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!

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

God Bless America

There's something to be said about celebrating America's birthday in our nation's capital. To walk around this hallowed city, as many great Americans once did, in the shadow of our sacred landmarks, on our nation's birthday is quite the euphoric experience. All this culminates with fireworks on the National Mall. Nothing screams America like seeing fireworks explode over the Lincoln Memorial! I love America! Happy birthday, America!

While on the topic of D.C., here's my list of things I love about D.C. (still a work in progress). First, I love the landmarks and monuments in this city. They're gorgeous both in how they look and what they represent. I love walking around the city and admiring all the cool buildings, though it's difficult to navigate around all the tourists. Freaking tourists...let me enjoy my monuments in peace and without you taking pictures of every angle of Lincoln (yes, I'm talking to you, Asian tourists). Brady came down a few weeks ago and we took some time to visit the sites and I was reminded of how glorious these monuments/landmarks are and what they represent. It's so great to stand in front of Lincoln, the man who kept our Union together, read his speeches and admire his giant statue, then look across the Reflecting Pool to see the Washington Monument on the other side. Amazing. There's only one view I love seeing more in this city and that's the Capitol Building. Every time I walk past the Capitol I can't help but take a few seconds marvel at it and appreciate the grandeur of its architechture (especially the Dome) and reflect upon what the building represents. I could stare at the Capitol for hours (I talked about doing that once in an earlier post).

Along these lines, another thing I love about D.C. is running through the city. My favorite route takes me along the Lincoln Memorial, Washington Monument, National Mall, Capitol and White House. Probably the most scenic route I've ever run. It's like an impromptu tour of the city. I feel like a powerful D.C. insider whenever I'm out for a run along that route, especially when I'm around tourists who have no idea how to get around the city.

Next, the National Portrait Gallery is my new favorite D.C. museum (sorry Air and Space). I love this museum because it has portraits and biographies of our nation's greatest men and women. It's great to stand in awe of these figures who did so much to make our nation great. The museum has portraits of some of our widely known heroes (the Presidents, Benjamin Franklin, Henry Kissinger), as well as some Americans who aren't as widely celebrated (Ralph Waldo Emerson, Daniel Webster, ect.). All these heroes have made some sort of tremendous impact on the American experience and have defined what it means to be an American. I felt my ego deflate as I saw some of these people and, for probably the first and only time, it felt good.

Another cool place I recently visited is the National Zoo. My favorite attraction was, of course, the giant pandas. Sadly, they weren't doing anything fun. They were being lame sleeping in their pavilions, thus making panda cuddling impossible. Sorry Vitz.


Now on to the Senate front!

Work has definitely picked up, I'm working on a really cool project that involves researching potential donors. I have very little downtime now because they've given me a massive list to research. It's actually a lot of fun and it's taught me a lot about campaign fundraising.

I've been adding to my list of Senator run-ins. Last week I went to a reception at Michigan's own Debbie Stabenow's office. We had an interesting conversation, especially when she asked me where I worked in D.C. Seeing as how the NRSC pretty much completely works against Debbie, I was hesitant to answer honestly. In the end, I sucked it up and told her where I worked, to which she replied, "Oh, well, we won't hold that against you!" then proceeded to quickly end the conversation and move on to take the mandatory Senator-constituent picture. Awwkkwarrdd!

The next day, as I was leaving my office, I ran into an infamous Senator now commonly referred to as "Big John." For those of you who haven't seen Senator John Cornyn's "Big John" video (which I included on my last post), click here. So anyways, he was walking out of the building and I was about to cross the street, but I decided to detour and introduce myself. We had a nice chat about his upcoming election, what I'm doing here in D.C., and, of course, the "Big John" ad. He's definitely enjoyed the publicity the ad's given him, and I'm sure he gets a good laugh out of it. Afterwards I snapped a pic with him:

A few minutes after seeing Big John, I ran into Senator Chuck Hagel! Here's some backstory: PSIP has assigned each of us "mentors," Michigan-alums who work here in D.C. who have volunteered to impart their wisdom upon us. My mentor, Paul, is Senator Hagel's Legislative Director. That pretty much makes him a baller and someone I might be in a few years. Anyways, I'm walking to a reception after seeing Senator Cornyn and I saw Paul walking outside the Capitol with someone who looked familiar who I quickly recognized as Senator Hagel! It was a very quick encounter, they were in a rush to what I think was a VFW meeting. The run-in pretty comprised of me quickly say hi to Paul and then waving/quicking shaking hands with the Senator as they walked to their meeting. Either way, I'm going to count that.

