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Opening day – a ‘Who’s Who’ and thoughts about being trapped in the White House

Tue, Sep 29, 2009

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Yesterday, the opening day of the chamber’s annual Washington Legislative Action Mission, chamber president Dave Csintyan welcomed the participants who had gathered in the offices of the Pew Charitable Trust.

The gathering was a ‘Who’s Who’ of not only the Colorado Springs business community, but of almost every community of interest in Colorado Springs. Colorado Springs Utilities is represented, as is County government, as is the non-profit sector, and there are five active-duty folks from our various military installations who have joined us as interested observers.

The purpose of the trip: to interact with elected and appointed officials, to build relationships with other participants and to make our concerns known to that vague, inchoate and excessively powerful entity that we identify generically as “Washington.”

Our host, The Pew Charitable Trusts, were once a sleepy, grant-making foundation with a staff of 20.

During the last few years, it hasĀ evolved into something different, an organization dedicated to researching policy and offering the public and policy makers informed, hopefully non-partisan solution to the dilemmas of our times. We met, we chatted and then broke up into smaller groups for no-host dinners.

I joined three stalwarts of the business community-and County Commissioner Jim Bensberg-for a convivial dinner.

Early observations:

-Washington is, as it always has been, stuffed to the brim with decidedly mediocre neo-classical architecture.

-The Washington Monument, which features bright red aircraft warning lights (probably L.E.D.’s) on the top of its noble spire, looks a lot like the Dark Tower of Mordor at night. Anti-Obama cranks, take that image and run with it!

-For tall guys, a two-hour flight on a regional jet is not just uncomfortable, but painful and unendurable. And since such travel is unavoidable for any ambitious young person, tall males appear to be at an evolutionary disadvantage. Conclusion: Obama is our last tall guy President. Future presidents will be small enough to thrive on regional jets – so expect our next president to be less than 5′ 6″.

-The bar at the Willard Hotel, adorned with hundreds of autographed photographs of the once-powerful, neatly encapsulates American history. Herbert and J. Edgar Hoover (no, they weren’t a couple), Buffalo Bill Cody, Will Rogers, Harry Truman, Douglas MacArthur, FDR, and JFK all adorn the Willard’s walls. My favorites: a young Richard Nixon, photographed by Arnold Newman, his face alive with intelligence and ambition, and J. Edgar’s stony face, with an inscription in his crabbed, careful hand “To Fred Buchholz-a good friend and a fine host.”

-And to judge from the photographs, the history of the last century was created by guys in suits and uniforms, guys with hard, watchful eyes, guys who had power and knew how to exercise it. Not one, from Huey “Kingfish” Long, the legendary Louisiana pol, to a young John Kerry, head crowned by a vast mop of 60’s hair, looked like someone that you or I could hope to beat at a poker table.

-And finally, it occurred to me that the White House would be a fine place to live, if you weren’t burdened by the Presidency. Imagine living in a vast mansion in the middle of a great American city, blocks away from everything you need, from Starbucks in the morning to cool bars/restaurants at night … but you’re trapped!

This morning we’ll begin three days of intense networking & briefing, which will feature three of our six members of the House, both of our Senators, and even the often-controversial Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann … it should be interesting!

This morning: the Brookings Institute, a well-known think tank, where we’ll all be thinkin’ some appropriately deep thoughts.

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