Axelrod puts his face on the line for Obama

Al Kamen
Columnist October 31, 2012

One of the set pieces of political life is the friendly wager. Usually it’s over a sports rivalry, with one lawmaker betting a hometown specialty (his or her district’s claim-to-fame culinary export — pirogi, crab cakes, barbecue . . . ) against an opponent’s similar offering.

Pretty tame stuff.

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

So we applaud those who are willing to truly put some skin in the game — like David Axelrod, the adviser to President Obama who vowed to shave off his mustache if his boss loses Pennsylvania, Michigan or Minnesota.

Considering that the now-salt-and-pepper crumb catcher has defined Axelrod’s signature look for nearly 40 years, that’s really upping the ante.

And we’re not counting the $10,000 bet that Obama’s Republican challenger, Mitt Romney, once offered during a GOP debate to settle a dispute over health-care policy. For him, that’s pocket change.


Obama adviser David Axelrod’s mustache has defined his signature look for nearly 40 years, and he’s putting it on the political line. (Nam Y. Huh/AP)

A Romney aide declined to put any hair on the line, but MSNBC host and former congressman Joe Scarborough countered Axelrod’s vow with one of his own, promising to grow a mustache to rival Axelrod’s should Obama win Florida or North Carolina.

Other exceptions to the lame-bet status quo are rare. One reasonably high-stakes wager ended with Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) belting out an awkward rendition of the Elton John song “Rocket Man” to settle up with Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) after the Florida Gators defeated the Oklahoma Sooners for the 2009 national championship in college football.

In another interesting football bet, Nelson and his Gators bested Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) and his beloved Ohio State Buckeyes in 2007. Brown wound up trying to do 55 push-ups (equal to the total number of points scored).

But if Axelrod winds up losing his hair-raising bet, there’s a precedent for backing out. In 2009, Rep. Bob Brady (D-Pa.) offered to shave his impressive mane of hair if his beloved Phillies lost to the New York Yankees in the World Series. They did, and when he shied away from “paying up,” Rep. John Hall (D-N.Y.), against whom he’d made the wager, tried to shame him into it, filming a spoof video at the House barbershop.

Brine of credit

Laid-off stockbroker Jenny Fulton, who now runs Miss Jenny’s Pickles in Kernersville, N.C., was featured Sunday on CBS News’s “60 Minutes,” talking about how she began exporting her pickles to China.

She told reporter Scott Pelley that she had gone to a seminar in Charlotte a couple of years ago and listened to some guy named Fred talk about programs to help businesses export by ensuring they will be paid.

And “when he got done speaking,” Fulton said, “I went running outside” to find who had driven him to the event.

“And I said, ‘Who’s driving Fred?’ Guy said, ‘Me, Chris.’ And I said, ‘You’re my new best friend. Get him to eat these pickles before he gets on the plane, because I want to export this year.’ ”

And now, Fulton said, the pickles are in 40 stores in China — in Beijing, Shanghai, Kunming, Shenzhen. The high-end pickles, soon to be in Mongolia and Canada, are in hundreds of stores in this country, too, including Dean & DeLuca in Georgetown.

Fred’s last name, though never mentioned on the broadcast, is Hochberg. He’s the Fred Hochberg who runs the U.S. Export-Import Bank, which is standing by to give Fulton credit insurance. (For now, she takes only cash.)

Hochberg says he tried some pickles and gave the rest to the driver, since he couldn’t take the jar on the plane.

They are not your run-of-the-mill pickles.

“They are very good pickles,” he said. “And as a New Yorker, I know my pickles.”

Right host, right time

The Loop’s alphabet soup usually spans the acronyms of obscure federal agencies or complicated bills — not lifesaving techniques such as CPR. But we’re making an exception for this heart-pounding story.

In his day job as the special inspector general for Afghanistan reconstruction, John Sopko keeps watch on waste, fraud and abuse.

Sopko recently won kudos from a team of EMTs when he performed CPR on a friend suffering cardiac arrest — and kept the man alive until the professionals arrived.

After dinner at his Bethesda home, Sopko watched as his guest slumped over, apparently suffering a heart attack. He began CPR, and when the ambulance from the Glen Echo Fire Department arrived moments later, his friend’s heart was still beating.

The EMTs took over, and now that his pal is recovering, Sopko — and the volunteers at the Glen Echo FD — are trying to spread the word about the importance of CPR. (It’s unusual, the medics note, to have someone on hand who’s skilled at CPR, though it doubles or triples the likelihood that a victim will survive.) They’re urging folks in the area who want to get training to pay an online visit to the fire department or the American Heart Association.

Sopko, who got certified in the technique when he worked at the Commerce Department, says he plans to make sure the people on his SIGAR staff (see, we can’t resist the acronyms) are CPR-certified.

With Emily Heil

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

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