Who's the nerdiest of them all?

Only the Science Committee would host an impromptu debate on which of its members were the biggest nerds.

Only the Science Committee would host an impromptu debate on which of its members were the biggest nerds.

At a committee hearing last week on the president’s American Competitiveness Agenda, which would invest in research and development, as well as math and science education, some of the panel’s more bookish members blamed our drop in scientific achievement on certain social factors.

First up was Rep. Roscoe Bartlett (R-Md.), with a Ph.D. in physiology. “When I was going to school, we were squares,” he lamented of his lab-coated brethren. “Now I guess bright young boys are geeks and nerds, and pretty girls won’t date them. And really bright girls have to play dumb to get a date.”

Next up was Rep. Vernon Ehlers (R-Mich.), a physicist who gave viewers a window into his scholastic years. “Dr. Bartlett is quite right in commenting that, you know, being a nerd is not socially acceptable in high school,” he said. “And he said, you know, pretty girls don’t date nerds. I thought that was true when I was in high school. I, however, found out that it was just because I was obnoxious. And once I solved that problem, I married a pretty girl.”

He closed with an admonition: He tells students “they shouldn’t look down on nerds because if they are not a nerd they are going to end up working for one.”

Finally, space and rocketry buff Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.) cut to the chase. It’s about money, he said.

“Why do people go into law?” asked Rohrabacher. “Because the lawyers have all the fancy sports cars and live in the big homes. And if a kid who’s very smart has to choose between driving in a jalopy and being a Ph.D. in physics versus going into law and living in a big mansion and having the good-looking girlfriend, guess what he’s going to choose.”

Of course, chicks dig congressmen, too.


Reyes paves  ‘Glory Road’ to White House

When the surviving members of the 1966 Texas Western basketball team sit down at the White House with President Bush today to screen “Glory Road,” the film about their championship season, they will have Rep. Silvestre Reyes (D-Texas) to thank for getting them there.

Reyes had met Mike Munoz, Southwest Airlines’ head of multicultural community affairs, at an art contest the airline held in his district. So when the White House extended its invitation to the players, Reyes called Munoz to see if Southwest could lend a hand in transporting them. The airline was happy to participate in the event, a spokeswoman said.

The players, who now live around the country, flew in Monday.

Reyes, who represents the university, now known as Texas-El Paso, introduced a resolution earlier this month honoring Coach Don Haskins and his players on the 40th anniversary of their historic win.

Haskins was the first coach to start five black players in the NCAA championship game.

The resolution is making its way through the House Education and the Workforce Committee.


Wives’ new cookbook: a collectors item in the making

The Congressional Club, the 98-year-old organization of members’ spouses, has released the first edition of its famous cookbook since 1998, and it could be a worthwhile investment.

As of yesterday, four previous versions were listed on eBay for prices up to $124.99, which makes the current price of $42 seem like a bargain.

Unveiled at a luncheon at the club’s U Street headquarters last week, the latest edition, the 14th since the club’s inception, took nearly two years to produce.

Faux-leather-bound and gold-leafed, the volume runs to more than 700 pages.

“We wanted the whole look to be a historical look — one that even a man wouldn’t mind having on his shelf,” said Tricia Lott, who oversaw production of the book with Sylvia Sabo.

To that end, apart from its recipes from lawmakers, Cabinet members, foreign ambassadors and their spouses and relatives, the book is peppered with inauguration photos of presidents and first ladies, historical anecdotes and factoids about food in the White House.

“We wanted it to be very traditional and very Washington,” said Vicki Tiahrt, the club’s president.

“A lot of people who don’t do a lot of cooking do a lot of reading of cookbooks,” explained Sabo.

Or drinking, because they included a chapter on cocktails as well. Among the highlights: Rep. Hal Rogers’s (R-Ky.) mint julep; Sen. Jon Kyl’s (R-Ariz.) frozen margaritas; and Jell-O punch from Susan Lampson, wife of former Rep. Nick Lampson (D-Texas).

The book is available through the Congressional Club or at the Capitol gift shops.

In discussing the venerable club last week, Tiahrt said Bill Clinton, despite his status as a congressional spouse, has yet to visit the club. But Bob Dole keeps talking about running for club president, which we bet would get Clinton involved for no other reason than to compete once again against the man he beat in 1996.


Could new gift rules affect Restaurant Week?

The proposed revisions to congressional ethics rules, which would lower the maximum value of gifts from lobbyists to lawmakers or staff from $50 to $20, has everyone mulling the implications. Especially area restaurants.

Take Restaurant Week, the biannual bacchanalia that allows diners to eat three-course lunches in the city’s top restaurants for a week in January and August for $20.06 — a nod to the calendar year.

Next year, the per-person tab was set to go up only a penny, to $20.07. But, said Lynne Breaux, executive director of the Restaurant Association of Metropolitan Washington, the price could end up dropping seven cents because $20.07 is 7 cents over the proposed limit.

“Maybe we’ll have to lower Restaurant Week lunch to $19.99 so staffers can still go out with lobbyists,” she said.

Of course dinner, at 10 bucks more, would be out of the question anyway.


Inc. spotlights good and bad pols for small biz

Sens. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine), Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.) and John Kerry (D-Mass.) and Rep. Don Manzullo (R-Ill.) are among entrepreneurs’ “Best Friends in D.C.,” according to Inc. magazine.

Snowe and Manzullo were easy choices; they chair the Senate and House small business committees, respectively. But Hagel?

“Entrepreneurs tend to be outsiders or mavericks,” said Executive Editor Mike Hofman. Hagel certainly qualifies there, besides being the founder of a cell-phone company.

What about Kerry, who opposes such small-biz priorities as health savings accounts and association health plans? Going back to 1985, “few senators have done as much to promote entrepreneurship,” the magazine says.

The members join administration officials, think-tankers and lawyers on the list.

“We started out thinking there would be a lot of members of Congress, but the more interesting stories were people who controlled the purse strings or in an advocacy role,” Hofman said.

Fortunately for them, no members made the magazine’s “With friends like these …” list of D.C. disappointments. But former Rep. Chris Cox (R-Calif.), who now heads the Securities and Exchange Commission, did, for not aggressively trying to exempt small businesses from Sarbanes-Oxley requirements.