So adding Stabenow, Cornyn, and Hagel to my list, my count is now up to nineteen! The list is Graham, Dodd, Snowe, Ensign, Cochran, DeMint, Isakson, Thune, Wicker, Barrasso, Murkowski, Coburn, Burr, Coleman, Smith, Hatch (He had lunch with our department a few weeks ago, funny man. I like him.), Stabenow, Cornyn and Hagel. Nineteen down, eighty-one to go!

That's all for now. Somehow I've got less than three weeks left here in D.C... WEIRD!

Sunday, June 29, 2008

The District Sleeps Alone Tonight

The past week in the District has seen a return to normalcy. No more big dinners with the President, no more run-ins with exciting former Presidential candidates/Viagra spokesmen. Work has slowed down as our next fundraiser is the Republican National Convention this September. Probably the most interesting story is that my boss told me and the other intern in our department to "find $11,000 by the end of the day" so that we could meet our budget goal for the month. My counterpart found a donor willing to give $15,000, and I found nothing!

Seeing as how things have slowed down a little bit, I've occupied myself by doing some phone banking. All of us interns are required to make calls and we've been divided into different teams calling for Senators who viewed as "vulnerable" this November. I'm making calls for Senator Norm Coleman of Minnesota. We ask questions about issues, party identification, and support for Norm. My favorites are the Independents who tell me their party ID, but that they "didn't vote for Jesse Ventura." Interestingly, I was by myself in the call center going through a survey with a caller and we started talking about Jesse and how he might enter the Senate race. As this call was going on a group of men came down and overheard me talking about Norm Coleman and Jesse Ventura. One of the guys looked familiar to me and I realized that it was Norm Coleman himself! I finished up the call and got up and talked to the Senator for a few minutes. He was really excited about the survey and thankful for my help. Real friendly guy. Naturally, I seized the opportunity to get a picture with him.

I'm going to get Norm to sign this one.

The next day I was back making calls and overheard a man in one of our call suites saying "This is Senator Gordon Smith of Oregon..." I waited a few minutes for him to finish some calls before walking into his suite to introduce myself and add another Senator to my growing list of Senator run-ins. He was very thankful for the distraction and we started shooting the breeze. I mentioned that I had a friend from Lake Oswago (cough STEVEN LU cough), talked about how gorgeous it is. He asked me where I was from and I told him Michigan, to which he replied "I LOVE Bloomfield Hills!" and told me about golfing at Oakland Hills during the Ryder Cup in 2004. All I could do was smile and laugh with pride as he talked about my hometown. (For those who don't know, Oakland Hills Country Club is about three miles from my house and considered to be one of the best golf courses in the country. It's hosted a lot of big golf events, most recently the 2004 Ryder Cup, and it's hosting the PGA Championship this year.) So the Senator and I had a nice conversation about Michigan and potential McCain VPs. It was really cool. Definitely a fan of Gordon Smith. Sadly, not picture came out of this run-in, I felt bad for taking too much time from his calls.

So those are the interesting stories from this past week. This week is supposed to have a three day week. Funny story, our building's A/C broke and it was literally 800 degrees on our floor, so they sent us home after an hour-and-a-half today. Horray for a two-day week!

Some other interesting things:

Some Senators celebrate the summer solstice each year by dressing in seersucker (for more details, read this article by the lovely Whitney Smith, UMich alum and my PSIP student coordinator this past year). This year's seersucker celebration took place the day I visited the Senate gallery. Those Senators love their seersucker. Making it more interesting is how staffers and interns also dress in seersucker. I saw one intern from Mississippi decked out in his blue seersucker suit with a nice bowtie to go along with it. Not gonna lie, he looked like a plantation owner. BUT, that doesn't diminish the fact that I think it's a cool tradition and that seersucker looks like an amazing fabric. Moral of the story: I need to get some seersucker for next year.

