Will he take it on the chin for Nevada? Harry Reid will take a pass on the beard battle.


“Many years ago I tried to grow a beard and couldn’t,” Reid told the Loop. (J. Scott Applewhite/AP)

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) will not grow a beard for his state’s 150th birthday this year.

Because he can’t.

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

Nevada’s other senator, Dean Heller (R), asked Reid to join him in growing out his facial hair in honor of the upcoming sesquicentennial. “He looked at me [and said] ‘No way, not a chance,’” Heller said, according to the Reno Gazette Journal.

Why so adamant?

“Many years ago I tried to grow a beard and couldn’t,” Reid told the Loop. “This is a contest I can’t win, and I only get into contests I can win. Dean can grow one for the both of us.”

Heller, already sporting some scruff this August, is putting aside his razor for the weeks leading up to the late October celebration because his father did the same for the state’s centennial in 1964. He was 4 years old then.

As it happens, growing beards for centennials is a long-established tradition in states and towns across America. (Who knew?)

Nevada in particular has a long tradition of beard-growing. On Nevada Day, which is held every year around the time Nevada became a state, there’s an annual beard contest on or near the steps of the state Capitol in Carson City. And moreover, the World Beard and Moustache Championships were held in the United States for the very first time in Carson City in 2003.

(The sport began in Europe, and the world event will be held in Portland, Ore., this year — its third time in the United States.)

We caught up with Phil Olsen , Beard Team USA captain, who brought the competition to the states 11 years ago and takes responsibility for the resurgence of beards in America.

Celebrating Nevada’s 150th birthday with beards is especially fitting, he said, because 1864 was “the golden age of beards in America.” Generals sported beards. So did President Abraham Lincoln — “America’s Greatest Beardsman,” in Olsen’s estimation.

“It’s something I’ve noticed over the years, there have been lots of competitions like that, events where all the men in the town grow beards for the centennial,” he said.

But Olsen doesn’t think there’s anything about centennials in particular that have made them an event to grow beards.

“Men will think of any excuse to grow a beard because men just want to grow a beard and a centennial is just an excuse,” he said.

It’s the same when the Red Sox grew them for the World Series. Or when some in Washington grew government shutdown beards.

“This is something men do and want to do because it’s their birthright,” Olsen said.

Perhaps. But Harry, for one, won’t be hairy.

Quotes of the week

It’s a narrative that’s been explored before. Congressional Democrats feel slighted, ignored, cast aside by their president.

In February 2013, the Atlantic even did a round-up of news headlines about the imperfect relationship after Politico blasted a story chock-full of quotes from frustrated Democrats who wanted President Obama to engage with them more.

A year and a half later, it appears that relations have not much improved. And Democratic lawmakers are holding less back in their critiques of the White House’s less-than-stellar communication efforts.

The Hill newspaper got some bitter quotes from House Democrats for a story published Thursday that underscores the depth of the frustrations with Obama and his team. These blunt quotes win the Loop’s Quote(s) of the Week award:

“It’s hard for us to fathom; I mean, is it just lack of full staffing and resources? [Is it] professional commitment? Is it a disdain for the legislative branch? I mean, what is it?” asked Rep. Gerry Connolly (Va.). “People like me want to be allies — I mean, I am an ally. So work with us, reach out to us; you know, we’re not the enemy.

“Certainly, Bill Clinton saw us as his offensive line, and so he attended to the nurturing of his offensive line,” Rep. Jim Moran (Va.) told the Hill. “And I don’t think this president, this quarterback, invests all that much time and effort into the care and feeding of his offensive line.”

There’s been much written asking why Obama doesn’t consult, socialize and develop relationships with his allies in Congress. Is it his distant personality? Is it because no amount of consultation with them will change the outcome given a House Republican majority unwilling to budge? Or is there another unexplored reason why the one-mile stretch of Pennsylvania Avenue between the two institutions may as well be an ocean?

Whatever the reason, Obama’s relationship with Congress generally shows no signs of improving.

But not every Democrat is harboring hurt feelings over not getting a birthday call or being asked their opinion on a policy point.

Sharing the Loop crown is Rep. Mike Quigley (Ill.) who hails from Obama’s hometown:

“[With] some of my colleagues, I feel like I’m back in high school, right? It’s, ‘Oh, he didn’t smile at me. He didn’t do a photo with me. He didn’t invite me to the Super Bowl party,’ ” Quigley said. “Who cares? What are you, 12? . . . We’ve got important stuff to do.”

Still time to help Carlos!

It’s not too late to submit your entries to help former congressman and famed sexter Anthony Weiner with his latest career venture: The restaurant biz.

We’re not impressed with the name he picked for his new establishment, Rockaway Restoration Kitchen. We know that Loop fans can do better.

The “Name the Weiner Restaurant Contest” ends at noon, Monday Aug. 18. The top 10 winners get one of our coveted Loop T-shirts. Don’t delay!

Send entries — only one suggestion per person — to intheloop@washpost.com. Be sure to provide your name, profession, mailing address and T-shirt size (M, L or XL).

You must also include a phone number — home, work or cell — to be eligible.

Now remember, although we know it may be tough, please keep your entries at most PG-13 — we are, afterall, a family column.

— With Colby Itkowitz

Twitter: @KamenInTheLoop, @ColbyItkowitz

Colby Itkowitz is a national reporter for In The Loop.
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