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1 thing Democrats and Republicans agree on: Pale blue ties

Clockwise from top left: Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-Tex.), White House spokesperson Robert Gibbs, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio),  Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-Tex) with his wife, Rep. John B. Larson (D-Conn.) with Rep. John Yarmuth (D-Ky.) and Vice President Joe Biden.
Clockwise from top left: Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-Tex.), White House spokesperson Robert Gibbs, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-Tex) with his wife, Rep. John B. Larson (D-Conn.) with Rep. John Yarmuth (D-Ky.) and Vice President Joe Biden. (AP, Reuters, AFP/Getty, Marvin Joseph and Bill O'Leary/Washington Post)

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Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, January 6, 2011; 8:33 PM

Washington's at war with itself. Health-care-law repealing, debt-ceiling raising, spending, slashing. Pow, bam, boom!

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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.


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