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10 Quirky Things Politicians Do

We elect our Senators and Representatives with the expectation that they'll bring our interests to the legislative process and work to bettering the country. But the truth is, they're not always the most normal people themselves. Here are 10 of the quirkiest current Congressmen—be sure to chime in with your own legislator stories in the comments.

1. Collin Peterson (and his bandmates)

Rep. Collin Peterson of Minnesota may lead the House Agriculture Committee, but he may be better known for his musical career. His first Congressional band, The Amendments, broke up in a political dispute after some members wanted to play at the Republican National Convention. But Peterson found a new group of bipartisan musicians and formed The Second Amendments. The band features Peterson on lead guitar and vocals, Thaddeus McCotter on guitar, Dave Weldon on bass, Jon Porter on keyboards and Kenny Hulshof on drums. They play anything from rock to country (check out their gig at Farm Aid) and say political differences haven’t gotten in their way yet.

They’re not the first Congressional band either – four former Republican senators sang in a barbershop quartet known as the Singing Senators.

2. Kent Conrad

Kent Conrad knows a thing or two about an engaging presentation, especially with his fondness for visual aids. He was so well-known for printing poster-sized charts that when he became chairman of the Budget Committee in 2001, he was given his own printing machine for his office. Among his notable charts was one where he illustrated the debt under each President. Of course, Conrad isn’t the only Congressman to rely on catchy charts – many his colleagues are known for their elaborate charts, especially Rep. Kevin Brady's visual mess attacking the bureaucracy in the health care bill.

3. Al Franken

As a former SNL comedian, it’s probably not surprising to see Al Franken on this list. After all, the Minnesota Democrat famously cracked the chamber up during his opening statement during the Sonia Sotomayor hearings. But his real talent may be when he’s not talking – photographers snapped him doing some impressive sketches of Sen. Jeff Sessions during the confirmation hearings for Elena Kagan. And that’s not to mention his famous party trick: drawing a freehand map of the United States from memory.

4. Amy Klobuchar

Franken wasn’t the only one to bring levity to the Kagan hearings. Fellow Minnesota Democrat Amy Klobuchar asked a bizarre question of the prospective justice the day after Eclipse, the third Twilight movie, debuted. “I keep wanting to ask you about the famous case of Edward vs. Jacob, or the vampire vs. the werewolf,” she said. To her credit, Kagan responded appropriately, telling the senator, “I wish you wouldn’t.”

5. Nancy Pelosi

A show embracing drug use, free love and plentiful nudity might not seem like the place you’d expect to see the Speaker of the House. But Nancy Pelosi is said to love Hair and checks out the musical every chance she gets. She’s even been spotted dancing on the stage at the end of the show.

6. Patty Murray

Patty Murray successfully ran a number of her early campaigns as “a mom in tennis shoes,” since she was just a regular person, not a career politician. Now that she’s serving her third term in the Senate, that image has carried her far and she’s not ready to give it up. Now a “grandmother in tennis shoes,” she’s given to wearing sneakers while conducting official business.

7. Jon Tester

Jon Tester is known for giving friends and colleagues a thumb-and-pinkie hook ‘em horns sign for motivation. But he doesn’t have much of a choice – Tester lost the three middle fingers on his right hand in a meat grinder accident when he was nine.

8. Kit Bond

Kit Bond's dog Tiger (named after the University of Missouri mascot) isn't what you'd expect to see from the Republican Senator. Tiger, a furry Havanese, is the Senator's first "fufu dog." A frequent visitor to Conrad's office, Tiger is famous for destroying Kansas Jayhawks toys. Others also bring their dogs to work - the late Robert Byrd was known for praising his dogs in floor speeches and this picture shows Kent Conrad walking his dog Dakota through the halls of the Capitol.

9. John Kerry

John Kerry is an avid biker, so much so that he requires a bike even when he’s traveling. According to a memo obtained by The Smoking Gun, Kerry asked for a recumbent (not a stationary) bike in his hotel room. That’s on top of bottled water, Boost shakes and a television where he could order movies.

10. Earl Blumenauer

Rep. Earl Blumenauer paints an impressive picture, with his fondness for bow ties and the constant presence of a bicycle pin on his shirt. The pin represents his love for bicycling – not only is he known for biking into work, he is also the founding member of the Congressional Bike Caucus, a 160-member group working to promote biking through legislation.

Today is October 10, 2010—10.10.10! To celebrate, we've got all our writers working on 10 lists, which we'll be posting throughout the day and night. To see all the lists we've published so far, click here.

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5 Things You Might Not Know About Henry Kissinger
Keystone/Getty Images
Keystone/Getty Images

You probably know Henry Kissinger as a Nobel Peace Prize winner and former National Security Advisor and Secretary of State. Let’s take a look at five things you might not know about the German-born political scientist and diplomat.

1. MAO ZEDONG TRIED TO GIVE HIM "10 MILLION" WOMEN.

In 1973, Henry Kissinger was engaged in a discussion of trade with Mao Zedong when the chairman abruptly changed the subject by saying, “We [China] don't have much. What we have in excess is women. So if you want them we can give a few of those to you, some tens of thousands.”

