Al Kamen
Al Kamen
In the Loop

Heavy political trivia

It felt a bit like Nerd Christmas on Friday when the latest edition of the Almanac of American Politics landed on our desk. (With a thud, we should add — lifting those 1,904 pages doubles as a vigorous biceps workout.)

The book, edited by National Journal, is considered something of a Bible for the political class, as it provides detailed profiles of every last congressional district, member of Congress and governor. Important stuff here, to be sure. But we also enjoy the quirky factoids amid the weighty census data and maps.

Al Kamen

Al Kamen, an award-winning columnist on the national staff of The Washington Post, created the “In the Loop” column in 1993. He began his reporting career at the Rocky Mountain News and joined The Post in 1980. He has covered local and federal courts, the Supreme Court and the State Department. Follow him on Twitter.

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The University of Chicago Press, which publishes the tome, provided the Loop with a list of interesting tidbits from its pages.

Think you’re an expert on Congress? Try these questions:

Q: What House member spotted a historical error in Steven Spielberg’s “Lincoln”?

A: Joe Courtney (D-Conn.). The film wrongly depicted two reps from Connecticut as voting against the 13th Amendment. (Page 336)

Q: Which senator’s tweets were described as “avant-garde, stream-of-consciousness poetry” by Stephen Colbert?

A: Charles Grassley (R-Iowa). The senator’s response? “I like tweeting, but I don’t like to type.” (Page 643)

Q: Which politician won a “Mr. Tight Jeans” contest?

A: Idaho Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter (R). He won in 1992 at the Rockin’ Rodeo bar. (Page 523)

Q: Whose late-night nude swim in the Sea of Galilee almost cost him reelection?

A: Rep. Kevin Yoder (R-Kan.). On the plus side, it did make him the subject of a David Letterman top-10 list. (Page 681)

Q: Who is said to have inspired the character of politician Tommy Carcetti on HBO’s “The Wire”?

A: Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley (D). He also plays guitar in a Celtic rock band, something that didn’t make it into the show. (Page 771)

Q: Who carried the “football” — the package containing nuclear launch codes — for Presidents Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan?

A: Rep. John Kline (R-Minn.). He did so while serving as a Marine and was quoted in USA Today as saying, “You can put it down, and I did often.” (Page 914)

Q: What House member was the first to release to his own iPhone app?

A: Bob Latta (R-Ohio). It currently has a 2.5-star rating in iTunes. (Page 1313)

Q: Who is the only politician to ever beat Barack Obama in an election?

A: Bobby Rush (D-Ill.). Challenged by Obama in 2000 in the primary for a House seat in Illinois’ 1st District, he beat Obama by 61 percent to 30 percent. (Page 554)

Q: Which senator was once a folk singer who made extra money singing in coffeehouses?

A: Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.). Unfortunately, she never made an album. (Page 853)

Q: Who ran a teen nightclub called the Motherlode?

A: Sen. Mark Begich (D-Alaska). He opened it when he was 16 and later managed to block it from being replaced with a strip club. (Page 53)

Q: What representative took part in the Big Brothers Big Sisters program and was assigned Michelle Robinson — later to become Michelle Obama — as her mentor?

A: Terri Sewell (D-Ala.). She said it was part of the inspiration for her entry into politics. (Page 38)

O Canada, be patient

We tried to calm our worried Canadian cousins a couple of weeks ago. They were concerned that the long-expected nomination of Chicago mega-bundler and wealthy Goldman Sachs partner Bruce Heymann as the U.S. ambassador to Ottawa had somehow been derailed.

We checked and concluded that things were on track — it was just taking a while to get him through the vetting process, count all that money, etc.

The press up north had been looking at all the other countries, including some quite small ones, that had already received their own Obama campaign uber-contributor and fretted: “What’s wrong with Canada?” and “Is this any way to treat a friend?”

So the nomination was announced last week and went to the Senate on Monday. Assuming Senate confirmation, no more worries. Washington still loves you.

Now, about that pipeline . . .

Speaking of ambassadors-in-waiting, relations with Hungary are a bit rocky, in part because of continued concerns over Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s human rights record.

Nonetheless, the expected nomination of another Obama mega-bundler, Hollywood producer Colleen Bell, best known for the TV soap opera “The Bold and the Beautiful,” to be ambassador to Hungary, is also on track. We’re hearing Bell’s vetting is done, and that the Hungarians, who must agree to the nomination, doubtless will do so. Something should be announced soon.

Meanwhile, Kathryn Thomson, acting general counsel at the Department of Transportation since May 2013 and chief counsel of the Federal Aviation Administration, was nominated Monday to move up to be the department’s general counsel.

Look who’s on Twitter

Secretaries of state are a competitive bunch. For years, they’ve had an unofficial derby to see who could cover the most miles, visit the most countries, etc. And now with Bill Clinton SecState Madeleine Albright joining Twitter on Monday, perhaps a new contest is afoot: who gets the most Twitter followers.

Albright, after tweeting her first missive — “First of 3 female SecState’s — last to join Twitter. Better late than never!” with a picture of her wearing a pin with a bird that reads “TWEET” — quickly garnered thousands of followers (she was up to more than 14,000 at last count).

Current Secretary John Kerry’s on Twitter, tweeting from the State Department’s account, which has more than 651,500 followers (not exactly a direct comparison), as is Condoleezza Rice with just shy of 100,000. Of course, it’s not really a fair fight when former secretary of state Hillary Clinton is involved — her celebrity and status as a possible 2016 presidential candidate has earned her a massive following of more than 789,000.

With Emily Heil

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

 
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