At Long Last: Leisure
Washington Post Staff Writers
Saturday, February 13, 1999; Page C1
Turn off the beepers. Toss the Federalist Papers. Sit down with the kids. Massage the mandibles. Pinch yourself it's over.
"I'm going to Disneyland!" exulted Rep. James E. Rogan (R-Calif.). "On ice." He needed to make up to his 6-year-old twins all his long hours, so he thought he'd start with Mickey and Minnie on skates.
"Mardi Gras," said Sen. John Breaux (D-La.) with jubilation. "Somebody's gotta do it."
Suddenly, about 12:45 yesterday afternoon, the personal lives of thousands of people opened up again. Where once there was overtime, migraine headaches, spousal bitterness and way too much instant analysis, there are now vast shimmering stretches of blue sky and dare we breathe it? leisure.
And after months of eating cold Chinese food out of cartons, President Clinton's defense team sauntered over to the Bombay Club for a sit-down lunch with real napkins. They were careful not to gloat. White House counsel Charles F.C. Ruff began to dream of Vero Beach, Fla., and spring training. His deputy Cheryl D. Mills could move a St. John's vacation from the fantasy to the reality column of her day planner.
David E. Kendall, the president's personal attorney, was headed for New York with his son and wife to reconnect with his two older children. "We're going to eat and walk around and go see 'Rent'‚" said Kendall. "That's been out for a little while, right?"
Lanny A. Breuer from the White House counsel's office planned to pack the family into the car after his son's early morning hockey game today and drive north, perhaps to Baltimore, maybe Philadelphia. "Any hotel with a big swimming pool is fine," he said, after a year of rarely seeing his children, 7 and 4, during waking hours.
"Sleep is the sex of the nineties," said the ubiquitous chatting pollster Kellyanne Fitzpatrick, "and I am angling to get more of it. Really raunchy sleep." She, too, had a weekend date with a niece and nephew for "Disney on Ice," stuck between a last heaving gasp of television appearances.
Rep. Henry J. Hyde (R-Ill.) said he will "retreat in splendid obscurity, and take a long-deserved rest," during which he will read Peter Ackroyd's biography of Thomas More and Harold Bloom's "Shakespeare: The Invention of the Human." You thought he would catch up on "Baywatch"?
But a year lost is a year lost. Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) missed the science fair. He helped his daughter set up her experiment, just as he has done every year since she was little, but when the fair started Saturday he was in chambers with his pile of dung. She's a high school senior and, after this, off to college. "I missed that," Harkin said flatly.
Presidential defender Lanny Davis had a son born during the year. Joshua is 10 months old now. "I changed many diapers," said Davis, still spinning, "but not as many as I would but for my activities on behalf of the president."
The stoic set, still square-jawed and somber, refused to admit to any personal privation during impeachment at all. They pledged to carry on the people's business as usual.
"I am going to spend a whole week on state problems," said Sen. Phil Gramm (R-Tex.), "everything from getting ready for another round of base closings to doing stuff with the Federal Reserve Bank on Y2K."
House manager Asa Hutchinson (R-Ark.) hopped on a plane for Arkansas just hours after the vote to prepare for a congressional goodwill tour: a "legislative agenda" march across his district, complete with town hall meetings. That meant no vacation for his beleaguered staff. "We're kicking into high gear," said communications director Chris Battle. "New topic, though."
"I have to get back into my state," said Sen. John W. Warner (R-Va.), as if it weren't just across the bridge.
Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.) said he would be going to Florida to deliver a speech to some bankers. A little prodding revealed that he was recovering from impeachment with that comforting politician's ritual: the junket. The convention was in Orlando, so he was checking out Disney, too, with the wife and kids.
There are those masochists who have plunged into a private hell, of course, whole fistfuls of journalists who are replacing 13 months of oppressive daily deadlines with punishing publishing schedules designed to extract Great Thoughtful Books. "I am in purgatory," said George Stephanopoulos. He barely has time to wash off the pancake makeup before taking off for 20 cities to promote his upcoming tome, where he will hope to generate mounds of money by saying the same pithy things over and over and over again.
"I have practice for that, don't I?" he said.
Sen. Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.) said he would make good on a six-month-old promise to his wife: "I'm going to wallpaper the bedroom." Jim Kennedy of the White House staff said he would get his teeth cleaned, maintenance long overdue in a year of answering what he said were 50,000 media inquiries about Monica Lewinsky. And Kennedy wants to exorcise a nasty new malady: "Phantom quivers from the beeper, but there's nobody there."
NPR's Nina Totenberg said she would get a pedicure. Cokie Roberts plans to visit her mother. Former presidential adviser David Gergen said he was longing to "turn off the television, especially in the afternoon."
PBS anchor Jim Lehrer, who once had a balanced life of broadcasting and fiction writing, complained that his last year had been "hell. I have constantly been on call." His daughter got married Dec. 19, the day the House impeached Clinton, and "I'm in a Hyatt hotel room in Greenwich, Conn., waiting for the bridesmaids to come in and watching our coverage."
And now, a chance to exhale. His includes a few days in New York to see plays and a long weekend in London next month, a rejuvenation plan Lehrer called "getting the monkey off."
In every crowd of the bruised and weary, there's always one who climbs back on the bucking bronco. Clinton's tireless Texas strategist, Paul Begala, took his wife and kids to the rodeo last night.
Staff writer Annie Groer contributed to this report.
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