Field of dames

Al Kamen
Columnist June 21, 2012

The 7 p.m. start time for the annual Congressional Women’s Softball Game was nearing, but a few starters for the lawmakers’ team were missing.

The Senate was taking late votes, the word came, and the women would be there just as soon as that pesky farm bill was handled.

Al Kamen, an award-winning columnist on the national staff of The Washington Post, created the “In the Loop” column in 1993. View Archive

Plenty of joking ensued about how the “do-nothing” upper chamber had picked the wrong night to get something done (hey, it was that kind of crowd).

Finally, the senators arrived and the game, which pits members against journalists, was on.

Ultimately, the lawmakers’ full roster wasn’t enough to match the performance by the Bad News Babes, who won 13-10. It was looking like a blowout for the reporters, who were leading 11-1, until the sixth, when lawmakers mounted a rally, assisted by some walks and RBIs for Reps. Colleen W. Hanabusa (D-Hawaii) and Susan a. Davis (D-Calif.). Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) and Rep. Martha Roby (R-Ala.) also came up with strong late-inning hits.

Standout performances from the media team included ABC’s Amy Walters, who hit multiple singles and was a vacuum at shortstop, and Emmarie Huetteman of the New York Times, who smacked a triple.

Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) announced the game, along with NBC’s Andrea Mitchell, providing color about the sluggers as they came to bat. Sen. Gillibrand “tap-danced as a young girl” and Rep. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) met her husband on a blind date, the crowd learned.

The game, which took place just blocks away from the Capitol at Watkins Recreational Center, will benefit the Young Survival Coalition, which helps young breast-cancer victims.

Before the first pitch, in the members’ dugout, the atmosphere was confident.

“Two times the age, three times the determination,” said Rep. Donna Edwards (D-Md.), dismissing the relative youth of the media team.

The media team was equally cool. “They can’t trash-talk their way to victory,” Lynn Sweet of the Chicago Sun-Times said as she fueled up for the game with a hot dog and readied her gardening gloves, which do double duty as batting gear. “You know those politicians — talk, talk, talk.”

A well-paved way

It’s unclear why Attorney General Eric Holder is so concerned about the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee’s vote to hold him in contempt of Congress.

Although he is the first Obama administration official to undergo such a vote, he joins a long list of well-known officials from prior administrations who lost contempt votes by committees or even the full House or Senate, according to a list compiled by the Congressional Research Service last month.

The list, since 1980, includes:

Former George W. Bush White House counsel Harriet Miers, chief of staff Josh Bolten and deputy chief of staff Karl Rove over documents and testimony in the investigation of the firing of U.S. attorneys.

Several Clinton administration officials, including White House counsel Jack Quinn, during the investigation of the firings of White House travel office employees.

Clinton attorney general Janet Reno, for not turning over documents related to an inquiry of whether Justice failed to investigate or prosecute cases involving Democratic donors.

Clinton White House associate counsel William H. Kennedy III during the investigation of the Whitewater scandal.

Reagan attorney general William French Smith for refusing to produce documents on an investigation of General Dynamics.

Reagan energy secretary Charles W. Duncan for not giving up documents during an investigation of the imposition of a petroleum import fee.

Reagan interior secretary James Watt for documents during an investigation of the Mineral Lands Leasing Act.

Former Reagan Environmental Protection Agency officials Anne M. Burford and Rita Lavelle for not handing over documents involving cleanup of hazardous-waste sites.

Most often, the CRS review indicates, these contempt actions were voided after further negotiations and usually after additional testimony or documents were provided.

All in all, it seems to be a pretty distinguished group of folks on that list. Of course, we’re not including non-government officials such as alleged Chicago mob boss Anthony J. Accardo, whom the Senate held in contempt for not answering questions about labor racketeering.

Canvassing for canvas?

As Obama’s Cabinet secretaries contemplate the possible end of their tenures, they’re surely considering how future generations might remember them.

Traditionally, they have their official portraits painted after leaving office. But during tough times, they might want to reconsider the pricey gilt-frame treatment. A 2008 Washington Post article found that they can run up to nearly $50,000.

“It may be tradition, but the practice needs to be reevaluated in light of the $1.3 trillion deficit,” said Steve Ellis, vice president of Taxpayers for Common Sense.

And with Google image searches and cable news it’s not that future generations need a painting to see what an official looked like.

We could save big bucks by commissioning photos instead of paintings. But then what about the starving artists, their berets askew, trying to capture Secretary So-and-So with just the right air of dignity and gravitas?

With Emily Heil

The blog: washingtonpost.com/
intheloop. Twitter: @InTheLoopWP.

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