MY SECOND swearing-in ceremony. The chamber was slightly reminiscent of a busy day at the zoo: women and children everywhere, and not a few peacocks strutting around in full dress. Taking the oath definitely swells the sense of self-importance.
It also dulls the recollection of how you got here. To here it in cloakroom, it was all brains, savvy and supesrior ability. The truth is, it's often purely a matter of default. Thus far my competition has consisted of a cocktail waitress on leave, a roofing salesman who couldn't seem to move enough shingles, a lawyer who was trying to advertise his , and a man who drove around the district with seven kids inside the car, a canoe on top and an unemployment check in his pocket to finance it all. So much for personal prowess.
Anywar, two terms isn't much to boast about where I come from. The last member from Michigan's 4th Congressional District was here 14 years, and the one before him lasted 28. In fact, we've only had one other two-termer in the entire 20th century. That was a guy elected in 1932 who tried to help end the Depression by selling postmasterships. During his second term, they moved his office to Fort Leavenworth, Kdansas.
Nevertheless, these occasions do take their toll. On the way out of the chamber today I ran into one of the more level-headed members of the Class of '76. Even he is developing stooped shoulders. But the "Atlas syndrome" is contagious. I just approved a press release saying I'm going to help win the battle against inflation. Fortunately, they know better in Burr Oak and Paw Paw.
Now that Jim Wright sasys the people are entitled to send crooks to Congress, at least a guy can enjoy being sociable again. Last year I didn't accept many invitations from lobbyists. With the House legislating itself into an ethical chastity belt last session, one couldn't be too careful.
Now we are gaining perspective. So I decided to venture out last night. Jennifer and I were treated to the works: dinner at the Georgetown Club; a chauffered ride to the National Theater; excellent seats for "A Chorus Line"; more drinks afterward. This was all courtesy of a husband -and-wife lobbyist team. He represents a drug company. She lobbies for the insurance industry.
I'm supposed to feel slightly compromised -- because I'm on the public health subcommittee -- but frankly that's silly. The chauffered ride cna be justified under any circumstances. Now that the Honorable Secretary Brock Adams is promoting Model As, Detroit needs the business. Besides that, the limousine was actually a bus.
The great Victorian Secret must be told. Lobbyists are positively timid aboiut bringing up business on social ocassions. By the time we got through the subjects of tennis clubs, the Supper Bowl and favorite scenes from "Animal House," the third round of drinks had already arrived. This prompted a brief discussion of the Generic" drug issue. I am still not certain, however, whether they are good, bad, illegal or only available at the White House pharmacy. As long as there is a convicted felon sitting in the House of Representatives, I'm not going to get too worried about who paid for the Duckling a L'Orange.
Murph's law strikes again. All day. Repearation, I decided to get into the office before 7 a.m. So did five painters, three oadders and a pile of canvas. After negotiating the release of my speech files from these intruders, I found an empty desk and worked until it was time for the 8:30 breakfast meeting of the Michigan Republican delegation. Since the breakfast turned out to have started at 8 a.m., the waitress had long since disappeared. I was spiritually nourished, however, by the group's mutual pledge to start working together more closely -- now that our former 13-member GOP delegation is down to a corporal's guard of six.
After two solid hours of cramming and scribbling, I was perpared to hold forth on the prospects for drug reform legislation at a luncheon seminar for 50 key employes of a major drug company. I was not prepared, however, to see half of them abruptly stand up and exit 10 minutes after I started. Later investigation revealed that most of them were from New Jersey and had succeeded in getting a rare audience with Sen. Williams. Just as well. My message was that the drug bill will be written in the House.
I got back to the office only to turn around and head for the airport for an evening speech in Philadephia. My plan was to outline my talk on the way, but Allegheny Airlines made alternate arrangements. They kindly provided me with a cramped 16-set commulter plane with no flip-down tray for writing, a very fat, very talkative passenger in the next seat, and separate st'ops at both Philadelphia airports, mine being the second.
We live by our itineraries, even ones that don't make sense. Today mine said: "Check in at Hilton 3:45. Rest and speech preparation remainder of afternoon." Since I had arrived at 5 p.m., this procedure did not seen reasonable. Neither did the bellboy's brieflng on the restaurant, exercise and entertainment facilities available at the hotel. But since my host was supposed to call at my room, I proceeded according to script, schcking in at 5 and out at 6. Fortunately he was an avid hometown booster who thought a brief 12th floor view of Philadelphia was well worth the price of a night's lodging -- even if I wasn't staying overnight.
After the speech, I had a 2-hour wait for the train at Penn Station, a towering, hulking edifice devoid of people. It seemked like the ideal place to transfer one's waller from hip pociet to inside coat pocket. This maneuver worked so well that when I boarded the last car of the train and threw my coat on the overhead rack, even I had foregotten the whereabouts of my wallet. It was rediscovered, however, after I had made my way through 10 cars, up to the cafe car, and found it necessary to bargain strenuously with the attendant on accepting 26 cents for a 30-cent cup of coffee.
If it weren't for the honorarium of it, I coild do without days like this.
Today more than compensated. No speeeches, committee meetings, floor session, visiting constituents or evening engagements. Phone calls were minimal and the staff was still so busy sorting out the boxes from our office move that they didn't have time to bother me. A rare opportunity to delve into some heavyweight material. During office hours this turns out to be a bulky EPA document entitled "Air Quality Criteria for Ozone and Other Photochemical Oxidants." It purports to demonstrate the public health necessity to sharplycurtail future industrial growth in order to reduce ozone (smog) to naturally occurring levels. Failure to do so may result in episodic outbreaks of cough, headache and ticklish throat among 1/100th of the U.S. population.
The evening is devoted to further progress on Barbara Tuchman's "A Distant Mirror," wherein the vulnerability of pre-incustrial society to pestilence and famine is meticulously chronicled: one-third of the known population was wiped out by the Black Plague and earlier famines during the14th century. Apparently, risks are inescapable, but at least our pandemics are getting more benign.
Breakfast in Williamsburg with the new class of freshman members under the auspices of the Brookings Institution, Rep. Al Gore, the Tennessee Democrat, and Dave Stockman performing. It wasn't really an even match. At age 30, Al is already a major league politician in the essential meaning of the term: witty, personable, ultra-fluent, possessed of a brilliant instinct for the rhetorical jugula. With ambition, poise and charisma to match. The Great Mentioners haven't discovered him yet, but they will. I'd give him higher odds for the brass ring then his father, the former senator, ever had. Unfortunately, he inhales populist nostrums as naturally as he breathes. If there is one great service I can perform for the Republic it may be to teach Al Gore some basic economics before it is too late.