Thursday, July 23, 2009

Proud to be an American

Fourth of July in DC is always an exciting experience (except dealing with the masses of tourists who converge on the city). You've got the excitement of being in the capital on America's birthday, you have the parades, and, most importantly, you have the fireworks. What could be bad about that?

This year's Fourth was fantastic. I spend most of the day hanging out on the National Mall holding down a spot for our group to watch the fireworks. It was a perfect day: warm with no humidity and clear blue skies. Could not have asked for anything better. A group of us got there at around 3 (for the fireworks that began at 9:10) and passed the six hours by throwing frisbees, napping, playing games, and cuddling (at least Ben and I did...). By the time the fireworks started we had a pretty big group. We had a perfect spot: in front of the Washington Monument looking straight at the Lincoln Memorial with the White House directly to our right and the Jefferson Memorial directly to our left. So good. There was also a concert going on; they were playing the usual patriot music. I might have sung "God Bless the USA" at the top of my lungs... Good times. I was feeling tres patriotic. The fireworks were AMAZING. From where we were it felt like they were falling on us, which was great. Again, nothing like having this experience in DC. Per PSIP tradition, when the fireworks ended our group broke out in a chorus of "The Victors."

Here are some pics from the day:

Benny and I claiming our spot

Our PSIP crew

Great view of the Washington at night.

Happy birthday, America!
Brady came to town the next day. We got crabcakes, ice cream and went to see the monuments at night. It was cute.

I had a pretty exciting week at work. It was full of hearings, briefings and free food. The hearing of the week was a Senate Judiciary Subcommittee hearing on the BCS. Yes, Congress was investigating college football... Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah called the hearing, which, for those of you who follow college football, makes sense (Utah was the only school to finish undefeated this past season, but they weren't able to play for the national championship). I got to the 2:30 hearing at 2:10 and there was a massive line going out the door. It was like every intern on the Hill decided to go to this hearing. I didn't get in until about 3:15, but it was worth it! Really interesting discussion between the panel of witnesses (two college presidents and two lawyers) and Sen. Hatch (these hearings usually have three or four Senators, but only Hatch was at this wasn't worth anyone else's time). In the end, nothing will happen because no one thinks this is important or that anything productive can come out of these hearings. Fun story, when I finally got a seat it was behind one of the witnesses. It took me a few minutes to realize that there was a camera pointed right in my direction and whenever the camera was pointed at this witness, it got me in the shot. I realized this after I had spend the first twenty minutes looking down at my notepad. Oops.

Other fun stories from the week: On Wednesday, AIPAC, the largest pro-Israel lobby in the nation, had a huge event featuring Sens. John McCain and Bob Menendez. It was really cool to hear them (especially McCain) speak in person. McCain was really laid back and his speech was hilarious. We stood close to the door, so we were able to shake their hands as they walked in and out. We got a picture with Menendez as he left:

On Thursday I was in the underground tunnel getting from the House-side to the Senate-side of the Capitol. I happened to go through the Senate tunnel in the middle of a vote, so Senators were rushing past me left and right. It was like being in a candy shop. As I got to the elevators to go the my briefing on the ninth floor I saw someone familiar...newly sworn-in Sen. Al Franken from Minnesota. For those of you who don't know, the Minnesota Senate election between Republican Sen. Norm Coleman and Democrat Al Franken (of the SNL fame) occurred in November, but the election was so close that recounts dragged the election until June. I worked for Coleman's campaign while at the NRSC last summer. Needless to say, this election meant a lot to me, making this run-in very awkward. Probably my most awkward encounter with a Senator. Here's how it went down:

Me - "Hey Senator Franken. Congrats on getting your seat."
Senator Franken - "Thank you.." (begins awkwardly leaning in and staring at me)
Me - "Uh...I'm an intern...I'm on my way to a briefing on the ninth floor..."
Franken - "Oh..." (continues to awkwardly stare at me, as if he's waiting to say something or for me to say something)
Me - "Yeah I won't lie, I worked for the coleman campaign...but congrats anyways."
Franken - "Oh, that's ok" (gets on elevator as I run to the farthest one away)

So telling a Senator you worked for his opponent's campaign probably isn't the best thing to say. I was clearly off my game...I blame the awkward stares. Of course I think of something better to say after I make a complete fool of myself. I could have said something like "Love your work on SNL!" but of course, I can't think of that on my feet. I was off my game. Sigh. Oh well.

An adventurous week wrapped up with an adventurous weekend. On Saturday we played a softball game against the U of M Alumni Softball team. This is a team that plays against other university alumni teams in a highly competitive league. We...are a bunch of interns who don't really practice or take our games seriously. I'm sure you can imagine how this game turned out. It was fun though. We managed to hold a lead for a few innings before things unraveled. On Sunday we took a trip to the Newseum, my favorite museum in DC. I could spend hours at this museum, and I did. I wasn't able to finish it, which was sad. I had a good time none the less.

