White House Posts Its Fashion Do's and Don'ts

By Al Kamen
Wednesday, July 25, 2007

The Bush administration may be taking some hits lately in the polls, but that doesn't mean it's going to let down its sartorial standards.

So signs have popped up at various White House entrances -- including the press entrance and the staff and visitors' entrance at the southwest gate -- along with e-mails to staff members, to remind everyone, particularly tour groups, that, even in these times of sinking poll numbers, proper attire is to be maintained.

The e-mail reminder was all in capital letters. It advised that there would be no jeans, sneakers, shorts, miniskirts, T-shirts, tank tops and -- with boldface added -- "NO FLIP FLOPS." (Which, of course, is good advice, if rarely followed in this town.)

These prohibitions would be in force "regardless of weather conditions."

Some visitors from the Reagan and Bush I days were taken aback by the rule postings. "We were plenty button-down," recalled a Reagan aide who saw one of the signs, but added: "Do they have nothing else to do" than fret about this?

It's unclear if there was some particular event that sparked the crackdown. And though it appears directed at tour groups, visitors, staff members and press regulars assume they're included.

"When the Clintons came in, all hell broke loose" in terms of dress code -- and perhaps other things? -- one current aide said. "We're just trying to get things back on track."

And flip-flops have always been verboten. "As you know, this administration has a strong record against flip-flops," said White House spokeswoman Emily Lawrimore. But Crocs, with or without socks, presumably are okay if you're biking with Bush.

There's also a sign posted in front of the new podium about "Press briefing room tour guidelines."

It says:

Please do not stand on the

riser or behind the podium

Photos may be taken

At ground level only.

This new policy doesn't supplant an earlier one -- no one cared what anyone did in the old press room. Press secretary Tony Snow apparently has stopped bringing his usual cup of coffee to briefings after being told it's against the new rules.

Waiting to Say You're Sorry

Seems Rep. Christopher Shays (R-Conn.) is going to have to wait a little longer to apologize for what one report called a "profanity-laced tirade" last week at a Capitol police officer -- and reaching over to grab the officer's name tag -- in a nasty altercation.

The Thursday afternoon incident occurred as Shays was waiting to meet constituents on the east steps of the Capitol for a photo, the Hartford Courant reported. But an intern escorting the group was on the wrong side of the Capitol and unsure how to find Shays.

Shays suggested he find an officer and hand the officer his cellphone so Shays could explain where he was and have the officer help. The officer said he wasn't permitted to use a cellphone while on duty. Shays walked through the Capitol and found the group and angrily berated the officer. (This is not your usual constituent tour.)

Shays issued a statement the next day saying, "I take full responsibility for this incident" and should have handled the matter "in a more professional and respectful way, and I regret I did not do so."

Shays said he wanted to personally apologize to the officer -- who had complained to his superiors about Shays -- when he returned from Connecticut on Monday. But the officer was on a previously scheduled leave. Shays met instead with Capitol Police Chief Phillip D. Morse Sr.

A Shays spokesman said yesterday that he didn't know when the officer was returning but that, as soon as he does, Shays would apologize to him. Lucky he didn't get decked. Or cuffed. Or detained the way then-Rep. Cynthia McKinney (D-Ga.) was in a similar altercation a while back.

It Starts With an 'E'

And, now, President Bush explains how Washington works. In a speech in Nashville last week, Bush said this of folks in Congress: "They ought not to be trying to slip special spending measures in there without full transparency and full debate -- those are called entitlements." Actually, those are called earmarks. Entitlements are things such as Social Security, Medicare and so on.

And It Ends With an 'S'

Speaking of earmarks, former congressman Jim "Bagman" Nussle is up in the Senate this week for confirmation hearings on his nomination to be head of the Office of Management and Budget.

He chatted yesterday with the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee and tomorrow will talk to the Senate Budget Committee. Both committees sent him detailed questionnaires before the hearings to get background and other information so as not to waste time at the sessions and to establish a base for questioning.

So the Budget Committee asked him: "Each year, the President includes a number of earmarks as part of his budget request. How many earmarks were included in the Administration's FY 07 and FY 08 budget proposals? In your view, are these appropriate? If so, are they more appropriate than earmarks included by Congress? If so, why?"

"I am not familiar with the details of the President's FY 2008 Budget," Nussle said. "However," he noted, the White House requests funds "to meet national priorities" and uses "merit-based" allocations, and it's backed by detailed information and "this is appropriate."

Betcha the members -- Bush has been roundly criticized by members of both parties for pushing his own earmarks -- will want to talk some more about this tomorrow.

View all comments that have been posted about this article.

© 2007 The Washington Post Company