By Betsy Rothstein - 06/23/08 06:10 PM EDT
Sen. Barack Obama’s (D-Ill.) apology last week to two Muslim women who had been removed from a photo shoot by campaign volunteers because they were wearing headscarves came after an angered Muslim member of Congress criticized the presidential candidate for his campaign’s behavior.
Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.), one of only two Muslims in Congress, confronted Obama at a closed-door meeting of the Congressional Black Caucus last Thursday at noon and revealed that he had the women’s phone numbers. That afternoon, Obama made the call.
The meeting was called to heal resentments among black members of Congress who had been divided in their loyalties to Obama and Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.).
Ellison told the Democratic standard-bearer that his volunteers’ actions were wrong and that it was unconscionable for black lawmakers to discriminate against a class of people.
Ellison’s objections were sufficiently heated that Rep. Carolyn Kilpatrick (D-Mich.), chairwoman of the Congressional Black Caucus, felt the need to bang her gavel to get him to be quiet, but Obama asked that she allow the congressman to continue speaking.
Obama told the caucus that he regretted the incident with the women, but assured the gathered lawmakers that he had not ordered it. His campaign had also already issued a statement of regret and apology over the incident. Nevertheless, the candidate phoned the women to apologize.
Ellison spokesman Rick Jauert indicated that his boss has been pacified. “He feels that Obama was very responsive,” said Jauert. “The senator called the women to apologize. So he was just very pleased with the way the senator handled it. He was pleased that the senator was personally hurt by the incident because it doesn’t reflect his campaign.”
Other lawmakers went easier on Obama. Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.) gushed about him, saying how proud he was of him; Rep. Mel Watt (D-N.C.) invited him to North Carolina to campaign.
Kilpatrick had ordered all staff to leave the room inside 421 New Jersey Ave., where the meeting took place, so that the lawmakers could have a free-ranging discussion.
Rep. Hobson takes a spill off House floor
Most people know the dangers of perching on tabletops.
But during a vote last Thursday afternoon, Rep. David Hobson (R-Ohio) sat on the edge of a small, three-legged oval marble table in the Speaker’s Lobby. All of a sudden, he fell to the floor with a loud crash. Door security and reporters came running to find Hobson on the floor at the feet of several other members.
Through spokeswoman Sara Perkins, Hobson explained that he went to sit on the edge of the table and said, “I hope this table doesn’t …” Before he could complete the sentence, he was on the floor.
The congressman had broken one of the legs off the table and it collapsed. Late last week it was sitting on the floor near the fireplace of the GOP side of the lobby.
Hobson survived the incident without broken bones, but was red in the face, an observer noted. Rep. Steven LaTourette (R-Ohio) took sympathy on the table-breaker and invited Hobson to come sit next to him in a safer place in one of the padded window seats.
The congressman assured that he’s fine. “He didn’t fall hard,” Perkins said. “Every person has an allotted number of falls in life. This was just one of his. He took it in good humor. He said maybe they should make some sturdier tables.”
Rep. Rangel turns 78 and celebrates like it’s 1999; Feinstein turns 75
House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.) is apparently a party animal. So when he had a birthday recently — his 78th — he partied on. “I had a party with the Speaker,” he said. “I had a party with the New York delegation. I had a party with the CBC [Congressional Black Caucus]. Everywhere I went there was a cake.”
Then he added: “And then I’m going to have five more fundraisers, one at Tavern on the Green in August.”
What do fundraisers have to do with Rangel’s birthday?
The chairman says he uses his birthday as an occasion to hold a fundraiser for himself.
This turns out to be a blessing in more than one way. Rangel usually has about six fundraisers each year.
But because everyone equates a Rangel-fundraiser with his birthday, he ends up having the equivalent of six birthdays each year. As a result, two things happen. One: People think he has more birthdays than he does. Two: Other holidays get overlooked.
“I get screwed up on Father’s Day,” he joked.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s (D-Calif.) 75th birthday was Sunday. She had just one noteworthy celebration: Her husband, Richard Blum, threw her a dinner party with about 36 people at D.C.’s Le Paradou, said spokesman Scott Gerber.
Woodward questions McCain’s mother’s intellectual age
Over doughnuts and coffee, The Washington Post’s Bob Woodward shared stories from his journey covering Watergate and one about an exchange with Roberta Wright McCain, the mother of the GOP’s presidential candidate, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.).
Woodward, 65, told the packed Caucus Room — mostly members of the Senate Press Secretaries Association — that he felt his mental age to be 32. He recounted sharing this with McCain’s 96-year-old mother at a recent event, and asked how old she felt intellectually. She whispered, “Thirteen.” Woodward then prompted a reporter nearby to ask the elderly woman what her intellectual age was. She turned to Woodward and scowled, “I’ll never tell you anything again.”
Woodward also recounted interviewing President Bush during one of two interviews for his Bush at War series. The journalist took three and half hours and asked Bush 500 questions.
Bush at War, Part Four is due to hit shelves in September, but he’s hoping this will wind down the series.
“If I do a Part Five, my wife said she’ll shoot me,” he said.
Senate staffers came to the morning meeting carrying Woodward books for the journalist to sign. “I have to get these signed for the boss,” said Tomeika Bowden, who works for Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.). “He’s a big fan.”