Video of the Week: Senator John Cornyn is the Junior Senator from Texas. He's a Republican and he's up for re-election this year. The "Friends of John Cornyn" group put together a video to introduce him at the Texas Republican Convention. This video is the most RIDICULOUS thing I've ever seen! My analysis of "Big Bad John" will follow. Enjoy.

Thankfully, this video wasn't produced by the NRSC. The DSCC posted it on its website and John Stewart parodied it. Anyways, the lyrics to this video are what make it so amazing. "Big John...yeah, Big BAD John," "He kept Texas in power, made lesser states squirm," "Your doing the Lord's work for Texas and we got your back!" "We'll outwork our foe, we'll tell souls in Texas you must get six mo'," and, my personal favorite "That place out yonder needs more men like you who shoot straight and talk straight and enjoy a good brew!" Oh man. Let's analyze some of these lyrics. They rhyme "foe" with "mo'"...interesting. I can see AP Language teachers loving that effort. Making lesser states squirm"...yeah, no. Finally, "shoot straight and talk straight and enjoy a good brew"...REALLY???? They had to put that in? They couldn't think of anything better...? Finally, WTF IS HE WEARING AT THE END! The leather jacket with the fringes dangling off...really?? They actually wear those in Texas? Anyways, I love watching this video. It's so ridiculous it's amazing. Thank God John Cornyn is fairly safe, and thank God the NRSC didn't make this.

Speaking of NRSC produced videos, here's a video we made for the President's Dinner. It's actually a good/legit video. They even got Fred Thompson to narrate! Enjoy!

This video makes me proud to be a Republican. I really like how they talk about Republican/conservative values, a discussion that has been missing for a long time, and it's refreshing to see it again. With the exception of the attack on Democrats in the middle, I think it's a real positive and encouraging video. Brings a tear to the eye.

Next, I'm going to take a step away from political discussion to talk about someone who I admire and who, in so many ways, helped me get to where I am today. My AP United States History and Global Issues teacher, Mrs. Karen Lessenberry, was recently awarded the Gilder-Lehrman Award as Michigan's Outstanding American History Teacher of the Year. This, in my opinion, is a very well deserved and very long overdue honor. Karen is a phenomenal teacher who has a passion for history and manages to instill that passion in her students. She took my loves for history, politics and current events and turned those into passions, part of why I'm majoring in history and political science today. She made me work. My abilities to analyze and discuss these things stem from her teaching and her constant prodding of me to think harder and analyze things better, not accepting lackluster efforts or thoughtless answers. She always made me support my answers and defend my conservative claims (we've had some interesting liberal/conservative debates and discussions during class and free time). I know I wouldn't be the type of student/person I am today without her help. For that, I take this moment to raise my imaginary glass to Mrs. Lessenberry for this well deserved honor and to thank her, for probably the 1776th time, for the impact she made on my life. For more of info on Karen and her awards, here's an article from the Groves Scriptor which features an interview with yours truly.

Last, but certainly not least, Mom made it into the Free Press this past weekend! Congrats to Mom for all your very well-earned success!

Those are my thoughts for now. Hope you enjoyed. Leave a message.

Friday, June 20, 2008


This is probably the coolest story so far:

So the day after the President's Dinner my department head, Lindsay, calls a staff meeting. We gather in the conference room and she tells us how good of a job we did, then Senator John Ensign of Nevada (the chair of the NRSC) came in and told us how awesome we are, then Lindsay tells us that we can leave at noon!