The next week was just as fun. Work was about the same: hearings, briefings, free food. Can't complain. A group of us decided to catch the midnight premiere of Harry Potter on Tuesday night. It was great. I love midnight movies; they're so exciting. We got to the theatre at around 10:45 and the line stretched around the entire block. It was crazy. I loved the movie and I wish I could be Harry Potter. The best part was getting done at 3am and having to go to work the next morning! Phil, one of my bosses, told me I could come in late on Wednesday, so I didn't feel so bad. It was only going to be the two of us because the other three people in our office were out for the day. Making things better, I get a call at 10:30 Wednesday morning and Phil says that I don't need to come in if I don't want to! As tempting as it was, I still had some work to do, so I decided to come in at noon to make it a true half day. So good.

The Sotomayor hearings before the Senate Judiciary Committee were going on during the week. This was a big deal around the city, not surprisingly. Literally every office had their TV turned to this. This hearings can be painful to watch at times because each Senator LOVES the attention they're getting by being there. The first day alone each Senator got ten minutes to give an opening statement, during which they pretty much stroke their egos and seize the limelight. There are nineteen Senators on the committee, so you can figure out how long this went. I felt bad for Sotomayor because it must be so painful to have to sit through those statements. I wouldn't have been able to stay awake past the third. I'm not sure if it's more painful to sit through those statements or answer the questions she got for the next three days.
The hearings lasted until Thursday. The general public was allowed to attend, but there was a massive line. They bring you in groups of 25 and you can only stay for 20 minutes. Seems efficient, but there are tons of people who want to go. I tried going on Monday, but I would have had to wait for awhile. I assumed that by Thursday, the final day of the hearings, things would die down. I was right. I got in line at around 9:50 and got into the hearings by 10:20. It was really cool to be there. Granted, I was seated in the far back corner of the room and couldn't see jack, but it was a surreal experience to actually see a Supreme Court nomination hearing.

Juwong came in that weekend, so Ben and I spent the weekend taking him to see all the cool sites. On Saturday we went to the Capitol, Union Station, Portrait Gallery/Museum of American Art, monuments at night and Ben's Chili Bowl. When we did our monuments tour we went to the Lincoln, Korean War, World War II, Washington Monument, then Jefferson. As we were walking to the Jefferson we noticed that the lights were out. By the time we got there a security guard was standing in front of it telling us we couldn't go in because of the light problem. For those who don't know, walking to the Jefferson Memorial is a bit of a trek, as you have to walk around the Tidal Basin. We decided to wait a few minutes, mainly because we wanted to make the best of our long walk. After a few minutes of moping, the lights went back on and we were happy. I take full credit for that. It was an exciting night and a fun weekend.

More updates will come soon...

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Such Great Heights

A lot has happened since I last updated, so here we go!

Thursday the 18th was the Thursday before the first day of summer. The Senate has a tradition where members wear seersucker on that day, also known as Seersucker Thursday (read one of my posts from last year for more info). After reading my post about this last summer, my sister gave me a gift card to buy my own pair of seersucker pants. Naturally, I pulled them out to take part in this year's day. I made sure that all my meetings that day were on the Senate side so I could blend in with the Senators and their staffs. It paid off. I was at the Small Business Committee hearing and a number of staff commented on my seersucker and a number of people in the audience were decked out in full seersucker suits. When the Senators walked in, two of my favorites, Sens. Olympia Snowe and Roger Wicker, were in their seersucker attire. After the hearing, I ran into Wicker and we both complimented each other on our look. On an aside, I also had a nice chat with Sen. John Thune after the hearing and we talked about his prospects for becoming Republican Policy Committee Chairman. Nice chat and a nice guy.

That day was also the day where the Dairy farmers' lobby had their annual Ice Cream party. They rent out a park across from the Russell Senate Office Building and hand out hundreds of bowls of ice cream and root beer floats. I grabbed two bowls of ice cream (coffee and mint chocolate chip) and a root beer float. SO GOOD! Who says all lobbyists are bad?

Here are some pics:

What I ended up taking

Lest they mingle with the rest of us. I'm sure their ice cream was better.

It was also cool because a number of members of Congress were there grabbing free ice cream for themselves (and to talk to the lobbyists). Sen. Blanche Lincoln, who was wearing a seersucker suit, complimented my seersucker on our way in. I also had a quick chat with Sen. Daniel Akaka as he was leaving.

The next week was another exciting week of meeting Senators. On Monday I volunteered to work at a fundraiser for Florida Governor Charlie Christ, who is running for the Senate. It was at my old abode, the NRSC. It was a really cool event because nearly all of the GOP Senators showed up to show their support. As I was helping the bartender, I was able to chat with Sens. Kit Bond, Johnny Isakson (again), Saxby Chambliss, Richard Burr and John Barrasso. Later on, the bartender let me go mingle, so I chatted it up with Bob Bennett, Sam Brownback and shook hands with Jim Risch, Lindsay Graham, and John McCain. I also fist bumped Orrin Hatch, who did something to his wrist so couldn't shake hands. I also had another good chat with John Thune, who remembered our chat from the week before, which was cool. As we were talking about his undergrad years (he went to a school where my sis almost went for grad school), Lindsay Graham walked up to us and fist bumped Sen. Thune, who introduced me to the Senator (who then fist bumped me).