Kissinger sidestepped this bizarre offer and changed the subject, but Mao later returned to the subject by jokingly asking, “Do you want our Chinese women? We can give you 10 million.”

This time Kissinger diplomatically replied, “It is such a novel proposition. We will have to study it.”

Other Chinese officials in the room pointed out that Mao’s attitudes toward women would cause quite a stir if the press got their hands on these quotes, so Mao apologized to his female interpreter and talked Kissinger into having the comments removed from the records of the meeting.

2. NO, HE'S NOT THE INSPIRATION FOR DR. STRANGELOVE.

Here’s a riddle that’s been bugging film buffs for decades: who was the basis for the title character in Stanley Kubrick’s Dr. Strangelove? For years many observers thought that Kissinger might have inspired Peter Sellers’s memorable performance. Blame it on the accent and the glasses. Even though Kissinger was still a relatively obscure Harvard professor when the film premiered in 1964, the rumor that Kubrick modeled the character on him just wouldn't die.

Kubrick did what he could to dispel this notion before his death, saying, “I think this is slightly unfair to Kissinger ... It was unintentional. Neither Peter nor I had ever seen Kissinger before the film was shot.” Most observers now think that Dr. Strangelove was actually a distorted version of Herman Kahn, an eccentric nuclear strategist for the RAND Corporation.

3. HE WAS QUITE THE LADIES MAN.

Even in his youth, Kissinger didn’t quite fit the bill of a matinee idol, but he has always been a hit with the ladies. A 1972 poll of Playboy bunnies selected Kissinger as the man with whom Hef’s ladies would most like to go out on a date. He also had a string of celebrity girlfriends in his younger days, including Diane Sawyer, Candice Bergen, Jill St. John, Shirley Maclaine, and Liv Ullman, who called Kissinger, “the most interesting man I have ever met.”

Kissinger’s swinging bachelor days are long gone, though. He was married to Ann Fleischer from 1949 to 1964 then married philanthropist Nancy Maginnes in 1974—a union that at one point seemed so improbable that just a year before they tied the knot, Maginnes had called speculation that she and Kissinger would marry “outrageous.”

4. PROTECTING HIM ISN'T ALWAYS EASY.

In 1985 former Secret Service agent Dennis McCarthy released the memoir Protecting the President—The Inside Story of a Secret Service Agent, in which he described being on Kissinger’s security detail as “a real pain.” McCarthy shared a funny anecdote about a 1977 trip to Acapulco with Kissinger and his wife. There were signs warning of sharks in the water, but Nancy wanted to go for a swim. Kissinger then told his security detail to get in the water to guard for sharks.

Personal protection is one thing, but McCarthy and his fellow agents drew the line at fighting off sharks. Instead, they made the reasonable point that if the Kissingers were afraid of sharks, they shouldn’t go swimming. Agent McCarthy did, however, offer a compromise; he told Kissinger, “If the sharks come up on this beach, my agents will fight them.”

5. THE STATE DEPARTMENT NIXED HIS OFFICIAL PORTRAIT.

Official portraits of government luminaries don’t usually become big news, but in 1978 the painting of Kissinger commissioned by the State Department for its gallery made headlines. Boston artist Gardner Cox had previously painted Secretaries of State Dean Acheson and Dean Rusk, so he got the $12,000 commission to paint Kissinger. The finished product didn’t earn rave reviews, though.

Some viewers at the State Department thought the painting lacked Kissinger’s dynamism and made him look “somewhat a dwarf.” Others felt the portrait was “a rogues' gallery thing." The State Department offered to let Cox fix the painting, but he said he didn’t see anything that need changing. He lost the commission but got $700 for his expenses.

Kissinger took the whole episode in stride, though. When Houston artist J. Anthony Wills painted a replacement, Kissinger declared it to be, “an excellent likeness, swelled head and all,” and called the unveiling "one of my most fulfilling moments. Until they do Mount Rushmore."

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Barack and Michelle Obama's Next Move: Producing Content for Netflix
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Mark Wilson, Getty Images

Barack Obama's first talk show appearance after leaving office was on My Next Guest Needs No Introduction, David Letterman's six-part series on Netflix. Perhaps it's fitting, then, that one of the Obamas' first projects since moving out of the White House will be a storytelling partnership with Netflix.

On Monday, the streaming service announced that they've entered into a multi-year deal with Barack and Michelle Obama, who produce films and series under a company called Higher Ground Productions. So what can we expect from the former president and first lady? According to Netflix, they will be producing a "diverse mix of content," which could take the form of scripted and unscripted series, documentaries, and features.

"One of the simple joys of our time in public service was getting to meet so many fascinating people from all walks of life, and to help them share their experiences with a wider audience," Barack Obama said in a statement. "That's why Michelle and I are so excited to partner with Netflix. We hope to cultivate and curate the talented, inspiring, creative voices who are able to promote greater empathy and understanding between peoples, and help them share their stories with the entire world."

The former first lady added that Netflix was a "natural fit" for the kinds of stories they want to tell. According to The New York Times, Barack Obama said he does not intend to use the platform for political ends.

Last year, the Obamas signed a joint book deal with Penguin Random House worth $65 million. Michelle's memoir, Becoming, will be published on November 13, while details about Barack Obama's memoir are forthcoming.

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