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Obama Makes Rep. Engel 21 for 21 on Handshakes

He did it - again. For the 21st year in a row, Rep. Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.) shook the president's hand.

Only this year, it was a president whose policies he supports for a change.

Engel has staked out an aisle seat hours in advance each year since President George H.W. Bush's address to a joint session of Congress in 1989. This morning, he snagged an aisle seat at 8:30 a.m. and sat there all day, save for a few bathroom and snack breaks.

Speaking to us by cell phone earlier today from the House floor, he said, "It's an honor to shake the hand of the president of the United States no matter who it is."

But the liberal Democrat conceded, "It's a special treat for me to do it this year." He added, 'It's the office, it's the aura...but it's also the man."

Sure enough, when the president entered the House chamber to deliver his address, Engel got his presidential handshake. And he got a little more face time on Obama's way out.

So did dozens of others who clamored for the aisles, many wielding pens and programs of tonight's speech for the president to sign.

Engel said he wasn't particularly crazy about the name we have chosen to give to his club - the Handshake Hogs.

"No, I'll have to come up with something," he said. "I don't like hogs."

Other members of his club who were right down there on the aisle this year included, among many others: Reps. Sheila Jackson-Lee (D-Texas); Barbara Lee (D-Calif.); Loretta Sanchez (D-Calif.); Jesse Jackson Jr. (D-Ill.); Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio); and Jean Schmidt (R-Ohio).

More intriguing - Obama exchanged words with Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.), who raised eyebrows early this week by escalating an unfounded Internet rumor that the president is not a U.S. citizen.

It was unclear what the nature of their conversation was. But Obama put his hands on each side of the senator's broad shoulders and said something in body language that could have been interpreted as a mini-lecture.

By Mary Ann Akers  |  February 24, 2009; 10:50 PM ET
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: Obama and Hillary Bury the Snub Once and For All
Next: Behind the Scenes, Obama's Bipartisan Kiss-and-Hug-a-thon


Sad little man, eh? Tax dollars pay his salary?

Posted by: Rivery | February 24, 2009 11:39 PM | Report abuse

I was surprised by Obama's warmth toward Shelby when Shelby deserved a smack for what he said. But it seemed pretty clear Obama said, "Don't worry about it" or "Forget about it" or something to that effect as Shelby seemed to apologize to Obama, or something like that. But Obama hardly lectured Shelby, that is a preposterous misreading.

You can see it right around the 2:27 mark here:

Posted by: chrisoco | February 25, 2009 1:27 AM | Report abuse

Could you please comment on Gov. Bobby Jindal's Republican response? Because President Obama spoke like a man deserving of the highest seat in the American government, and Gov. Jindal proceeded afterword to speak in a forked tongue. His remarks and demeanor smacked of a man who ran this country for the last eight years. Because I am of the mind it is not appropriate for him to steal the stage from 'our president' after a speech that wasn't technically the 'state of the union' address, though Gov. Jindal dubbed it that. It was merely a statement to the nation and congress of how he will listen and address matters without opacity, but with clarity and conviction. Who is Gov. Jindal to make a retort such as the one he made? I found his response hollow and full of bipartisan speak. He is young and brash, the media should scrutinize his speech, or 'the republican response' to President Obama's speech, with as much gusto as they do our new commander in chief.

Posted by: argram | February 25, 2009 6:25 AM | Report abuse

Let's see how Gov. Jindal responds when our newly appointed Attorney General goes after those who pillaged, raped and ransacked our country and left many of the children dead and dis-membered by a senseless war. Since Mr. Jindal is governor of Louisiana, perhaps Attorney General Holder should start with 'Katrina' and her survivors who have not received compensation for their losses. Let's hear about responsibility from him about that issue.

Posted by: whtlady849 | February 25, 2009 2:39 PM | Report abuse

Did anyone notice the snub by President Obama of Sheila Jackson Lee who he left with a cracked face and Jesse Jackson Jr. who covered up well by embradcing Obama to hide the apparent snub. What going on?

Posted by: Herbert1 | February 25, 2009 4:13 PM | Report abuse

With regard to Shelby, it's not suprising that "Obama put his hands on each side of the senator's broad shoulders."

Would you want to shake hands with that? God knows what he's been touching lately!

Posted by: MikeK3 | February 25, 2009 4:53 PM | Report abuse

If there is something to comment on Gov. Bobby Jindal's Republican response, it is that wasn't as much a response as a shame.
When I think that us, The U.S. of America, have endured these individuals for 8 (EIGHT!) years, I feel intense inclination to hide myself under a chair, cover my head with a newspaper, I dono, sometin', but basically I feel ashamed, very ashamed.
Poor miscreates; and this is my flattering opinion of them Repukelicons.
Since all and every discovery, advance and improvement of Humanity has been done by progressist people and minds, I sense we are going very down the tube paying attention to whatever the Republicans have and can say; accompanied by the conviction that Republicans will take every opportunity to hinder the recuperation of the economy and of our country; in my humble opinion.

Posted by: SouthStar | February 26, 2009 10:42 AM | Report abuse


What "compensation" are Katrina victims due that haven't been paid for their losses and payable by whom? From
Insurance companies I trust. Please don't tell me you think the govt is responsible for compensating citizens for their losses.

Posted by: rnbm | February 26, 2009 2:07 PM | Report abuse

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