by Erik Deckers
American Reporter Humor Writer
November 4, 2004
I KNOW BILL CLINTON, TOO
SYRACUSE, Ind. -- As someone who follows politics the way sports fans follow baseball, I was excited about my recent trip to Washington, D.C., home of the White House, Capitol Hill, and the National Bead Museum (official motto: Yes, there's a museum for those!).
I spent my first night on a self-guided walking tour, seeing the buildings I've only seen on the news, before ending up at the Democratic National Committee headquarters. It was like arriving at my own personal Graceland.
It's a little surreal, being in the city where history comes from, so I was overly self-conscious about my behavior. I worried that every word and gesture would betray me as some hick tourist from Indiana - like shouting, "Hey, I seen that place on the TEE-vee!" to total strangers while wearing my souvenir hat shaped like the Capitol Building.
So I just walked around, trying not to openly gawk as I snapped photo after photo on my cell phone, and sending them to my wife.
The first thing you notice about Washington, D.C., is that everyone - and I mean everyone - knows politics. Forget the politicians, the aides, the journalists, and the wannabes. I couldn't even go to a restaurant without discussing the presidential election with the bathroom attendant.
It's like Los Angeles, where every waiter, bartender, and carpet shampooer is an out-of-work-but-aspiring actor or writer. The local news is just a 30-minute celebrity gushfest with a smattering of current events thrown in.
"This week, Keanu and Leonardo were spotted at Spago's, Brad and Jennifer dined at the Brown Derby, and wedding bells may ring for Ben Affleck and Jennifer Garner. Oh, and some guy is President again."
Think of Washington as Los Angeles without the puffed-up self-importance. Oh, wait... .
Washington has two types of people: politicians and people who want to be politicians. Everything else in the city revolves around politics, from the hotels and restaurants to the cabs and even the street vendors hawking Pro-Bush and Pro-Kerry t-shirts.
And since it's the seat of power, if you're there, everyone else assumes you're someone important. Or at least you want them to assume that. But if they're not sure, it's up to you to help them along. So, name dropping is commonplace in Washington.
For most people, name dropping is a hobby, for others, it's a full contact sport. But I had the rare opportunity to witness a master name dropper in action. This guy dropped names like Liz Taylor dropped husbands.
I was eating dinner on Election Night and was sitting next to a group of lawyers - two women and a man - from some big hotshot firm in Washington state. Grubnitz, Spankle, and Wheen, or something like that, one of the women told me.
I don't remember what it was called, partly because I didn't care, but mostly because I was listening to her male colleague yammer on and on about all the political big shots he's met over the past several years.
"When I was in Boston, I met John and Turr-ayza a few times. John's a really down-to-earth guy, but Turr-ayza is the sweetest woman you could ever meet."
"Hey look, they just showed Missouri on tv. That reminds me of a time when I was in St. Louis, I had a dinner meeting with the governor. He told me a story about how he went fishing up in Minnesota with Jesse "the Body" Ventura and the Minnesota Vikings' coaching staff."
What this guy didn't say was that the dinner meeting was probably some political fundraiser filled with other wannabes willing to pony up $2000 to sit within shouting distance of the Governor, and the story was part of the 15 minute speech he gave before racing home in his limo.
As I listened to this obnoxious twit prattle on about all the wonderfully fabulous people he knows intimately, and all the fabulously exotic places he's been - like St. Louis, Missouri - I wanted to ask him, "If you're such hot stuff, why aren't you at campaign headquarters in Boston with John and Turr-ayza, instead of sitting here in a small restaurant in Washington?"
However, rule number one is that you don't pick on a lawyer, even if he does work for a law firm you've never heard of, Grubnitz, Spankle, and Wheen notwithstanding.
They say that in Washington, it's not what you know, it's who you know, although the joker at the bar seemed to think it was a matter of who you say you know. But if you truly want to be remembered as someone special, it's not who you know, but what you did that's most important.
At least that's what my good friend Al Gore tells me.