Reporter comes to Fortenberry’s rescue in quest to visit Senate floor

Rep. Jeff Fortenberry (R-Neb.) had just arrived from his flight and wanted to use his member privileges to walk onto the Senate floor for the recent historic bailout vote.

But what’s a lowly House member to do when he has no tie?

“They were pretty strict,” Fortenberry said of Senate personnel who wouldn’t let him in the chamber without neckwear even though he said he wanted to stay at the back of the room and watch.

Thankfully, reporters are good for something.

Todd Zwillich, a radio reporter for Capitol News Connection, who does the “Power Breakfast” segment on NPR, quickly walked the congressman around the corner, took off his tie and gave it to him. “It was a nice maroon Italian silk tie,” Fortenberry said, adding that it perfectly matched his navy blue suit and light blue button-down shirt.

“I was able to dialogue with senators,” the lawmaker said triumphantly. “A little awkward getting in, but I’m glad I did.”


C-SPAN offers private tour of White House but first couple’s bedroom is off-limits

When C-SPAN first contemplated doing an elaborate series on the White House — its private rooms, gardens, chocolate shop and more — the creators knew they needed to proceed with great care.

For instance, they didn’t even pitch going into the president and first lady’s bedroom, knowing full well that such a request could be a “non-starter,” explains Mark Farkas, executive producer of history programming for C-SPAN and the executive producer of the project.

Before C-SPAN cameras could even begin rolling, they had walk-throughs that included the network’s staff, Secret Service, specifically from the technical security division, and members of Laura Bush’s staff.

“There were very few restrictions placed on us,” Farkas said, explaining that security forbade them from “connecting the dots” from the first floor to the private residences.

Aside from the president’s bedroom, there is much to see on the second floor. C-SPAN cameras were allowed in the queen’s bedroom, the Lincoln bedroom, the sitting room off the Lincoln bedroom, the president’s private office, the yellow oval room (the upstairs living room of the first family where they hold baby showers and family get-togethers) and the private dining room, where the first family eats most meals.

Asked what surprised him about the experience, Farkas replied, “It’s a beautiful home and it’s very nicely adorned, but not so ostentatious so you [think] the first family is living so off the hog as the rest of the country.”

There is also all that history. “You can feel the presence of the past,” he said. “Spaces become alive when you know what has happened there.”

For instance, he said, Willie Lincoln (son of Abraham Lincoln) died in the bed that is in the Lincoln Bedroom.

The weeklong White House series begins Dec. 14 and includes a 45-minute tour with Laura Bush and a tour of the gardens and grounds.


Rep. Upton’s fist-bump left hanging

Jubilant lawmakers exchanged farewells during Friday’s final vote, many happy to have passed a $700 billion economic rescue package, others just glad to be escaping Washington for several weeks.

Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.) appeared especially energized.

While leaving the chamber to walk back to his Rayburn office, he stopped to give Rep. Edolphus Towns, the Brooklyn Democrat, a dramatic hand slap, like he had just slammed the winning dunk in an NBA championship game.

Upton followed up his thundering greeting with an attempted fist-bump, but by then Towns had turned to talk to another member of the Congressional Black Caucus, leaving his Republican friend from Michigan hanging.

Upton stood near the chamber aisle, fist proffered awkwardly, for a split second before recovering and turning to talk to a fellow Republican, the spark of bipartisan enthusiasm having quickly faded.



Prizefighter Hatch takes blow to the hand

If Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) doesn’t shake your hand in the next few weeks, don’t consider it an insult. He was spotted Wednesday wearing a black brace around his right hand and wrist.

“I pulled a tendon,” Hatch explained to ITK. He said he’s not sure how he did it — either “punching a bag” or shaking too many hands.

The senator said he picked up boxing when he was younger and even got into his fair share of street fights. “I was a really tough kid,” Hatch said proudly. He also boasted that he has “a really tough” right punch.

But the senator suspects the injury, which he’s been nursing for a few months now, has been aggravated by the multiple hands he’s shaken recently. He predicted that he’ll see a specialist soon. (We suggest, Senator, that you confer with Cindy McCain on treatment for hand injuries.)

In the meantime, look for Hatch to be substituting the traditional handshake with the latest fad in political greetings.

“I’m either bumping, or I’ll use my left hand,” he said.


Author says unknown politicians can be famous overnight

Author David Seaman believes anyone can be famous — even a politician who doesn’t have a high name recognition.

The 22-year-old, who lives in Manhattan, cites Texas Republican Sen. John Cornyn’s “Big bad John” YouTube viral ad for affirming his ideas.

Seaman’s new book, Dirty Little Secrets of Buzz: How to Attract Massive Attention for Your Business, Your Product or Yourself, contains 61 secrets for generating maximum buzz.

Thoughts on Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin: She “has that sort of flash and burn. … She has that everyday story going on, but at the same time there’s a lot of negative stuff coming out, sort of like George Bush with a vagina.”

Whoa! What?

“My crude comment is about how harsh it is online,” Seaman says, explaining that on the Internet, few rules apply. “People aren’t weighing issues objectively.”

Seaman’s advice to politicians: “If you’re not cool, don’t try to be cool. Most people in their 20s and 30s don’t need [you] to make us laugh. We already have comedians who do it.”

Oh, and by the way? “Just a few minutes ago I found out that Obama Girl is plugging the book on her website,” he says.

Now that’s buzz.