A typical day for me goes from 9 - 6, so getting out at noon is a pretty good deal. Since I'm always stuck at work until 6 I never get a chance to go see the Senate floor in action or see Committee hearings. Seizing the opportunity provided by this half day I decided that I would take the rest of the day to do things I normally can't do. I consulted the Senate calendar and planned out planned out my day like this: watch the Senate in session from the visitor's gallery, sit in on the Appropriations Committee hearing because Robert Byrd is the chairman (Byrd's like 90 years old, about to die, and HILARIOUS to watch. If you don't believe me, watch this), sit in on the Foreign Relations Committee hearing, then go home.

I watched the Senate for a few minutes, but there were only like three Senators on the floor and nothing interesting was going on (Senators Chris Dodd and Richard Shelby of Alabama were discussing a Housing bill). So I left the gallery and made my way to the committee rooms. I went to the Appropriations Committee room first, only to be greeted by a mass of people waiting in line outside the room. I stood there for a few minutes before getting impatient and leaving to go see the Foreign Relations Committee.

The Appropriations Committee meets on the first floor of the Dirksen Building, the Foreign Relations Committee meets on the fourth floor, so I went to find the nearest elevator shaft. I waited for an elevator for a few minutes, then Senator Richard Burr of North Carolina (whom I met at breakfast the day before) joined me as I waited, but he also with a guest. I made small talk with him ("How ya doin'?" "Did you enjoy dinner last night?" "I saw your car outside..." (Burr drives the coolest dune buggy), ect. ect.). After a few seconds of that, he turned to check on his guest, who was taking a picture with someone (obviously this guy must be a big deal). Then I heard the guy talk and he turned around, and it's BOB DOLE! You may remember Bob Dole as the former Senate Majority Leader/1996 Republican Presidential Candidate/Viagra spokesman. At this point I'm going crazy because I used to be obsessed with Bob Dole (back when I was in second grade). I raised my arm out to shake his hand, before remembering that his right arm is paralyzed, then offered my other hand. I said "hi" and he shook my hand, then got on the elevator with Senator Burr. To avoid awkwardness I hesitated joining them, but asked anyways and they let me on.

At this point I'm even more jittery because I'm in an elevator with Bob Dole. Turns out he's also going to the Foreign Relations Committee hearing. We get out the elevator on the fourth floor. I was hoping there'd be a cameraman there to get a shot of me walking off an elevator with Bob Dole, you know, like I was part of his posse or something. We walk down the hall for a few feet and he and Senator Burr went to the staff entrance to the committee room, and I went to join yet another line waiting outside to get into the visitors section of the room.

Thirty minutes go by and I'm still in line. We've moved up a bit, but not much. Then the doors to the committee room fly open and Bob Dole walks out. Everyone in line is going crazy, he stops to talk to a few people. Realizing that I hadn't really made the most of my Bob Dole experience, I decided that I needed to ask him for a picture (in true John Lin form). I stepped out of the line and went to the end of the hall to wait for him, and he came towards me about a minute later. Here's how the interaction went down:

Me: "Hey Senator Dole! Can I get a picture with you?"
Bob Dole: (smiling, I think he remembered me from the elevator) "Sure, let's get my assistant to take it"
Me: "Your campaign (for President in 1996) was the first campaign I ever followed!"
Bob Dole: (laughs) "You must have been this high back then!" (commenting on height)
(Assistant takes picture, we check to make sure the picture wasn't blurry, and this is wehre the story gets 1000x better)
Bob Dole: "So you weren't able to get into the hearing were you?"
Me: "No, the line was really long and it doesn't seem like they're letting anyone else in"
Bob Dole: "Did you try going through the staff room?"
Me: " I allowed to?"
Bob Dole: "Try watching from the staff room, I think it's room 415. Tell them that Bob Dole said it was alright for you to watch the hearing in there."
Me: (EXTATIC and confused) umm...ALRIGHT!

Umm...AMAZING!!!!! Not only did I get to talk to Bob Dole and get a picture with him, he gave me permission to sneak into a private room to watch a hearing! Bob Dole just shot up to near the top of my list of coolest people in the world.

Anyways, so I ran towards the staff room, before realizing I dropped my camera case, ran back to pick it up (drawing Dole's attention causing him to ask if I had tried yet...I'm not sure if I responded or not...oops), then ran to the room and told the secretary what Bob Dole told me. Obviously she looked skeptical, but she let me stay in the room and I sat and watched the hearing (which, compared to the events that just happened, wasn't that interesting).

