The Speaker’s Lobby: Congressional Nicknames
By: Chad Pergram, FOX News
27 November 2009
Nicknames in sports are nothing new.
George Herman Ruth is best known as Babe. Pete Maravich sounded a little pedestrian. But watch him drain bombs from 30 feet and you’ll understand why they called him “Pistol Pete.” The name Julius Erving appears rather refined, like a man of science. Perhaps that’s why on the basketball court, he was known as “Dr. J.” Fans dubbed Reggie Jackson “Mr. October” after his heroics in post-season play.
But no one assigns nicknames to athletes like ESPN’s Chris Berman.
And no one does it with such flair.
In Berman’s world, little-used Cincinnati Bengals running back Eric Bieniemy became Eric “Sleeping With” Bieniemy. Houston Astros pitcher Jim Deshaies morphed into Jim “Two Silhouettes On” Deshaies. And who can forget Baltimore Orioles outfielder John “Tonight Let It Be” Lowenstein?
So what if Berman covered Congress? And his highlight reels weren’t filled with ballplayers, but lawmakers?
Here’s a lighthearted stab at some monikers Berman might concoct for Capitol Hill.
Without question, there would be the puns. Simple layups. Rep. Neil Abercrombie (D-HI) “And Fitch.” Rep. Ed “Rolls” Royce (R-CA).” Rep. Melissa “L.L.” Bean (D-IL). Rep. Tammy Baldwin “Piano” (D-WI).
Popular culture might inspire other names.
I wonder what Billy Ray Cyrus would think if Rep. Todd Akin (R-MO) goes country and becomes Todd Akin “Breaky Heart?”
Keeping with the musical theme, The Royal Guardsmen might redo their 1966 hit “Snoopy and the Red” Baron Hill (D-IN).
I’m certain Rep. Roscoe Bartlett (R-MD) is used to references to the sheriff on the Dukes of Hazard when people call him Roscoe “P. Coltrane” Bartlett. There’s Jerry “Abbott and” Costello (D-IL). Rep. Phil “The Tortoise and the” Hare (D-IL). And Rep. Ted “Edgar Allan” Poe (R-TX).
I don’t know what insurance Rep. Jason Altmire (D-PA) carries. But for the purposes of this exercise, he’s Jason “You’re In Good Hands With” Altmire.
Better hope that Rep. Suzanne Kosmas (D-FL) is a fan of Seinfeld. She’ll be Suzanne Kosmas “Kramer.”
Keeping with the sit-com theme, I’m certain Red Foxx would appreciate the Cash for Clunkers program with Rep. Sander “And Son” Levin (D-MI).
And when you trade in that clunker, you could drive off the lot in a new Rep. Mike Honda (D-CA) “Accord” or a Rep. Michael Arcuri (D-NY) “Integra.”
But please read the fine print. This offer is Rep. Allen Boyd “Where Prohibited” (D-FL).
Rep. Diana DeGette (D-CO) may represent Denver on Capitol Hill. But her name sounds more like something overheard in a Queens diner: Diana DeGette “About It.”
Political experts widely regard Rep. Joseph Cao (R-LA) to be the most-vulnerable Republican in the 2010 election cycle. He beat now-convicted former Rep. Bill Jefferson (D-LA) in an upset last year. But for the moment, he’s Joseph “The Future Is” Cao.
On the Democratic side of the aisle, Rep. Parker Griffith (D-AL) faces a tough re-election bout. As one of the most-conservative Democrats in the House, Griffith recently announced that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) is too divisive and he wouldn’t vote for her again as speaker. So with his political future hanging in the balance, I’m sure the Congressman would prefer the nickname Parker Griffith “Can’t Lose.” That’s a reference to the popular, early 1990s TV show “Parker Lewis Can’t Lose.”
Rep. Chaka Fattah (D-PA) evolves into Chaka “Kahn” Fattah, a nod to the 1980s performer.
I don’t know if Rep. Joe Baca (D-CA) can make the Kessel Run in less than 12 parsecs. But as Wookiee first officer on the Millennium Falcon, he’d better be up to the challenge if he’s going to ride shotgun with Han Solo as Joe “Chew” Baca.
Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) found success early in life. But in this column, he’s Earl “Late” Blumenauer.
Rep. Steve Austria’s (R-OH) nickname came after the rule of the Habsburgs. Residents of Ohio’s Seventh Congressional District didn’t realize they actually resided in the Steve Austria “Hungary Empire.”
Civil War buffs will get a charge out of this one. It pays homage to the presidents of both the United States and the Confederacy: Rep. “Abraham” Lincoln “Jefferson” Davis (D-TN).
Then there are the more cerebral nicknames. Ones you might even need to ponder for a moment.
The Centers for Disease Control is worried that half the U.S. population could contract the H1N1 flu this winter. So here’s one for Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-CA). We’ll dub her Anna Eshoo “Gesundheit.”
Even the non-voting delegates to Congress get into the act. I wonder if Del. Eni Faleomavaega (D-AS) likes the 1980s band Journey? I can just hear Steve Perry belting out Eni “Way you want it, that’s the way you need it, any way you want it” Faleomavaega.
A few of our nicknames are just bizarre.
Rep. Elton “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the” Gallegly (R-CA).
How about “Mares eat oats and does eat oats and little lambs” Dale Kildee (D-MI)?
Rep. Bob Latta (R-OH) might want to swing by Starbucks. The barista is preparing a Bob “Skim Chai” Latta.
It’s not a direct translation from the book of Daniel. But I believe there’s a Bible verse that says something about Rep. Thad “Meshach and Abednego” McCotter (R-MI).
The Senate is not immune to this exercise either. There’s Sen. Evan “The Long Good” Bayh (D-IN). Sen. “Bond.” Kit Bond (R-MO). Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-WA) “All Get Along?” And Sen. Ben “Please Don’t Squeeze the” Cardin (D-MD).
Sliding into a heavy metal genre, Van Halen has burned through lead singers ranging from David Lee Roth to Sammy Hagar to Gary Cherone. But if they ever need a new guitar player, perhaps Rep. Chris “Eddie” Van Hollen (D-MD) could play a few licks.
With Rep. Harry Teague (D-NM), we’ll look to the early ‘90s Penny Marshall and Tom Hanks movie “A” Harry Teague “Of Their Own.”
To close out, I have three final offerings.
Rep. Zack Space (D-OH) should set his phasers to stun. In the immortal words of James T. Kirk, he’s Zack Space: “The Final Frontier.”
Rep. Bart Stupak (D-MI) is the lawmaker with the best rapper name: Bart Stupak “Shakur.”
And it’s getting late. I’m going to settle in and enjoy some Sen. Jim “Crème” DeMint (R-SC).
– Chad Pergram covers Congress for FOX News. He’s won an Edward R. Murrow Award and the Joan Barone Award for his reporting on Capitol Hill.
– The Speaker’s Lobby refers to a long, ornate hallway behind the dais in the House chamber where lawmakers, aides and journalists confer during votes.