to the country’s fabric.

The most notable contribution on display Tuesday night, though, was Scottish humor.

Webb singled out a few of his fellow senators, saying his “dear friend” Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) is also a fellow member of the unofficial, three-person redneck caucus.

“You don’t want to get in a street fight with Claire,” Webb said.

(McCaskill’s response: “Jim Webb’s the kind of guy when he tells you there’s good whisky, you show up.”)
He also said he learned upon reading Connery’s biography that the actor has two tattoos.

“My son and I are probably the only two people in the room that have more tattoos than you do,” said Webb, pointing out his son Jimmy, an Iraq war veteran, in the crowd.

Considering that revelation, it’s little wonder why Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), one of the busiest lawmakers in Congress, felt obligated to stop by Tuesday night’s reception.

When asked if he is Scottish, Reid replied: “No. I’m afraid of Jim Webb.”

What might the Virginia senator have done had Reid not shown up?

“I didn’t want to give him the chance,” Reid said while slipping out of the Library of Congress after a five-minute cameo.

Other members were giddy to talk to Connery.

Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.), waiting among the hordes to greet Connery, was leaving open the possibility of his Scottish heritage.

“You never know in my bloodlines,” he said. “You never know where my father’s been.”

On the prospect of meeting the famous actor, Tester said, “I mean, hell, 007?” referring to Connery’s turn in the James Bond franchise.

The Montana legislator was also excited to talk to Connery about the scenes he filmed in the Big Sky State for “The Untouchables.”

Also at the event were Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), the Senate caucus’s co-chairman; House caucus Co-Chairmen Mike McIntyre (D-N.C.) and John Duncan Jr. (R-Tenn.); Sens. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), Kay Hagan (D-N.C.) and Mark Warner (D-Va.); and Reps. Neil Abercrombie (D-Hawaii), Candice Miller (R-Mich.), Brad Miller (D-N.C.) and Robert Aderholt (R-Ala.).