So that's my amazing story of my journey thus far. I'm going to go ahead and say that this beats out the President's Dinner...

On another note, for those of you keeping score of my quest to meet as many Senators as possible, here's the latest tab:
Graham, Dodd, Snowe, Ensign, Cochran (funny story about this one, I'll explain later), DeMint, Isakson, Thune, Wicker, Barrasso, Murkowski, Coburn, Burr. 13/100...getting closer.
"Meeting a Senator" means anything more than just seeing them at a distance or seeing them walk by.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

The President's Dinner

First, I apologize for not updating in a timely manner. The past few days have been the most chaotic and euphoric days of this journey. Allow me to explain...

Every year the National Republican Senatorial Committee, along with the National Republican Congressional Committee, put on a massive event called "The President's Dinner" for donors. It's a three day event that this year began with a BBQ on Tuesday night, Breakfast/Speakers/Lunch on Wednesday, along with a massive banquet featuring President George W. Bush Wednesday night, finishing up with a smaller event Thursday morning. Big donors fly in from across the country, Senators take time off to attend all these events. It's obviously a pretty big deal. The more you donate, the more baller your events are. For instance, those who donated the maximum $28,500 to the NRSC (our "Majority Makers") got a BBQ at former Senator/Law & Order actor/Presidential candidate Fred Thompson's house, breakfast and Q & A's panels with Senators on Wednesday, lunch with Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal (whom I may or may not be in love with), and then a photo-op with President Bush at the banquet. This is pretty much what you do when you're too rich to know what to do with all your money...

Unfortunately, I was not assigned to work with the baller donors (I'm still quite jealous of the interns who got to BBQ at Fred Thompson's house and have lunch with (future-VP) Bobby Jindal). Rather I worked with those who donate about $5,000 to the NRSC (our "Presidential Roundtable" members). These donors got a BBQ at our building Tuesday night, a small breakfast and Q & A session with some party officials, lunch with some Senators, then dinner with the President, but no photo-op. Not as cool. The message here: Give us more money and we'll let you meet cooler people!

So Tuesday night rolls along and my exact role is to "mingle with donors" at the BBQ. For those who don't know, mingling is something I excel at. I took this opportunity to walk around glad-handing the high rollers and actually talking to Senators, rather than just gazing at them from afar. Senators Jim DeMint of South Carolina, Johnny Isakson of Georgia, John Thune of South Dakota, and Roger Wicker of Mississippi. It's really cool seeing Senators in this setting; they're actually quite fun to be around. Senator Isakson referred to Thune as the "tall, good looking Senator," which will be my title whenever I make it to the Senate. Senator Wicker is quite possibly my new favorite Senator. He entered the building shouting "I HAVE ARRIVED TO ADD LUSTER TO THIS EVENT!" I'm planning on using that line whenever I enter a big room from now on.

Overall I had a great time at the BBQ. It was also great actually being able to make small talk with Senators and their staffs (though it was awkward because I am still a starry-eyed intern standing in awe of these individuals). As for the actual guests, only about 40 showed up to this event, which was nice because it was more intimate. Not gonna lie, some of these donors are crazy...literally. They got even more interesting when the bar opened up. It was fun mingling and talking to them none the less. My favorite couple was this cute, old Chinese husband and wife (the husband was wearing an all-white suit which I hope I can pull off one day) who, living up to all stereotypes, asked me to take pictures of them with anyone who seemed like they were important. In one instance they had me take a picture of them with Senator Thune, then asked me who it was they were standing next to. Yay for Asian tourists! Those were the highlights of Tuesday night.

