- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 16, 2009

Not even one of the most notorious events in American history comes between Sen. Robert F. Bennett, Utah Republican, and his appetite.

“We like to eat first,” he told G2 between bites Tuesday night at Ford’s Theatre, site of the Lincoln assassination, where we asked him if he and his wife, Joyce, had been downstairs to check out the newly refurbished museum and its artifacts telling the story of the evening of April 14, 1865.

On that fateful night, President and Mrs. Lincoln were seated in the theater watching a production of “Our American Cousin” when Lincoln was shot in the head by John Wilkes Booth, an actor and Confederate sympathizer.

Closed for renovations since August 2007, the popular tourist attraction celebrated its new look with a party where politicos like Mr. Bennett turned up for a slice of history - and some goodies from the buffet table.

Mr. Bennett, normally dour and serious, was quick with the one-liners, despite his preoccupation with the mushroom crepes:

Have you been following the Sotomayor hearings?

“I’ve got my stand-in man on it. His name is Hatch,” he replied, referring to his partner Sen. Orrin G. Hatch, Utah Republican.

How’s the weather back in Utah this summer?

“Well, it’s hot, but thanks to Al Gore and global warming, it’s beginning to cool off.”

Mr. Bennett’s Senate colleague Tom Udall, New Mexico Democrat, was in a more reflective mood.

He told us his love of all things Lincoln was instilled in him by his father, former Secretary of the Interior Stewart Udall, who would take his young son with him to wreath layings at the Lincoln Memorial.

Mr. Udall explained that the election of a black president and nomination of a Hispanic woman to the nation’s highest court is “Lincoln’s vision for emancipation and equality fulfilled.”

While Mr. Udall waxed poetic about Lincoln’s enduring legacy, Rep. Roy Blunt, Missouri Republican, and Rep. John Tanner, Tennessee Democrat, were in a corner laughing over a drink.

Mr. Tanner recalled that his first experience with Lincoln was a tedious one. “Oh, I remember having to memorize the Gettysburg address in school.”

He told us that not even the looming presence of Lincoln, however, could eclipse his all-time favorite historical hero, Davy Crockett.

“You know, he was my predecessor in my congressional seat,” he informed us of the frontier folk hero, who died in 1836. “He was not my immediate predecessor,” he explained.

“He could have been,” Mr. Blunt retorted, teasing his colleague from the opposing party.

White House Opry

Speaking of Tennessee, look out Washington. Here comes Nashville!

Country crooner Brad Paisley has been tapped to perform at the White House next Tuesday as part of Michelle Obama’s White House Music Series, designed to highlight American arts and art education.

Mr. Paisley, who is married to “Father of the Bride” actress Kimberly Williams-Paisley, is known for his witty, relatable lyrics and guitar pyrotechnics.

He will participate in an educational workshop with 120 middle and high school students from across the country and perform a duet with roots music queen Alison Krauss in the historic East Room for the president, first lady, students and staff.

To contact Stephanie Green or Elizabeth Glover, e-mail [email protected]

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