“Dispatches from the Capital – Part Four”
Which was yesterday.
We start at the Hart Senate Buillding. We’re at “Entrance Security.” The businessman in front of me seems nervous.
“I’ve never bribed anyone before!”
I check out the staffers in the lobby. I notice a “Hierarcy of Swagger.” Step Number One: Body language – relaxed, but straight spine. Step Two: Body language plus a look of utter certainty. Step Three: The first two, plus your right hand slipped casually in your pocket. “Step Threes” clearly adhere to the “Body Language Is Destiny” philosophy.
“It’s just a matter of time.”
We visit Senator Boxer’s office. She’s not there. But we acquire tickets to have lunch at the Senate Dining Room on Friday. When we eat there, I’ll tell you wha the “specials” were. When I asked the senator’s aide if he knew, he gave me the classic “Oh, a funny guy” look.
We visit Senator Al Franken’s office. He’s not there. We leave a note telling him we’re in town. I wished Al good luck in his job.
On our way out, we run into a well-dressed middle-aged woman who hits us with a high-wattage smiles and crows, “Hi!” It’s like she can’t take any chances. She was very likely a senator we didn’t recognize, and she also didn’t recognize us, we could very easily have been potential donors. Ergo: “Hi!”
We go to the Senate Gallery to take in the proceedings. The proceedings involve two senators on an otherwise abandoned Senate floor, a Republican senator saying the Health Care Reform bill sucks, and the Democratic senator replying, “It’s the law. Get over it.”
Defending his argument, the Republican senator used the words “It’s true” or “It’s the truth” seven times. Once he said, “It’s the truth, at least, as we see it.” This is coded language. Its meaning? “We’re partisans, and we’re lying our heads off.”
We depart the Senate gallery, and head over to the House of Representatives Gallery. It takes us ten minutes to get there. We stay fifteen seconds. There were two people on the Senate floor? On the House floor, there was nobody. There was literally nothing happening.
Our next stop is the nearby Supreme Court Building. The doors to the chambers are open. I catch sight of the nine elevated black seats where the Justices sit. I feel a tug in throat and a welling up in my eyes. I’m shocked. But I’m not surprised. That place means something to me. I wish it meant the same thing to the Justices. During the lecture, the speaker says, “The Supreme Court is not a political entity.” I immediately explode with laughter. Fortunately, the explosion remains inside my body.
After lunch, we visit the Smithsonian Portrait Gallery. I have trouble with portrait galleries. I mean, there’s a portrait of Tommy Lasorda in there, and it doesn’t look like Tommy Lasorda. I know that, because I know what Tommy Lasorda looks like. I do not know what President Martin Van Buren looks like. But if they can got Tommy Lasorda wrong, how can I trust them about the other guys? I could be walking through an entire gallery of, “Not even close.”
Our last stop is the NPR radio studio of “All Things Considered” where we enjoy watching them produce the live broadcast. I once did about half a dozen commentaries for that show. You can check them out in the archives. Just type in my name, or the words, “He did six great commentaries, and then they cut him off.” It’ll take you straight to my file.
(The above uncharacteristically bitter paragraph? At home, it would probably have been gone by the second of third rewrite. Here, I'm working under "battlefield conditions." I'm only getting one shot at things. Please assess accordingly.)