Brian Schweitzer, no fan of Washington, D.C.

Al Kamen
Columnist June 20, 2013

There’s nothing new about a politician saying derisive things about Washington. Back home, they routinely bash “inside the Beltway” thinking, or accuse opponents of catching a case of the dreaded “Potomac fever.”

But former Montana governor Brian Schweitzer seems to be taking Washington-bashing to new heights. In an interview with Roll Call, the Democrat — who may or may not be running for a Senate seat — took an unusually harsh line, concluding that our fair city is a humid cesspool filled with frauds, traffic snarls and yellow journalists.

Al Kamen, an award-winning columnist on the national staff of The Washington Post, created the “In the Loop” column in 1993. View Archive

Georgetown, home to high-end boutiques, lovely architecture and verdant gardens? It “sucks,” he said. And also, it smells.

Asked why he recently visited Washington, Schweitzer replied that he was checking out the environs, trying to decide whether he wanted to work here. The answer sounds like a resounding “no.”

“I concluded it was really bad to live there — traffic is bad, weather is worse,” he told Roll Call. “Most of the people you talk to are frauds. You know.”

When reporter Kyle Trygstad inquired where Schweitzer was calling from, the would-be senator said he was in Georgetown. When Trygstad asked if he meant our Georgetown, Schweitzer sounded offended.

“Georgetown, D.C.? God, that place sucks,” he said, clarifying that he meant Georgetown Lake in his home state. “Come on, I don’t want that smell on me,” he added.

Maybe he hates cupcakes?

When cans get canned

We wrote last month about the Park Service’s new policy, begun on Earth Day, to start removing trash cans from sites along the George Washington Memorial Parkway — including popular places such as the Iwo Jima memorial, Great Falls and Roosevelt Island — essentially forcing visitors to take their empty water bottles, food wrappers and other trash with them when they leave.

This effort was part of the Park Service’s “Trash Free Parks” initiative, which hopes to reduce the amount of garbage the government has to haul away. You could think of it as trying to empower the American people to do the right thing and not to rely on the federal government so much.

We were admittedly skeptical, thinking that folks were likely to just throw their trash on the ground if the cans were removed.

But Jon James, superintendent of the parkway, was more optimistic. “It’s a mind-set shift,” he told us, adding that the program has been successful in other parks, including Catoctin Mountain Park.

A Loop Fan who lives near the Iwo Jima memorial said trash and litter are often seen there since the cans were taken away. (He said the photo he sent as proof was taken the morning after a Marine Band concert on the grounds, so there was a bit more than usual, but it’s nonetheless a constant problem.)

We talked trash Thursday with a National Park Service spokeswoman for this region. She told us that older ,“well-established” programs have “an 80 to 95 percent success rate.” So after a while park personnel only have to “deal with litter left behind by a small percentage.”

Well, maybe a mind-set is a hard thing to shift very quickly in this area.

No joy in Whoville

Among the veritable cornucopia of amendments to the farm bill that the House considered on Thursday, we noticed one that might raise alarms for those paranoid about that “War on Christmas” being waged.

Lawmakers voted against blocking a fee to be attached to Christmas-tree sales, which would fund industry promotional campaigns.

(Of course, the massive farm-bill package ultimately failed spectacularly on final passage, but the fee can go forward regardless.)

Rep. Jackie Walorski (R-Ind.), who sponsored the amendment nixing the fee, called it a “tax” that would have hit middle-class families. “There is no justification to impose another tax on the American people,” she told colleagues.

The pro-fee folks, though, ultimately prevailed, arguing that the fee was tiny — 15 cents a tree — and that similar programs exist for other industries. Remember those “Beef — It’s What’s for Dinner” and “Got Milk?” ads?

Expect Madison Avenue types to start dreaming up similar slogans for the tree folks. Our suggestions: “Need Needles?” “Pining for Christmas?”

Ornament-laden boughs weren’t the only greenery on lawmakers’ minds. Just moments after voting on the Christmas-tree legislation, the House approved a bill allowing hemp growing for research purposes.

And of course, there were plenty of other important amendments, including one eliminating the National Sheep Industry Improvement Center. And another overhauling dairy regulation — co-sponsored, of course, by Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.). (We’ll take ours skim, thanks.)

With Emily Heil

The blog: washingtonpost.com/
intheloop
. Twitter: @InTheLoopWP.

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