Charlie Crist, the man who all this was for, is probably the nicest politician I've ever met. He came up to me three times (which I'm sure meant that he forgot that he had already talked to me), addressed me by name (I was wearing a nametag), and thanked me profusely for helping out kept shaking my hand. The last time, he grabbed me, motioned his cameraman over and was like "let's get a picture!" Really cool and really down to earth...hope he wins.

On Tuesday our group had our annual Q&A with Sen. Carl Levin, which is always a good time. I ran into him about 30 minutes before the event, as I was looking for the room, and he sounded pretty excited (though he was pretty disheveled as he was running late for a hearing that he needed to chair). He got to our event late, but it was a good time none the less. He's an interesting guy and always has some good stories to tell. It took him about ten minutes to answer the question, "What did you do today?" which I thought was funny. He ended up going on a tangent about filibusters. He spent about 45 minutes with us and took a picture with our group at the end. You could tell that he was having a great time. Really cool old man. Here are some pics:

The next day I had to go to some hearings for work. I had some time between the two that I needed to attend, so I decided to check out the the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, who was having a roundtable to to discuss the events in Iran. When I got to the hearing room, there was a huge line heading out the door. I didn't think I'd get a seat. By the time I actually got into the room, I saw my friend Whitney, who was my PSIP Coordinator last year and is now working for Sen. John Kerry, who chairs the Foreign Relations Committee. She was on loan to the committee and actually put the whole hearing together. She was at the front of the room and when she saw me in the back, she started motioning her head for me to go up to her. When I got to the front of the room, she let me sit with her and her interns in the front row! It was really cool because we were really close to the panel. The hearing itself was fascinating as all the panelists were experts on Iran so they had some really interesting insights on what was going on. It was also untraditional because Sen. Kerry wanted it to be an informal discussion, so rather than going through the formalities of normal hearings, it was an open forum where questions could be freely asked by Senators and the panelists could actually discuss and converse with each other. It was really cool.

After the Foreign Relations hearing, I went to a subcommittee hearing for Appropriations. The hearing was on appropriations for Commerce, Justice and Science, which is important to the University because we need to know how much funding agencies like the National Institutes of Health and National Science Foundation, will receive as we rely on these agencies for research funding. A lot of people attend these hearings because they want to know how much funding their agencies will receive, so they always advise arriving about 20-30 minutes ahead of time. I got there 30 minutes before the hearing, barely got a seat, and sat through the ten minute hearing. Great, eh? On my way out I had a quick chat with Sen. Bryon Dorgan of North Dakota. He was really interested in what I was doing and I complimented him on his interview on the Colbert Report a few weeks ago. I also had a chat on the elevator with Sen. Mark Pryor of Arkansas. We commented on how efficient the hearing was. By the end of the day I also had brief chats with Sens. Ben Cardin and Barbara Mikulski, both Democrats from Maryland and Judd Gregg, who appreciated my compliments for his health plan (again).

Friday was a big day because the House of Representatives was set to vote on their cap-and-trade bill (a bill on climate change, for you non-politicos). The debate lasted through the day, past my work hours. I had gone to Jazz in the Gardens, which is a weekly jazz concert in the Scuplture Garden of the National Gallery of Art, when a friend texted me saying that Republican leader John Boehner was "filibustering" the bill by reading through a 300 page amendment. Since something like this NEVER happens in the House, a bunch of us decided to head over to see if we could watch this. By the time we got to the Capitol, through security and into the gallery, he was done. That was sad, but the vote had already begun. To pass a bill in the House you need 218 votes. All day the Democrats had been fighting to get votes because a number of their members couldn't vote on the bill because of their districts. We were watching the vote count tick up, then with about 20 seconds left in the 15 minute vote, the entire Democrat side of the chamber broke out in cheers as they got vote 218. It was so crazy to watch. They ended up barely passing the bill with 219 votes.

This past week was recess week; Congress went home to celebrate Independence Day. This means that all work in DC comes to a halt. Work slowed down dramatically as I had very little to do, which was sad. On Tuesday, however, I arranged for PSIP to get a tour of the CIA! It was really cool, especially since they only accept like 1/10 of their tour requests. I pulled some strings. Just getting there was pretty crazy. We had to go through background checks and intense security and we couldn't bring cameras or our phones. The tour consisted of the history of the agency, a tour of their museum (which was pretty much an exhibit of spy equipment from other countries), and a recruitment session. It was pretty surreal just to be in the main lobby. We saw the stars of the fallen, the insignia on the was sick. Our tour guide was pretty good, though there were a lot of questions that she said she couldn't answer because they were "classified." It was interesting being in the building because we'd walk past rooms with signs like "Iran Sector" and "Middle East" and undercover agents were walking around us the entire time. Making things more interesting was that we had two security officers trailing us the entire time, so we couldn't go anywhere without being watched. The recruitment session was pretty intense; they tried pretty hard to get us to work for them. Fun fact: you can apply to work at the CIA if you haven't used drugs in over a year, but if you download music, you might want to reconsider. Overall it was a pretty sweet experience.

