More than a full day in D.C.

Wed, Sep 30, 2009


It’s been a day to make one’s head spin.

Let’s see: two senators; three members of the House; and half a dozen staffers, lobbyists and assorted power people.

Some observations.

Just as Fitzgerald famously said, “The very rich are different from you and I,” powerful people in Washington are different from powerful people elsewhere. For one thing, there are a very large number of them crammed into a very small area.

One hundred senators, 435 representatives and hundreds of cabinet secretaries, presidential advisers and chiefs of staff. Then you have lobbyists, ambassadors and a whole dazzling panoply of substantial power centers – museums, memorials, associations, performing arts centers … in sum, thousands of folks who can legitimately claim to be big shots, all jostling one another for space.

That’s why in the nation’s capital, now supposedly so devoted to the new sustainable/renewable economy, the vehicles of choice are giant black Chevy Suburbans or giant black Cadillac Escalades.

I’ve yet to see a Prius – but the streets are crowded with these sullen urban tanks. You’d think there was a convention of Mafia capos in town – but it’s just the ambassador from Argentina or the deputy assistant undersecretary of state for protocol.

And, alas, there’s not enough room on the streets for all these monsters to double-park, or park illegally, and demonstrate thereby the power of their occupants.

Conclusion: Imagine Colorado Springs with 2,000 Lionel Riveras, 2,000 Doug Bruces, 5,000 Douglas MacArthurs and 10,000 Spencer Penroses … that’s Washington!

Mark Udall appears to have found religion as regards Pinon Canon.

He told us that, although he had initially been unconvinced that the Army needed more “maneuver space,” he now realizes that modern warfare isn’t about roaring around in tanks, but about small units being able to command very large areas – so the Army needs larger areas to train in.

Makes sense, just as it made sense when the Army originally floated the idea of expansion, citing that very reason.

Continuing with Pinon, Rep. Mike Coffman, who, with our own Doug Lamborn, comprises our state’s Republican delegation, opined that the Army will come back with a new proposal for Pinon Canon “when things have cooled down.”

Coffman knows a little bit about the military, having served in both the Army and the Marine Corps. Wonder who he roots for during the Army-Navy game?

And speaking of Lamborn, he could not have been more obliging, more helpful or less pretentious. He answered questions for nearly an hour, introduced his colleagues in amiable terms and made himself available to the press (i.e., yours truly). His wife, Jeanie, was there as well, and was as gracious and good-tempered as her fortunate husband.

I had a question that, I thought, would stump even the most intrepid of public servants.

Why, I asked Lamborn, are there still six pay phone booths in the lobby of the Longworth Office Building, where our congressman has his office?

“Oh, I don’t think people actually use the phones,” he said. “They just go into the booths, close the door, and use their cell phones. It’s quiet and private.”

I checked – and he was right.

And then we heard Rep. Michele Bachmann, the Minnesota congresswoman who has become, according to your ideological preference, either your favorite lawmaker or the latest handmaiden of the forces of darkness.

I was waiting outside the door of the hearing room, chatting with Tim Leigh, when I saw her. She’s a slight, attractive and dark-haired woman, wearing little makeup, dressed simply in pants and a top (no power pants suit) who looked like … well, a completely regular person, someone you’d see at the mall or in line at Starbucks.

Leigh said, “I thought we’d see some celebrities, but I don’t see any.”

I pointed out Bachmann. “Tim, there’s one, and she’s from Minnesota.”

Tim thought I was joking, so he walked over and asked her whether she was, in fact, from Minnesota.

“You betcha!” she replied, in an exaggerated Minnesota accent, and they kidded around for a few minutes.

Then she spoke. Her speech was just fine. It was full of right-wing cliches and dire warnings about the future, but it wasn’t crazy, nasty, vicious or threatening.

Conclusion: We demonize folks we disagree with on the basis of a few video clips, some unguarded remarks and an out-of-context quotation or two.

Sorry, but I’m now a Michele Bachmann fan. I went to the House gift shop and tried to buy a Michele Bachmann T-shirt, but they didn’t have any.

Attention Nancy Pelosi: You’re missing a great revenue opportunity. Sell Bachmann T-shirts at $20 a pop and you could collect some serious dough … just ask the NFL.

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