Rants and Raves

Opinion, commentary, reviews of books, movies, cultural trends, and raising kids in this day and age.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Back from DC

Just got back from Washington and am trying to pick up my life from where it left off, play with my kids and give my valiant wife a rest from three months of riding herd on two rambunctious youngsters.

So last week I was having breakfast with Newt Gingrich and Ambassador John Bolton and lunch with Tom DeLay - and now I'm thinking about what to feed the kids before I tackle some large paperwork tasks and some very serious pay-the-bills issues.

See why people become Beltway junkies? Beats the hell out of real life.

I'll have more to say about this, but here are some preliminary thoughts about what our nation's capitol is like.

One, it's a surprisingly provincial place with a rather small-town feel to it.

The central Capitol Hill area is not very big, and even when you include the area out to Embassy Row, it's an afternoon's walk there and back. Everything in the area where almost all the government, foundation and NGO offices are, is within a reasonable walk or subway ride.

This is surrounded by a much larger periphery that has an entirely different feel to it though.

People are surprisingly friendly on the street, and it's interesting how ready people you meet professionally are to help you. This has a large element of self-interest of course. Help someone on their way up and you'll have someone in a high place owing you someday. But quite a lot of it really does seem to come from a certain benevolence from people who like the idea of using their influence to do something nice for people. It's the upside of "that feeling of power."

The downside of course is the power to screw people you disagree with, or maybe just from petty spite.

Two, you get your nose rubbed in the fact that the High and Mighty of the World's Greatest Democracy put their pants on one leg at a time, just like you and me.

I've met political figures who are pretty durn smart, but others impress you as not exactly the sharpest tools in the shed. In fact, the distribution seems about the same as in the general population of college graduates.

This realization is disturbing to both those who mainly respect our elected officials and those who loathe all of them on principle.

I think most of us would like to believe, that whether they are seriously working for the public good as they understand it - or conspiring to strip us of our remaining liberties and reduce us to servitude, they are at least competent and know what they are doing.

In this scary world, the thought that our rulers are people not too different from ourselves, trying to deal with the incredible power this nation commands is really scary.

I've seen two reactions in DC to this. One is an unvarnished contempt for politicians on either side. One's position on the Right or Left is defined by which kind one dislikes least.

On the other hand, I worked quite a lot with one fellow, name of John Gizzi who is the political editor of the conservative weekly Human Events. (Look him up on their online edition for political analysis. Get the hard copy for his Capitol Briefs if you want to follow the details of what's going on under the Big Dome.)

Gizzi knows everybody in that town - and manages to like most of them. ("Yeah, that's the difficult part" I heard one colleague say.)

He seems to manage this by having an appreciation for the foibles of human nature. (In the words of Henry Fielding, "Let us not judge too harshly, we are all of us as God made us - and many of us much worse.")

You've got to develop a tolerance for human nature in that burg, or you get sour and cynical. At any rate, I'll have more to say later but you can read some of the stuff I wrote in DC here: http://www.humanevents.com/search.php?author_name=Steve+Browne

3 Comments:

  • At 2:35 AM, Blogger Jabo said…

    So does this mean your stint at Human Events is over?

    Meeting Bolton-- very cool! I recommend reading the lunch interview the Financial Times did with him (http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/7a2140c6-7b7c-11dc-8c53-0000779fd2ac.html). He says that in his opinion we should have given the Iraqis a copy of the Federalist Papers and wished them the best of luck.

    I saw him speak at a Middle East Forum event while he was still ambassador. He was very constrained by his role, but you could sense something intelligent and principled going on behind the glasses and mustache.

    Anyways... post-Human Events plans?

    And back to martial arts now that you're home?

    The wu wei gung fu is still kicking my butt (bloody knuckles, bruises on my forearms etc.). I love it!

     
  • At 8:02 AM, Blogger Galt-In-Da-Box said…

    Fine business...
    You get to breathe some fresh, bull%$*&-fume-free air for awhile.
    It can only help!

     
  • At 6:47 AM, Blogger Steve Browne said…

    Yep, back in Oklahoma, aka the real world.

    In DC I worked out with a Wing Chun class in Chinatown and took a few lessons in Russian Systema. Systema is kind of like what Tai Chi is supposed to be, or maybe Drunken Style.

    I also got down to Newport News for a Pekiti Tirsia Kali seminar with Grand Tuhon Leo Gaje.

    Bolton is intelligent, thoughtful and straight-talking, which is why he'll never be Secretary of State.

    I have this hope that he might be president some day, when things have gotten bad enough that people are ready to listen to straight talk about the world as it really is.

     

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