I had half-days at work for the next two days and Friday off...horray for recess! I took Friday to hang out and play softball with the crew. That night a few of us went to Ben's Chili Bowl with our old coordinator Neil, who was in town. As we were sitting at the table, a group walked in and sat at the table in front of us. One guy at the table looked really familiar to me. He looked like Reiham Salam, the co-author of a book I read earlier in the year, Grand New Party. I saw him on a news segment earlier in the summer talking about his book and the future of the Republican party. I spent about ten minutes trying to figure out if this was the guy, doing the whole mental, "he might be...". I turned to Neil, who suggested I look at our friend Jeff's Blackberry to make sure. Horray for mobile internet! I checked his Wikipedia page, which had a picture, and started subtly comparing the pic with the guy sitting in front of us. We all agreed it was the same guy, so I walked up to him and asked if he was Reiham. He was! We had a quick chat; I told him I really enjoyed his work and he asked about what I was doing, where I go to school and told me to keep in touch. Really cool guy. I was pretty excited at the end, not going to lie.

Anyways, that's the story of what's been going on. Yesterday was Independence Day. I'll have a post up about that soon!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

So what? I'm still a rock star

It's been awhile since the last update, so I probs should give you all an idea of what's going on here in DC.

Weekends in DC are a lot of fun.  It helps that there's so much to do here.  During the day there are plenty of museums to go to and at night there's always something cool to think of doing.  A few weekends ago we went Eastern Market, which was really cool.  There are a lot of artisans, farmers, and other food vendors who go there, so there's so much cool stuff to see.  We probably walked around for a good hour just looking at all the displays of food, pictures/paintings, and crafts there.  The food is probably the best to see because it's really fresh and there's a really interesting selection.  My faves were the butcher stand that had a ton of meat on display (including parts of the animal that I didn't know were edible), and the fish stand that had a lot of cool seafood on display (like a monstrous octopus!).  There's also this really good breakfast place there called "Market Lunch" (they serve breakfast and lunch, but they're well known for their breakfasts).  I probably had some of the best pancakes and crabcakes I've had in awhile.  Afterwards we went to the newly re-opened American History Museum, which was a lot of fun.  I'm an American history buff, so I really enjoyed it.  The exhibits were interactive and really interesting to read.  I liked the Presidents exhibit and the Pop Culture section (they had Kermit the Frog, Colbert and Oscar the Grouch on display).  They also had a really cool exhibit on the Inaguration, which had some up close photos of Obama (and even a shot of the Jonas Brothers, an important part of this year's festivities).  

That night we went on a late-night monument tour, which I love doing.  Like I've said before, nothing beats seeing the monuments at night.  Not only are they gorgeous along a dark backdrop (which lets you appreciate them so much more), there aren't as many crazy tourists around (which is ALWAYS a plus).  We went to the Lincoln, Vietnam, World War II and Washington.  From there a few of us decided to go to the Capitol rather than the Jefferson.  If you follow this blog, you know that I LOVE the Capitol, especially at night.  Lots of reflection occurred that night. 

Probably my favorite weekend stop is Ben's Chili Bowl, which is an historic African American restaurant.  Their chili dogs are AMAZING.  I've gone twice so far this year, the most recent was last weekend so I could eat my feelings and consul myself after the Red Wings loss (it's a touchy subject, don't ask).  Another good place I like to go to grab food on weekends is this pizza place called Jumbo Slice, which is where I spent last Saturday night.  Their slices are HUGE, stretching from my hand to my elbow.  I can barely finish a slice.  Here are some pics to give you an idea:

Pure greasy goodness!

Last weekend I also ventured to the Natural History Museum with Ben.  I'm not going to lie, the museum is cool because they have a lot of cool things on display (like dinosaurs), but it was hard for me to get into.  Natural history isn't something I'm really interested in, so the exhibits weren't too exciting to me.  While at the American History Museum I would read everything, I was alright skipping over stuff and not reading anything at the Natural History Museum.  Oh well.


On the work front, things have been really good.  I've been going to a lot of Congressional hearings for our staff, which I enjoy because the topics are really interesting and it gives me something to do.  Last week I went to a House Appropriations Committee hearing that dealt with Commerce, Science and Justice spending, a Senate hearing with Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius on health priorities, and a House Small Business Committee hearing.  My bosses also take me to their meetings as well.  I went to a really interesting one with lobbyists from the different sports leagues that touched on issues these leagues are concerned with.

I've been working on meeting legislators as well.  Last week I ran into Sen. John Ensign, who I worked for last summer.  I reminded him that I worked for him last summer at the NRSC and we had a brief chat.  Clearly he remembered me...

On Tuesday a bunch of us went to Debbie Stabenow's constituent hour.  We were the last group to get in, which was nice, but that meant a long wait before we could actually see the Senator.  During this time we awkwardly chatted with her staff, which I'm sure you can imagine was a party (though a kid I went to high school is on her staff, so I talked to him for a bit).  When we finally got to see her, we made small talk then posed for a pic.  Naturally I stood next to her.  After we took the pic she turned to look at us and I noticed that my name tag was sticking to her arm (or chest, I'm really not sure)!  I was wearing my bag when I put the tag on, and I think it came loose when I took the bag off for the pic.  Obviously it ended up on the Senator.  Oops.  Imagine how awkward/embarrassing it was when I noticed and then lunged at the Senator to take it off her!  She's a really nice lady, so she laughed it off, along with the rest of us.  Here's the scene (one from the Senator's camera, one from mine):

If you look closely, you can see the name tag coming off me and sticking to her.

