The Washington Post

Gift ideas for the politically inclined


If getting pepper-sprayed at Wal-Mart while fighting a 70-year-old for the last waffle iron isn’t your idea of an enjoyable shopping scene, perhaps a kinder, gentler — and more Washington-flavored — excursion is in order.

We proudly submit the Loop’s sometimes-annual holiday gift guide, perfect for steering you to the gear sure to delight the wonky and hard-to-please on your shopping list.

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

This year, there’s no shortage of swag catering to fans of any of the Republican presidential contenders. Newt Gingrich fans, for instance, might like this lovely “Newt 2012” necklace we spied at It may not come in a little blue box, but at $19.50, it’s affordable even if you’re not a hot ticket on the lecture circuit.

Opponents of former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney (and this could include Republicans or Democrats) will love a pair of Romney flip-flop sandals, perfect for showering at the gym — and displaying one’s displeasure at the GOP front-runner’s somewhat flexible persona.

There are several models to choose from on, including a pair featuring the word “No!” on one shoe and “Yes!”on the other. Another reads “Mitt Flips!” on one and “Mitt Flops!” on the other.


An extra reusable shopping bag is always handy, and Democrats will enjoy one with a lavish illustration of first lady Michelle Obama on a swing above the phrase “First Lady of Fabulous.” Actually, this one’s several steps above a gag — it’s actually campily stylish and was designed by noted British illustrator Fiona Hewitt.

And there’s something for everyone from noted Washington jeweler Ann Hand. Her shop offers those lovely Swarovski campaign pins that make for a classy alternative to a loud plastic button. Choose “Obama 2012” or any of the top Republican candidates (yes, even Ron Paul).

As a broader theme, we continue to note that there are classier options for Republican gifts than for their Dem counterparts. For example, the Capitol Hill Club offers GOP merchandise that a member of the 1 percent might like. Cuff links, for example, or a subtle elephant-print silk tie. Or a Limoges box.

In contrast, Democrats have options that are far more, well, Everyman. Take the tote bags and pink “Democratic Woman” ­T-shirts offered on the Democratic National Committee’s site.

Much more bowling alley than boardroom.

Divided loyalties

Latino lawmakers and organizations are furious over the Senate’s failure to break a GOP filibuster of the nomination of recess appointee Mari Carmen Aponte to remain in her post as ambassador to El Salvador.

The Obama administration and Senate Democrats fell 11 votes short of the 60 needed to bring the nomination to a vote. Without confirmation, Aponte will lose her ambassadorship at the end of this year.

Latinos specifically singled out Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) for blame, with Rep. Nydia Velazquez (R-N.Y.) saying he “promised to be the voice of Puerto Ricans in the Senate” but declined to “use that voice in support of a Puerto Rican woman who has shown she is immensely qualified.”

Rubio, who voted to maintain the GOP filibuster, said he wasn’t opposed to Aponte but was blocking her nomination and a couple of others to protest administration policy in Latin America. Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) led the opposition to Aponte, saying there were questions about her former boyfriend’s ties to Cuban intelligence.

Well, Florida’s 850,000 Puerto Ricans are seen as a critical and growing voting bloc, although they made up only about 4 percent of the vote in 2010, according to the Pew Hispanic Center’s analysis of census data. And Rubio’s not up for reelection until 2016.

Of course, Obama and all House members are up next year.

A nomination gets through

The administration and Senate Democrats were able Monday evening to muster 70 votes to break a GOP filibuster of the nomination of former White House aide Norman Eisen, who had received a recess appointment, to be ambassador to the Czech Republic. The Senate then approved him on a voice vote, so Eisen can stay on in Prague.

Maraniss on Obama

There’s one book that’s certain to be on the president’s (or first lady’s) reading list next summer. It’s the latest from our colleague and best-selling author David Maraniss : “Barack Obama: The Story.”

A Pulitzer Prize winner and author of acclaimed biographies of baseball legend Roberto Clemente and football coach Vince Lombardi , Maraniss co-authored a book on the 1994 Republican takeover of the House titled “Tell Newt to Shut Up.” And there’s his outstanding biography of the pre-Oval Office life of Bill Clinton, “First in His Class.”

We’re hearing that, in the same way Maraniss went several layers deep to get the real story of Clinton during his Georgetown and Oxford years, he found some particularly good stuff about Obama’s years at Occidental College and in New York.

The Obama book won’t be out until June 19. Hmmm. Just a couple of months before the 2012 Democratic convention.

Exclusive indeed

The cold snap got you thinking about escaping to a warmer clime? How about a weekend at the end of January hanging out at the fabulous Ocean Reef Club in Key Largo, Fla.?

It’s the “2012 Freshmen Family & Fishing Weekend” fundraiser for 12 House Republican newbies with “special guests” Reps. Spencer Bachus (Ala.) and Pete Sessions (Tex.), our invite says.

The event goes to help reelection efforts of a long list of lawmakers: Reps. Sandy Adams (Fla.), Quico Canseco (Tex.), Rick Crawford (Ark.), Bob Dold (Ill.), Sean Duffy (Wis.), Steve Fincher (Tenn.), Mike Fitzpatrick (Pa.), Cory Gardner (Colo.), Michael Grimm (N.Y.), Nan Hayworth (N.Y.), Jim Renacci (Ohio) and Daniel Webster (Fla.).

The 4,000-member club, “an exclusive community of like-minded people,” features pretty much everything, according to its Web site. It has not one but two “championship 18-hole golf courses” and fishing opportunities of every sort, from deep-sea and reef fishing to bonefishing in the shallow flats only 10 minutes away.

You won’t be bothered by the Occupy Wall Street riffraff, thanks to the club’s crack private security team. And getting there couldn’t be more convenient — just land whenever you want at the club’s private airport, which is “always ready when members and their guests’ personal schedules require their presence off-island.”

Taking the yacht instead? No problem. There’s room for 175 boats at the club’s beautiful marina.

The fundraiser runs $20,000 per PAC ($10,000 for an individual) if you want to be on the host committee. Half that if you’re just buying a ticket. The 12 freshmen include some tea party members and others elected with strong tea party support, but the club doesn’t seem to be the place where members toss tea over the docks to protest their high taxes. Perhaps a little Earl Grey over the bow on occasion.

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