Back from DC
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