On Wednesday I went to the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions hearing on the healthcare-reform bill.  On my way I saw a bunch of Senators (but didn't talk to them because they were Dems): Burris, Schumer, Brown, Tom Udall, and Reid.  I also saw Vice President Joe Biden as he was leaving the building!  Capitol Police and Secret Service were everywhere, but there were nice enough to let a bunch of interns hang around to see him.  As for the actual hearing, I decided to go because healthcare reform is a huge deal right now and the HELP Committee was marking-up its proposal.  Naturally, given the significance of this, I had to be there.   It was crazy because in front of each Senator was a 1-1 1/2 foot tall stack of paper that was the bill and proposed amendments!  In the two hours I was there, they didn't even get to the bill because each Senator decided to make a long-winded opening statement (Judd Gregg referred to the proposal as a mix between Rube Goldberg and Karl Marx, which Barbara Mikulski rebutted by calling the current system a mix of Adam Smith, Darth Vader, and Revenge of the Body Snatchers).  By the time I left, they had only gotten through 1/3 of the committee.  And we wonder why Congress takes so long...

That night I went to a few receptions, one of them with my boss.  Given her job, she pretty much knows the entire Michigan delegation, so she was able to introduce me to Reps. Vern Ehlers and Dale Kildee.  Kildee was really nice and remembered my name by the end (that, or he was looking at my nametag...which I made sure was securely on me).  As I've said before, I love going to receptions because there's TONS of free food.  Not a bad deal at all.

In other news, for those who follow politics, you might have heard of the latest scandal, which involves Sen. John Ensign and an extramarital affair.  Yes, this is the same John Ensign who I worked for last year and who I mentioned earlier in this post.  Pretty weird.  The sad part was working for him at the NRSC when this happened and actually worked with the son of the woman whom he was having this affair with.  Crazy stuff.  This has been dominating my news cycle for the past day.

Anyways, that's all for now.  More updates will come soon.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

I am a visitor here; I am not permanent

Pics from my journey thus far:

What I love about flying into Reagan-National Airport is that you fly over landmarks as you're about to land.  Here's the Pentagon.

Ben and I decided to show our love for America at the DC Memorial Day Parade.

The Groves Marching Band was there!

My favorite building in the world.  Takes my breath away every time.


Me, Jeff and Ben at the Tigers game.

Dana's birthday dinner.  Notice the shivering woman who made it into the pic.

I see a resemblance 

Honest Abe.  By far my favorite monument in DC.  

Even prettier at night.  

More pics will be posted on flickr and facebook.  A more complete update/entry will come soon.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

...and we're back!

After a year-long hiatus, I have returned to document my adventures in the District!  

I have been in town for about a week-and-a-half now.  I'm working at the University of Michigan DC Office this summer.  The office focuses on the University's federal relations.  We track legislation on issues concerning the school and lobby on its behalf.  Doesn't provide me with the kind of round-the-clock access to big shots as working at the NRSC did, but it provides different kinds of really cool opportunities, which is cool.  It's a small office (four full-time staff), which means I'm the only intern, and the staff does a good job of including me in what they do.  I've been able to tag-along to a number of meetings with Congressional staffers and other interest groups to learn about issues Michigan cares about and watch as my bosses advocate for the University.  I've definitely learned a lot about immigration, patents and taxation and how these issues affect the University.  

The first week I was here was a bit slow because Congress was in recess.  Since they weren't in town, there wasn't anyone to lobby, so there was little for our office to do.  That sucked because there was so much down time, but on the flip-side, it meant a few half-days, which gets no complaints with me.  My sister was also in town for a bit, so having some extra free time was nice.  

Congress was back in session during week 2, so work has picked up.  I've been able to spend some more time on the Hill this week, attending meetings and hearings.  On Monday I went with my boss to discuss a patent reform bill with staff from Sens. Levin and Stabenow's offices, which was really fun and really interesting/informative.  The next day I was sent to an Appropriations hearing on the House-side that discussed the budget for the Department of Health and Human Services.  I decided to make an afternoon out of it, so I started with lunch on the Senate-side, then I decided to take the Capitol subway over to the House side.  The subway is only available for members and staffers, so I made up an excuse to get a guest pass to ride it.  Always a fun ride.  To get from the Senate-side to the House-side, you start at the Senate office buildings, get off at the Capitol, walk to the other side of the building, then hop on another subway to the House office buildings.  As I got off at the Capitol, the Senate Republican lunch was getting out, so I ran into a bunch of my peeps.  Saw Senators Lindsay Graham, Susan Collins, Mike Johanns, John Barrasso, and David Vitter on my ride.  I was able to briefly say hi to Senators Jim Bunning, Judd Gregg and Johnny Isakson.  I told Gregg that I liked his healthcare plan, which he proposed the day before (it was similar to something I suggest in a PoliSci paper I wrote this year).  I met Isakson last summer, so Bunning and Gregg are new to my list.  Given that some of the people I met from last year are no longer in office, I need to come up with a new list.  

