If Rep. Loretta Sanchez walks into her Capitol Hill office next week to find a bouquet of Forget-me-nots from Defense Secretary Hagel it will be from a trivia question.
The California congresswoman was posited the question “who is the next in the line of presidential succession after Secretary of State John Kerry?” She answered incorrectly “what’s his name Hagel?” The correct answer was Secretary of Treasury Jack Lew.
Those and other Byzantine trivia questions about America’s political heritage confounded both members of the fourth estate and lawmakers. Even though the answer is enumerated under Article I of the constitution, the answer was elusive Thursday evening, at the fifth annual rooftop event sponsored by National Journal. The event, at the Newseum in Washington, entitled “Political Pursuit,” styled itself after the popular trivia board game.
The lighthearted event was unofficially a prelude to Washington’s “Nerd Prom” – The White House Correspondent’s dinner, which takes place on Saturday.
The “Political Pursuit” event was organized into three teams “Press Pass” – members of the media, “Members Only” – members of congress (all of whom were Democrats) and then a team of the National Journal’s sub organization “The Hotline,” – fronted by one major former member of congress, former Virgina Rep. Tom Davis.
The fireworks on the panel this evening came from such Washington notables as Washington Post political reporter Chris Cillizza, Reps. Steve Israel and Loretta Sanchez, pollsters Kellyanne Conway and David Winston.
From the start, the questions over the five rounded event and several “refill rounds” (named for the Beer institute’s sponsorship) challenged the panelists into the mercurial. First up was to name the two Vice Presidents who served under two different presidents. That turned out to be John Calhoun and George Clinton. The question elicited humorous acrimony from the panelists to the host, directing him to place the questions “in the twentieth century.”
The trivia did move into the twentieth century very quickly, with such questions as:
“What was the fish that Rahm Emmanuel was sent?” Answer: Asian carp.
“Who was now the second most tenured senator?” Barbara Mikulski.
“Who was the first congresswoman to give birth twice while in office?” Cathy McMorris Rodgers.
The audience came away time and time again mesmerized by the performance of former Rep. Tom Davis who knew many times such answers as “which state had the pope bless a book he had written?” The answer was New Mexico and the book Ben Hur. Answers such as that placed “The Hotline” team in a very competitive position.
But humor abounded, when the question came up in reference to “which member of congress had a unit of measurement named after them?” Steve Israel responded “that would be a Wiener” in reference to the former New York City Congressman’s disgraced social media antics. However, the correct answer is The Garn in reference to Senator Jake Garn‘s space travels and the unit of measurements of space sickness.
Yet, if anybody had pressure that evening it was the Washington Post political reporter who was told by the host “If Cillizza loses, he truly may have the worst week in Washington,” a playful jab after his weekly search for the worst performance on the political stage in the Nation’s Capital chronicled in the Post.
In the end, the pressure worked on Cillizza to take home the flame trophies, as his team bested the other press team “The Hotline,” just slightly, but enough – 285 to 260. Both press teams totally leaving the members of congress in the dust with the low score of 173. The audience named the Tom Davis “fan favorite award” to Rep. Steve Israel via a Twitter vote.
The winning team was:
Chris Cillizza – Washington Post Carl Hulse – New York Times Paul Kane – Washington Post Shira Toeplitz – Roll Call Amy Walter – Cook Political Report