Washington’s at war with itself. Health-care-law repealing, debt-ceiling raising, spending, slashing. Pow, bam, boom!
And yet, right there under its chin, there’s something to agree about — Republican or Democrat. These days, the new power tie, the ne plus ultra of Washington accessorizing is the same for everyone: pale blue.
The just-ascended House speaker, Ohio Republican John A. Boehner, sealed it this week, slapping that oversize gavel into the palm of his left hand on Congress’s inauguration day while wearing pale blue neckwear. Looked familiar? Well, that’s the same color President Obama — leader of the other team — wears. A lot.
Theirs is a soothing choice for these unsettling times. A daiquiri ice color palette to replace another era’s put-up-your-dukes reds. The warring parties may not be able to get along in conference committee (or on cable television), but they seem to be learning how to give the appearance that they can be simpatico in the dressing room.
Obama gets props for leading the way, his pale bluesy groove giving him just that extra, subtle boost of cool in this gray-and-grayer town. Everyone seemed to follow — from press secretary Robert Gibbs to the kids on the Hill. But it turns out that there’s more to this story. Someone else may truly be behind the Birth of the Blue in the Obama era.
Gibbs explained it late Thursday afternoon, and it dates to Obama’s star-burst on the national scene.
“On the night of [Obama’s] keynote address to the 2004 Democratic Convention, I was supposed to wear a pale blue tie I had bought but never worn,” Gibbs confided in an e-mail. “Obama liked it so much he decided he’d wear it himself.”
Robert Gibbs: fashion maven.
The outgoing press secretary — once grossly underestimated for his sartorial savvy — said he chose a pale blue tie the first time he appeared before that snarling (or docile, depending on whom you’re talking to) pack of reporters in the White House briefing room.
By then, it was firmly Obama’s tie color to the un-informed masses. Looking back, Gibbs goes a little Zen master on us: “Pale blue is a calming color and good in an uncertain world.”
This is the West Wing we’re talking about, however, so there has to be some element of intrigue. Gibbs doesn’t say whether he got any help making that fateful tie selection, but he hinted there might have been others involved.
“Who picks out my ties is a closely guarded secret,” he said.
Going blue is made all the easier by the natural affinity that Gibbs, Obama and their krewe have for the color. It is, after all, the official color of all things Democratic Party.
It’s trickier for Boehner.
There’s silence on the other end of the line for several moments when I call Boehner’s spokesman, Michael Steel (no, not the Republican Party chairman — he spells his last name with an “e” at the end). What about the color choice? Does it mean anything?
“The speaker often wears brightly colored ties,” Steel says in pitch-perfect “official statement” monotone. The color worn Wednesday “had no special significance.”
On further reflection, Steel — a North Carolinian — added that he’d prefer the color be described as “Carolina blue.” Nice try, but Boehner’s tie was much paler. Much closer to Obama blue, really.
No matter what the tie color may be called, it’s everywhere. From some vantage points, it almost seemed as if there was nothing but blue ties. Jeb Hensarling, the Texas Republican who formally nominated Boehner, went blue, as did Vice President Biden.
“The ties that bind,” John B. Larson, a Connecticut Democrat, quipped Thursday afternoon when reached on the phone at a Capitol still buzzing from that, ahem, stirring reading of the Constitution.
Rolling now, Larson cracked that Boehner called him personally for sartorial input. “I told him, ‘I think, John, you’d look good in blue. It gives a little softer hue to the hue of you.’ ” (For the record, Larson makes no explicit mention of Boehner’s famed complexion. But The Post is not similarly constrained. We’re happy to report that pale blue and orange mesh quite nicely.)
Surely, the Gentleman from Connecticut was joking about his phone call with the speaker-to-be. But there are worse things one could imagine than D’s and R’s communing peaceably over, well, anything. Why not ties?
“Blue is the cool color,” said Billy Reid, an Alabaman like Gibbs, but also the best new fashion designer in 2010 as declared by GQ and Vogue. “It certainly has a feeling of peace. It sure would be nice if they could all get along.”