I finally got to the hearing and it was interesting.  Kathleen Sebelius, the Secretary of Health and Human Services, testified and it was interesting to hear her priorities.  The hearing, which was supposed to be about the department's appropriations request, turned into a a debate on a government-backed health insurance plan, which is always a good, partisan time.  

After the hearing I went to a reception with my boss.  Receptions are always a good time for interns.  Sure they're a bunch of old people talking about stuff we don't know/care about, but they ALWAYS have free food.  As my boss told me, "Play your cards right, you can get dinner covered."  Not only did this reception have some good food, it was to honor Speaker Nancy Pelosi!  So she stopped by and gave some remarks.  That was cool.  Also, I got my dinner covered, which was nice.

On Wednesday I went to a Senate Commerce Committee hearing on Chrysler/GM Dealership closures.  It was really fun to watch Senators tear apart Chrysler and GM's CEOs.  On my way to the hearing I ran into Johnny Isakson again.  Twice in two the rate we're going we'll be BFFs by the end of the summer.  Also said hi to Sen. Bernie Sanders (who's crazy).  One final celebrity run-in for the day: Jesse Jackson.  He was sitting in on the hearing and we both left in the middle and I ran into him as we were walking back.  I was in front of me and I decided to say hi.  Here's how that went down:

Me: "How ya doin', Rev. Jackson!
Me: You enjoying the hearing? (because I couldn't think of anything better to say)
Jesse: Yeah.

Then we walked back into the hearing room, which was cool because it looked like I was walking in with him, like I was part of his posse or something.


DC life has been great.  Second time around has been like a continuation of the first.  Coming off the plane (and being smacked by the heat and humidity), I felt like everything was just as I had left it last summer, which I love because it makes me feel like I never left the city.  My metro card from last summer worked just the same, the metro rides are just as I remember them to be, the dorm feels the same.  It really feels like the past year never happened.  

This summer I'm the coordinator of the Michigan intern program, so I have to organize things for the group to do.  The group is about 70 kids, which is nice because they're a fun and interesting group to be around.  So far we've had an outing to Ben's Chili Bowl (an amazing DC staple) and some other low-key events (like watching the Wings).  

On Saturday a few of us went up to Baltimore for the Tigers/Orioles game, which was a great time, other than the trek up there.  To get there we had to take the metro to the end of the line, transfer to a bus that took us to the Baltimore Airport, then take another train to the stadium.  That was a three-hour ride.  The game itself was a lot of fun.  We went to a really fun pre-game tailgate near the stadium which was a cool way to get food and hang out before the game.  Justin Verlander (my Tiger) was pitching and he was HOT.  There were a lot of Tigers fans there too, as well as people wearing Red Wings jerseys, which was nice.  Camden Yards is a beautiful park and our seats were really nice.  For some reason they decided to play Journey's "Don't Stop Believin'" before the ninth inning, which was strange, given the "Born and raised in South Detroit" line.  Anyways, the three of us who went to the game got up and screamed that line, much to the chagrin of the Baltimore fans sitting around us.  A bunch of drunk ones starting yelling stuff at us afterwards, stuff like "MOTOR CITY GOING DOWN!" and "HOW ARE THOSE LIONS!," to which we astutely replied "THOSE ARE YOUR CARS TOO!" and "WE'RE WATCHING A BASEBALL GAME, NOT FOOTBALL!"  We also added some hockey ones too, given the Wings, stuff like "HOW'S YOUR HOCKEY TEAM!"  They didn't seem to get the taunt, as their response was "We don't have one..."  Anyways, that was a highlight.  Another highlight was that the Tigers won 6-3, but we had to leave before the bottom of the ninth to catch the train to BWI to catch the bus to take us back to the Metro to take us home.  Another three hours.  So six hours round-trip for a three hour game.  Might not seem worth it, but it was.  GO TIGERS.  

So that's my time in DC so far.  Hope you enjoyed.  More updates will come soon.  

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Nowhere Man

My apologies for not posting for awhile; I've been on vacation with the fam for the past week. For those who have been waiting, here are the highlights from my final week in the District:

The Senate Republicans had their weekly policy lunch at our building on Tuesday, with one special guest present…Vice President Dick Cheney. With someone like that coming, our building went into total chaos with Secret Service agents standing at every corner and searching every crack and the building going under total lockdown. Craziness. We all stopped working to see his motorcade arrive with multiple limos and, my personal favorite, a few converted SUVs loaded with armed Secret Service snipers with their guns pointed out. It was a pretty sweet sight. We also looked to see which Senators were arriving…typical celebrity stalking. The day got even more exciting when, just as the Senators were arriving and getting ready to start their meeting, breaking news came over all the major networks that Senator Ted Stevens of Alaska (yes, a Republican) was being indicted on corruption charges. Making things interesting for us, Senator Stevens was sitting two floors below us, with every other GOP Senator and the Vice President. Oops. As this unfolded the media converged upon our building. Looking out of our window we saw a CNN truck pull up, a multitude of reporters and cameramen setting up. It was intense. We may or may not have ended up on camera. Every time someone left the building this media heard swarmed upon them. It was a sight to be seen. Tuesday an exciting day for us.

