LaHood on the road

Ozzy Osbourne is planning a European tour, the Beach Boys are doing a reunion tour, Obama and Romney are doing a rubber-chicken tour, and Ray LaHood is going to Idaho.

Why shouldn’t the secretary of transportation have his own summer tour?

“I’m going on a little rural tour,” he said.

He’s also going to Mississippi, Montana, Wyoming and South Dakota.

They’re all beautiful states and summer is a great time to see them, but LaHood is headed there for more than the scenery. A sense of fulfillment provides some motivation, but it is, moreover, his sense of duty.

LaHood thinks the secretary of transportation ought to visit all 50 states.

“I’m short of five, and I’m going to do them this summer,” said LaHood, 66, who has hinted that he will retire from the Cabinet at year’s end.

LaHood has divided his years in the administration between logging hundreds of road trips to promote transportation projects and practicing the largely lost art of compromise that he learned from his friend and mentor, former House Republican leader Robert Michel. He often lands in two or three states in a week, and he hasn’t been shy about using the bully pulpit everywhere he goes to rail against distracted driving.

Just before jumping on the shuttle to New York the other day, he was asked about his recent trip to Guam, where he delivered the commencement address to the University of Guam at the behest of the school’s president, Robert Underwood.

“Robert’s a former member of Congress, a former delegate from Guam,” LaHood said. “I ran into him about six or eight months ago and he said, ‘Oh, we’ve never had a Cabinet member — would you come?’ I made the mistake of saying yes without thinking how far it was.”

An online distance calculator says it’s 7,935 miles from Washington to Guam, and it was a 20-hour commercial flight each way.

“It was just torture getting over there,” he said. “But you know what, I love giving those commencement addresses and they really appreciated it. It was fun.”

Among the most meticulously dapper members of the Cabinet, LaHood put on a navy-blue floral Hawaiian shirt afterward for a meeting to discuss the needs of Guam’s port.

Ashley Halsey reports on national and local transportation.
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