Gates, Tiger and the King
So, what do you get when Bill Gates, Tiger Woods and the King of Jordan walk into Congress on the same day?
No, this is no Capitol Briefing joke. It's a real question, because in three separate appearances, three of the most recognizable people on earth -- all for different reasons -- were here at the Capitol today.
For all their love of policy, politics and issues, deep down, members of Congress are just like all of us when it comes to being star struck. So today, across the House and Senate, Democrats and Republicans did their level best to get their faces in front of the cameras with a few non-political types and Middle Eastern royalty.
First up was Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.) -- the venerable chairman of the Health, Education, Labor, Pensions Committee -- who was hosting Gates at a hearing in the Dirksen Senate Office Building. Sure, Gates doesn't hold a single vote in the Senate and his views on public policy might not sway a single extra vote on immigration or education issues (which Kennedy is currently pushing), but he's the world's richest man, and the world's largest philanthropist. If he supports a member of Congress' work, well, then he gets to show up and testify.
Which Kennedy's staff duly noted in a press release 30 minutes before Gates actually testified: "Gates addressed the need to invest in competitiveness and innovation and outlined the importance of securing the future of the American workforce through training programs; delivering immigration reforms that enable highly skilled workers, computer scientists and engineers to serve our economy; and providing high quality education to our country's young people"
Next up were King Abdullah II and his wife, Queen Rania Al Abdullah, of Jordan, who spoke before a joint meeting of the House and Senate in the House chamber at 11 a.m. The king implored Congress to re-engage in Palestinian-Israeli peace talks, a deeply passionate speech. Immediately following was a photo opportunity with
Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), the king, the queen and other members of Congress.
And to be clear, Queen Rania is every bit the celebrity herself. An elevator operator in the Capitol -- yes, there are still elevator operators for the members-only lifts, and yes, there are still members-only elevators -- expressed her sheer excitement at seeing the queen today. It was the first time this elevator operator had seen the queen since shortly after the birth of their first child, as she's now the mother of four.
[Good thing Rania didn't run into Bill Gates. That would have been awkward. After graduating from the American University in Cairo, she worked at for one of Gatses' biggest competitors, Apple Computer, in Jordan!]
And then came Tiger. He had never done a photo-op in the Capitol, and that was big news. Ostensibly in town to promote his new golf tournament, Woods also brought his multi-million-dollar smile to the Capitol to talk with congressional leaders about the work his foundation is doing in helping low-income and at-risk children through education and athletics.
Looking far more professional than his usual Sunday red-and-black golf clothes -- grey suit, purple tie, purple shirt -- Woods posed for pictures with Pelosi, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio), House Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-S.C.) and Rep. Joe Baca (D-Calif.).
Woods may have been meeting with the leaders to talk about his foundation, but they were there to yuk it up about their golf games. Boehner, who ended last golf season as a 5 handicap, meaning he shoots in the high 70s, endured jokes from Pelosi about being a "man who knows his way around" a golf course.
Hoyer, clearly a hacker who's happy if he breaks 100, called himself the man at the table "most in need of your services." Woods smiled the entire time, enduring the banter. As Capitol Briefing and the rest of the several dozen press were being ushered out, someone shouted a question to Woods about whether this signaled his intention to get involved in politics. Not a chance, he said, with a child on the way and his game at its current peak. Not to mention the Masters coming up next month.
"My plate's pretty full," he demurred.
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