On Wednesday a bunch of us interns had lunch with the Executive Director of the NRSC t in the Senate Dining Room in the Capitol Building. A little "thank you" for being sweet interns (and for making a lot of phone-bank calls). It was sweet. This dining room is reserved for Senators and Chiefs of Staff so getting a chance to go in is a pretty big deal. We got to ride on the underground Senate tram too. We go in, sit down, and look around to see Senators sitting everywhere! I’m pretty sure John Glenn was sitting at the table next to ours. The food was pretty good, but obviously the experience of being in a room with big power brokers is why you go. Would not mind doing that again.

Norm Coleman has added some more points to his baller rating. Tuesday, while I was phone banking, I got a caller who started asking about the Senator’s position on Genetically Modified Organisms of all things. Since this isn’t something I know off the top of my head (shocking, right?), I stall as I pull up Google to try to find anything the Senator has said about this. As I’m stalling, Senator Coleman walks out of a call suite and into our room! I look at him and am like “SENATOR! What’s your position on GMO’s?” He looked at me confused, to which I respond, “This caller wants to know…do you want to talk to him?” At which point the Senator came up to me, took my headset, and proceeded to talk to this caller about GMO’s for about ten minutes. Not many people, let alone Senators, would ever do that, to which Senator Coleman scores some major points in my book.

The next day, after our lunch in the Senate Dining Room, Team Coleman had a pizza party with Coleman’s Campaign Manager. We spent some time talking to him about campaigning, and life in politics, then Senator Coleman came, thanked us, and talked with us for a bit. Real cool, down-to-earth guy; I’m definitely applying to work at his office next summer. Funny story about his campaign manager: When we first met him he goes “I hear there’s a Wolverine here…,” to which I enthusiastically owned up to, and he goes, “I love Michigan! GO BLUE!” Nice to know about our fan base outside of Michigan! (He knew about me through his political director, whom we talk to each week. The first time she heard I was from Michigan, she told me she was from that “state” south of us. We went at it for a bit. The Campaign Manager helped me trash her when he came.)

On Thursday I raised money for the NRSC for the first time! I convinced a donor to contribute $4000 to us. It was magical. I also met Ted Stevens that day. He was on our floor eating ice cream. He looked like a cute, innocent, old man. Of course, this was only hours after he was in court being arraigned on his charges. I saw him and, naturally, shook his hand. Chalk that up to twenty-six Senators!

My last day at the NRSC was pretty laid back. Paul, my mentor, set me up for a picture with Senator Chuck Hagel, which was really cool. He’s a real nice guy and we talked for few minutes about football and public service. It’s sad to see him retire from the Senate, he’s a good guy. Afterwards my boss got me this donut cake (pretty much a really big donut) to celebrate my last day. She wanted the cake to say “Good Luck,” but, the Vietnamese woman who did the writing wrote “Luck Good” instead… Just a minor mistake… Later that day, we found out that the Republicans in the House of Representatives had taken control of the Chamber (the House just begun its five week recess). These Congressmen were staging a protest against high gas prices and were demanding that Congress reconvene to have a vote on oil drilling and gas prices. Because Congress wasn’t in session anymore, no one else was in the chamber so they started bringing staffers, tourists, whomever they could find to the Floor of the House and the Visitor’s Gallery to hear them speak! Seizing this chance to see this craziness unfold, a bunch of us ran over to the House to sit in the gallery to see this tomfoolery go down. The gallery was packed, then one of the Congressmen was looked towards the crowd and said, “They’re closing the Galleries at 4:30, but this is the People’s House! Why don’t you people sitting in the Galleries come down and sit on the Floor with us!” So we ran down and got a chance to sit on the Floor of the House of Representatives! UNREAL! Granted, this was all political theatre and won’t result in anything, but being able to sit on the Floor is sweet. We ended the day with a singing of “God Bless America” and chants of “USA! USA! USA!” It was sweet. I went back to the office and tried to work, but after an experience like that, it’s hard to get motivated to work again. And that was how my internship/experience in Washington D.C. came to an end.

Friday, July 25, 2008

But that was when I ruled the world

So Tuesday all the U of M interns got together and met with our Senator, Carl Levin. We got together in the Armed Services Committee room, took a group pic with the Senator, and then had a Q & A session with him. He talked about what he loves about his job, had a lot of encouraging words and advice for us, especially with regards to public service, and he also made a great pitch for staying in Michigan after college (which I thoroughly enjoyed). T'was a grand affair; my personal highlight was giving up my seat for him for the pic. Yes, even I can be nice and help a Senator out every now and then.

Once we finished our little meeting with Senator Levin, I ran into Senator Wicker and we had a nice lil' chat. Love that guy. Afterwards I walked down the hall to the Russell Building atrium to look at an exhibit of Patrick Leahy photos (which I'll ellaborate on later). As I was in the atrium I saw Senator Richard Lugar of Indiana, who's a baller and Ranking Republican on the bad-ass Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Upon seeing just a high-roller, I nautrally went up to him, introduced myself, and started chatting with him (he liked that I worked at the NRSC, where he used to be chairman). Real cool guy and great Senator (Time Magazine called him one of the ten best).

