Gossip: In The Know

Chinese official calls ‘b——t’ on Rep. McCotter; congressman contemplates giving him the fing

After a Chinese businessman told The Financial Times that Rep. Thaddeus McCotter’s (R-Mich.) national security concerns about U.S.-China business ties were “b——t,” the lawmaker told ITK late Tuesday that he would consider a non-violent form of retaliation.

“If I ever meet him I will express my position in sign language,” McCotter said of Xu Zhijun, chief marketing officer of Huawei Technologies.

McCotter, the GOP Policy Committee chairman, told ITK that he wasn’t startled by the official’s use of profanity. “I’m from Detroit,” he said. “I think he was understating his position. … He has just shown us what ‘undiplomatic’ means.”

McCotter is worried because Huawei may become a minority shareholder in the U.S. telecom company 3Com, which provides technology to the Defense Department that is designed to protect the Pentagon against cyber attacks. The Pentagon believes Chinese hackers tried to attack its system last year.

“Like it or not, these people are testing us every day,” McCotter said.

Rep. Johnson gets emotional about POW past

It has been a weepy few days in the office of Rep. Sam Johnson (R-Texas).

Last week several cities in Miami-Dade County celebrated “Sam Johnson Day,” after naming a fitness center after him at Homestead Air Reserve Base. Johnson is a decorated Air Force fighter pilot who spent 2,494 days as a POW in Vietnam, 42 months of which were in solitary confinement. He also served in Korea.

Tuesday marked the day of Johnson’s release in 1973, when he returned home from Vietnam and all the children of Plano, Texas were let out of school to welcome him. “He has just been so weepy lately,” a Johnson aide said. “He gets choked up during interviews. He tears up … oh, I’m going to get emotional about this,” the aide added, voice breaking.

“We’ve had a weepy couple of days in Sam Johnson’s office.”

Rep. Jack Kingston (R-Ga.), who sponsored the legislation to name the center after Johnson, attended the Florida ceremony with Florida GOP Reps. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Mario Diaz-Balart.  

“In a political culture where we embellish everyone we talk about, it’s nice to have someone who goes past all the platitudes, and that is Sam Johnson,” said Kingston.

Johnson’s reaction to having a day devoted to him?

“Humbling,” he said.

New ‘panty’ saying helps female pols show they’re big girls now

An unseemly saying is catching on among female politicians and government officials in Washington, D.C., and it has to do with “big girl” clothing and intimate apparel.

Rep. Ellen Tauscher (D-Calif.) recently told a reporter for The Hill, “I like to say we all put our big-girl pants on and go to work every day like everybody else” in a story on the relationship between House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.).

Could be that she picked up the saying from Education Secretary Margaret Spellings, a proud Texan known for her folksy turns-of-phrase who has used the term “big-girl panties” in public several times. She has been known to write her motto, “Put on your big-girl panties and deal with it,” on her notepad.

Last year, Spellings made a special pep-call to White House Secretary Dana Perino when Perino had to step in as the primary spokeswoman for Tony Snow. “Put your big-girl panties on,” she told Perino.

Their mothers would be so proud.  

Mangy kids rob Huckabee campaign
Poor Mike Huckabee. The former Arkansas governor is not only battling the odds in his campaign against Sen. John McCain (Ariz.) for the Republican presidential nomination — he’s also dealing with thieving youngsters who are costing his campaign dollars.

Huckabee’s Virginia campaign sent an e-mail to supporters this week pleading for help in locating an $800 campaign banner from a rally in Virginia Beach.

According to the e-mail, “a couple of teenagers took the nice banner that hung behind Mike on stage. If you saw anything or know who took it, please get me their information ASAP,” pleaded Laura Ritterbush. “The sign is worth over $800 and was just put together last night. We know they probably meant no harm, but [we] really want this back.”


Hilfiger store to change stuffy image

Washington may not keep its “Hollywood for ugly people” image for much longer. A new Tommy Hilfiger store recently opened in Georgetown, signaling that this town may be moving toward newfound fashion consciousness.

But will the preppy, trendy wear fly with Capitol Hill ilk?

“With Tommy, his clothing is classic but with a twist — if anything will take, it’s this,” said Shannon Rusbuldt, a Manhattan model who volunteered on former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani’s (R) unsuccessful presidential campaign.

She’s also married to Joe Fredo, the nephew of Tommy Hilfiger. “Now that I’ve married into a very fashionable family, we’ve had to adjust,” she says. Of the clothing, she added, “It’s not too crazy. Every once in a while you’ll see a pop of color that you wouldn’t see at Brooks Brothers.”

Bob Rusbuldt, Shannon’s father and president of the Independent Insurance Agents & Brokers of America, said the new Hilfiger shop “might spice up the town a little. Maybe people will [wear] better ties. I’m getting very tired, myself, of blue and red ties.” He recently bumped into former Montana GOP Gov. Mark Racicot, the president of the American Insurance Association, who was wearing an orange Hilfiger tie.

Hilfiger shops are a rarity in the United States. There are three in Soho and one in Westchester, and another opens in March on Collins Drive in Miami. Betsy Hilfiger, sister of Tommy and director of community affairs for Tommy Hilfiger USA, said to expect more shops nationwide in the next few years.

Rep. Rehberg’s practical plane joke

When you’re from Montana, it’s hard to find things to do — so practical jokes come in handy.

Rep. Denny Rehberg (R-Mont.) recently played a gag on Rep. Mike Simpson (R-Idaho) on their Middle East congressional delegation trip last month.

Rehberg left an “Idaho Travel Package” on Simpson’s airplane seat.

Contents included a stuffed sheep with gloves attached to it (draw your own conclusions), a Village People CD, books on cross-dressing and sign language and a T-shirt that reads, “My senator may not be gay, but my governor is Butch.”

Rehberg is proud of the gift bag. “I spent a bit of time putting the things together,” he boasted.

was amused but not surprised that Rehberg was the bearer of such presents. “You can always find those materials in Montana,” he said, laughing.

Rep. Tancredo is not being rude, he’s trying to stop the noise

Rep. Tom Tancredo (R-Colo.) looked like he was rocking out last week in the Speaker’s Lobby, lounging in a leather armchair with earphones on.

But upon further investigation (and interruption), ITK learned that he wasn’t rocking out at all. Rather, he was using a $5,000 device designed to emanate sound at the level of the ringing and buzzing he already hears as the result of a condition called tinnitus. The device is meant to help Tancredo forget the noise.

The lawmaker said people often think he’s avoiding them — but really, he’s not. He’s regulating the noise in the follicles of his inner ears.

Tancredo said the condition likely stemmed from years of shooting handguns, in which he “almost always wore protection.”

So is the device working?

“When you pay this much, you say, ‘Of course it’s working!’ ”

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