I've just arrived back home in Los Angeles. Here are the rest of my D.C. downloads from the Day Democrats Took Back Control of Capitol Hill:
After Nancy Pelosi's pre-swearing in brunch, we stopped by John Conyer's lunch to celebrate his ascension to the chairmanship of the Judiciary Committee (an even more mouthwatering prospect than the lunch).
From there it was off to the rotunda of the Cannon Building for a live feed conversation with Joe Scarborough. When I arrived, Ana Marie Cox and Norah O'Donnell were in mid-segment. I noticed that they both were wearing high heels. I, on the other hand, had stuck to ballet flats all trip -- and even that was beginning to feel like too much shoe. How do you do it?, I asked Norah when she's finished her segment. She just laughed and said, "And I'm pregnant, too!" (and with twins, no less - though you'd never know it by looking at her).
Scarborough, for his part, is sounding increasingly angry about the president's policies on Iraq -- one more example of why it makes no sense to continue to discuss the war as a right vs. left issue.
After finishing with Scarborough, we rushed over to on the Russell Building for Jim Webb's post-swearing in reception. Among the guests were William Friedkin and Sherry Lansing. Friedkin directed the film Rules of Engagement, the screenplay of which was written by Webb. The couple had flown in from Los Angeles for the swearing in. Indeed, they were among the handful of family and close friends that witnessed Webb's official swearing in, which was done by Dick Cheney. "I was sitting next to Webb's commanding officer from his days in Vietnam," said Friedkin. "And guess what he's doing now? He's running a nonprofit dance company in Maine. He told me that it takes the same kind of discipline to be a dancer as it does to be a Marine." From the halls of Montezuma to the pirouettes of Balanchine.
The crowd at the Webb reception erupted into wild applause when the new Senator arrived with his wife, Hong Le Webb, who carried their three-month old baby LeAnh Webb in her arms. (No word on whether Cheney asked "How's your baby?") At the party, I ran into John Warner, the senior senator from Virginia. I asked him what his position was on the troop surge (Hey, I can do small talk!). "I'll wait for the president to make his proposal," he told me, "then I'll speak my mind." It may be wishful thinking, but I got the sense that this didn't bode well for the president.
Then it was on to a celebration for Washington senator Maria Cantwell, who looked resplendent in an all-white pants suit. Also there was Max Baucus, from Montana (separated from Washington state only by Idaho) on whose Finance Committee she'll be serving. I, of course, invited her to blog. She enthusiastically replied that she was the first candidate to have a listserv back in the day, coming as she did from web-savvy Seattle and a job at RealNetworks.
Next stop: the office of new Majority Leader Harry Reid, which, as Senate tradition has it, is the same office he had as Minority Leader (not than anyone was complaining, especially when we stepped out onto the terrace with its stunning views of Capitol Hill). How do you feel, I asked him? "When I look in the mirror," he said, "I expect to see Robert Redford but I still see me." But, when he said it, he was beaming like John Hooker, Redford's character from The Sting, right after he and Newman pull off the Big Score. Reid then told us about the Senate Democratic retreat planned for today, during which former Majority Leader George Mitchell is going to deliver a talk about how the Democrats managed to achieve as much as they did during his time at the helm. The lunch speaker will be Bill Clinton, who had sat in the gallery listening to the speech Reid gave after officially becoming Majority Leader. Reid then gave us the great news that he and Pelosi would be releasing an open letter to President Bush strongly encouraging him "to reject any plans that call for our getting our troops any deeper into Iraq" [read whole letter here].
It was dark by the time we left Reid's to head for Rahm Emanuel's reception at Johnny's Half Shell, heavily populated by media types like Karen Tumulty of Time and Juliette Eilperin of the Washington Post, and unquestionably offering the best of the many spreads we encountered -- including mountains of delicious brisket.
It was then time for the DCCC fundraising concert at the beautiful National Building Museum, featuring performances by Tony Bennett, Carole King, and a house band that included a trio of former Grateful Dead members. I unfortunately had to leave to do Larry King Live, and ended up missing Wyclef Jean who I hear brought the house down with his exuberant singing and rapping, including a selection of Bob Marley songs. At one point, the Haitian born superstar climbed onto a table in front of Speaker Pelosi and called for everyone to pick up their napkins and wave them in the air while he sang.
I'm sorry I missed that. But not as sorry as I was to hear Martha Zoller, who was part of the panel on Larry King, trotting out Bush's hoary flypaper theory, claiming that our presence in Iraq has kept America from being attacked by terrorists. "I'm glad that the battlefield is in Baghdad," she said, "and not in Los Angeles."
This was a crock when Bush first started saying it, and it's even more of a crock now. We should all add this to our list of New Year resolutions: I will refuse to let the repetition of unsubstantiated arguments like this go unchallenged.
The final stop of the night was -- believe it or not -- the Kuwait Embassy, where there was a dinner to celebrate Vital Voices, the wonderful international poverty fighting charity, and the work of its president, Melanne Verveer. In a previous incarnation Verveer was Hillary Clinton's chief of staff. This explained the presence of Senator Clinton and so many other Clinton administration alumni at the dinner, including Mac McLarty, Bill Cohen, Dan Glickman and George Stephanopoulos, who told me that he enjoys toggling between HuffPost and Drudge, comparing the headlines. I didn't ask him which he prefers.
The night culminated with Broadway's Natalie Toro singing show tunes, including one from Evita. So a day that began with the swearing in of "the most powerful woman in America" (although, contrary to Drudge's banner headline, which was based on a dubious Washington Times report, Pelosi didn't actually call herself that), fittingly ended with an ode to another powerful woman -- though one who attained her power the old fashioned way.
All in all, it was a remarkable and historic week. Now begins the hard part...
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