So now let me explain this exhibit in the atrium. Senator Patrick Leahy is the senior Senator from Vermont and Chairman of the Senatre Judicary Committee (he also has a cameo in The Dark Knight, in which he plays the old man who stands up to the Joker at Bruce Wayne's fundraiser for Harvey Dent). He, like myself, takes his camera EVERYWHERE. This exhibit showcased some of his favorite/coolest pics. He had some with the Dalai Lama, with Bono, in private meetings with world leaders, Supreme Court Justices as the await confirmation, backstage at a Greatful Dead concert, and, my personal favorites, pictures he took standing over Presidents as they sign bills into law. The guy's seen so much history and so many cool things in his life, it's ridiculous. I hope to one day be as well traveled as Leahy.

So after meeting Lugar I decided to stick around and look at these pics, because they truely are amazing. As I'm looking at them, a massive crowd enters the atrium and then a voice comes over some speakers...the voice of Patrick Leahy. He's standing at the center of the atrium, he thanks everyone for attending, introduces the probably ten Senators who are there, and then starts talking about all of his pics. This was probably one of the coolest things I've ever witnessed. First off, I have no idea if I was supposed to be there or not, but I was like "fuck it," because what will they acutally have done to me if they had caught me being there when I wasn't supposed to? Would they have fired me from my unpaid, non-Senate job? Would they have escorted me out of this public building? Anyways, so this exhibit was cool because Leahy had so many cool stories to tell about his pics. It was like hearing an artist talk about his art at an exhibit opening (which this essentially was). He talked about his meetings with these world leaders, hanging out with Jerry Garcia, sneaking ice cream to Fidel Castro...AMAZING. Also as cool, I found myself rubbing shoulders with Senators again. Once minute I'm standing in front of Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the next I'm next to Senator Thad Cochran of Mississippi (also one of Time's Ten Best). So cool.

Once Leahy finishes his little talk, the crowd disperses to admire these works, and I do the same. As I'm walking around, Senators Ken Salazar of Colorado and Harry Reid of Nevada (the Senate Majority Leader) walked in right next to me. I glad-handed Senator Salazar, we chatted for bit, then I tried saying hi to Reid, but he just patted my conversation took place. Strike one, Senator. As I continued looking around the exhibit, I notice Leahy, Salazar, and Chris Dodd huddled together laughing. This was a really cool sight, and, in a picture taking mood after seeing this exhibit, I decided I'd ask to take a pic of the three of them in that pose. I don't think Leahy really got what I was asking of them, because after I asked they broke huddle and stood together normally for the pic. Whatev, it's a pretty sweet pic, in my opinion.

After this pic, I went around the room again looking at more pics. Ran into Debbie Stabenow and did the whole "Do you remember me? blah, blah, blah" chat. Don't think she remembers me too well. After I saw Leahy and Reid talking in a corner and I thought that it would be a really cool candid pic:
I call this one "Power Players." It looks like they're discussing some important bill or strategy. Once they broke I caught Leahy and complemented him on his pics and such, then told him I liked his line in Dark Knight, which he laughed at. Good times. Interestingly, I ran into him the next day at the spot showing his pics to an aide and he let me listen in as he talked. Real cool. It was like getting private tour of history.

Couple other highlights from the rest of the week:
I met Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell Monday morning as I walked into work. He was also going to the building and I held the door open for him. Kinda cool?

Norm Coleman is quickly moving up on my list of favorite Senators. He at our building making calls today and he heard me phone banking for him, once again. He came up, thanked me, shook my hand, and then we chatted for about ten minutes about his career and public service. It was really cool. Real down-to-earth guy. Plus, how many Senators/high ranking officials take time to talk to interns about life? Norm Coleman, your stock is rising in my book.

Adding Levin, Lugar, Leahy, Salazar, and McConnell to my list, I've met twenty- four Senators in D.C. this summer! Include John McCain, whose hand I shook at a rally in May, I've met twenty-five U.S. Senators...1/4 of the Senate!

On another note, Brady, Mike Bouts and I went up to the Tigers/Orioles game last Saturday night, the first time I've seen my boys play on the road. Our seats were AMAZING, we were in the outfield box, two rows behind the third base line. The funny part, there we almost more Tigers fans than Orioles fans at the game. There were plenty of "Let's Go Tigers!" chants during the game. Here's a pic of us from our seats:
We went to batting practice and were real close to the pitchers warming up (Jones, Rodney, and Dolsi). A little farther away in the outfield was my Tiger Justin Verlander. Seizing the opportunity to talk to my boy, I ran a different section and shouted "HEY JUSTIN! YOU'RE MY TIGER!" He turned, smiled, and acknowelged, and I almost died right there.

Here's how close we got to the pitchers:
And here's my Tiger:
If only the game could have been as exciting. The Tigers took a 6-0 lead at the top of the first, only to blow it and fall behind 8-6, before coming back to take a 10-8 lead, then lose in extra innings 11-10. Granted, the umps blew a few calls (including one where they called Polanco out at home when he was clearly safe), but that doesn't excuse the fact that the Tigers blew a huge lead. Sigh. We've got a few more games left.

So that's my update from D.C. Somehow next week is my last week here... Gotta make it count!