Sen. Reid abruptly leaves presser for a ‘phone call’

It was a rare moment in the Capitol spotlight Wednesday. As the cameras shone on Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) mid-afternoon and reporters gathered round, the lawmaker made a bold move: He left.

After being approached by his spokesman, Jim Manley, who whispered something in his ear, Reid told the assembled throng, “I have a phone call.” With that, he took off to the Senate Chamber, where no cell phone use is permissible. Reid was spotted talking with Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.).

While Reid was gone, a brash Chad Pergram of Fox News approached the podium and began reading aloud Reid’s talking points. At which point Reid’s communications director, Rodell Mollineau, stepped in and said, “If I give them to you, do you promise to print them?” The crowd laughed.

Reid returned and order was restored.

Richard Simmons to Rep. Keller: ‘You’re cute!’

A compliment is a compliment. But when it comes from Richard Simmons, a workout star dressed in short shorts with wild reddish locks known for sweatin’ to the oldies, it can make a lawmaker, well, uncomfortable.

The newly svelte Rep. Ric Keller (R-Fla.), who has lost 100 pounds in the past year, is certainly deserving of the compliment. But last week things got perhaps a little too jovial when Simmons testified at a hearing on child obesity.

Here’s how it went:

Keller: “By exercising, I’m not stressed anymore.”
Simmons: “And you’re cute!”
Keller: “Now I’m stressed.”

Later, Keller seemed to have digested the compliment, saying, “I’m a modest-looking guy who’ll take all the compliments I can get.”

Keller should consider himself lucky. His spokesman noted Simmons kissed Rep. Zach Wamp (R-Tenn.) on the forehead.


Sen. Conrad’s daughter beats him to the bookstores

Jessamyn Conrad, the daughter of Sen. Kent Conrad (D-N.D.), has beaten her father to the bookstores. Her new book, What You Should Know About Politics … But Don’t: A Non-Partisan Guide to the Issues, hits bookstores on Aug. 13.

“She has beaten me in many ways,” the senator said, noting that while he hasn’t published his own book, his senior thesis at Stanford — on a 1970s North Dakota Senate race — was book-length.

Not only is she Kent Conrad’s daughter, Jessamyn, 30, is also the niece of former Republican governor of North Dakota and Agriculture Secretary Ed Schafer.

Needless to say, family politics is complicated. Hence the nonpartisan approach.

“We don’t take a civics class when we’re 30, unfortunately,” she said.

The book addresses such topics as elections and the economy.

Jessamyn Conrad is a reluctant political insider. She’s pursuing a Ph.D. in art history at Columbia University, already holds a master of philosophy in historical studies from Cambridge University, and has a Harvard undergraduate degree in social anthropology and Islamic art history.

“I’d probably classify myself as a disappointed Democrat,” she says, “but I’m very, very hard to pigeonhole.”

Grover prepares to get funny about intellectual property rights

What’s amusing about intellectual property rights?

Well, conceivably not much.

But, as of Tuesday night, Americans for Tax Reform President Grover Norquist was planning his comedic best for Wednesday night’s screening of “Swing Vote” in Georgetown. Norquist offered a  question-and-answer session after the screening.

He expected some 300 conservative staffers and lawmakers to attend. RSVP’d lawmakers included: House GOP Reps. Mark Souder (Ind.), Todd Tiahrt (Kan.), Jean Schmidt (Ohio) and Tom Feeney (Fla.) and Sen. Lisa Murkowski (Alaska), whom Norquist referred to as “the un-indicted senator from Alaska.”

Norquist was confident that he could make land property rights and intellectual property rights entertaining.

“I will make it hysterically funny and interesting,” he told ITK. “People will be rolling in the aisle.”

Norquist reminds us that he has participated in the D.C. Funniest Celebrity contest and said this year’s contest on Sept. 10 will be one to watch as aspiring comedians, such as himself, perform along with Libertarian presidential hopeful Bob Barr, former presidential aspirant Mike Huckabee and former Agriculture Secretary Dan Glickman.

“It may be the fact that C-SPAN covers it,” he said of Barr’s participation. “Libertarians can get on C-SPAN.”

But back to the movie: Norquist assures that his staff pre-screened the movie and found it amusing and entertaining: “A couple of people previewed it to make sure it wasn’t left-wing silly. Some movies are painfully Al Franken-not funny.”

 

Valley of the BlackBerrys 

As about 70-80 members of the Senate Press Secretary Association (SPSA) met with White House Press Secretary Dana Perino Monday in the White House briefing room, they snuck in time on their BlackBerrys.

Perino offered them a candid off-the-record chat about her tenure at the White House.

“I must say it was a little surprising to see Democrat flacks outnumbering their GOP brethren at the Bush White House,” said SPSA President Gregory Keeley. “Even more remarkable, to the keen-eyed observer, was the number of Dem press secretaries who turned up with measuring tapes and fabric swatches. The way they were measuring the drapes was a little like being on the set of ‘Extreme Makeover: Home Edition,’ ” Keeley added with a wry smile.

Perino was candid. She spoke of the passing of Tony Snow, starting her day at 4:15 a.m. and meeting her British husband on an airplane.

As for the BlackBerrying aides, Keeley remarked, “What looks better on your Facebook than an e-mail update from the White House saying, ‘So-and-so is chatting with Dana at the WH’?”