On Wednesday morning I was assigned to work at a "Tribe Breakfast," which was a gathering of Native American Tribal Chiefs, lobbyists, and Senators Murkowski of Alaska, Barrasso of Wyoming, Coburn of Oklahoma, and Burr of North Carolina. The breakfast was supposed to be a chance for Native Americans to voice their concerns with the Senators on the Indian Affairs Committee. I wasn't too excited to go at first, the event didn't really sound interesting, but it actually turned out to be one of the most fascinating things I've done here in D.C. It was really interesting to hear the Chiefs talk about issues that affect the Native American community and how they view their relationship with the federal government, and vice versa. A lot of the things they discussed I never would have imagined Native Americans caring about. This was definitely an eye-opening and educating event.

After that event I was sent back to the office, where I decided to sneak in on the Majority Makers' Senate Q & A Panel (and also get some free food). They had a representative from the McCain campaign talk about the election and some strategy, and then Senators Burr, DeMint, and Coburn talked about federal earmarks, which was also very fascinating to learn about.

All these small events climaxed that night at the exciting President's Dinner! About 3,500 people attended the event at the Washington Convention Center. It was definitely interesting to see the make-up of the Republican party. It was definitely an interesting cross-section of America. There were young, old, wealthy, cowboys, veterans, mullet-types, whites, blacks, Asians (yes, there are minorities in the Republican Party!). Adding to the experience were the Secret Service agents staking out the entire convention center at every possible location. Pure craziness.

The highlight of the evening, of course, was being able to see President Bush speak. He spoke about John McCain and the need to elect Republican Senators and Congressmen (hint, hint to donors: give us more $$). He's had a couple good lines in there; talked about his "veto pen" and that next year while we're at McCain's President's Dinner, he'll be down in Crawford watching the Rangers play. Being able to see him speak was probably one of the most surreal experiences of my life. Although I disagree with him on a lot of things, he is still the President of the United States, and I have a lot of respect for that office. Plus, how many times do you get to say that you saw the President speak at dinner???

I did some mingling after President Bush spoke. I ran into Senator Thune again and got a picture with him (again, I'm a star-struck intern). You be the judge and tell me if he's the "tall, good looking Senator."

Then saw Senator Olympia Snowe sitting at a nearby table (to refresh from the last post, I LOVE Olympia Snowe). Seizing the chance to talk to my Senatorial hero, I went up to her, told her how amazing I think she is, and then got a picture. She loved it. I'm tempted to have her sign the pic for me...

Finally, I ran into Roger Wicker and asked him if he "added luster to this event," to which he laughed and replied, "I always do!" Amazing.

On the whole, this was an AMAZING experience. Getting to meet cool people and especially getting to talk to Senators was a sweet thing to do. Of course, seeing the President speak was unreal as well. I really like working at these fundraisers. Walk around, shake some hands, smile, make small talk, eat, meet cool's all stuff I'm good at and enjoy doing. I wouldn't mind doing this for a living. Get paid to talk and eat free food? Not a bad way to live.

The free food is definitely a HUGE bonus. Every event I went to had tons and tons of food. And this was pretty good stuff, too. Even at the actual dinner they let us sit and eat with the donors. I pretty much got a a $5,000 event for free! Not too shabby.

So that was my President's Dinner experience. I'm not going to lie, probably one of the coolest things I've ever done. Leave a comment if you want to hear more!

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Early Days in D.C.

So I’ve been in D.C. for about a week and a half now and I feel the need to document this journey (that and multiple people have asked me to and Vitz started her own China blog). I’m really not sure how I’m going to condense about ten days of action into this entry, but here goes:

Why am I here? Being someone mildly obsessed with politics, I decided that with the election coming up, this summer would be a great time to intern in D.C. So here I am, interning with the National Republican Senatorial Committee. Sounds glamorous, eh? Since that name isn’t really descriptive of what the organization actually does, I’ll try to explain: we’re the part of the national Republican Party that is responsible for Senate campaigns. This being an election year, I decided that I wanted to get some experience campaigning and, being in love with the U.S. Senate, I decided the NRSC was a good place to work. Working here has been an interesting experience. It’s cool to see and be a part of the excitement of the election and especially to see Republican Senators walking around the building. I’m working in the finance/fundraising department, which has been a challenge for me, being a more political/strategy driven guy. I’ve definitely learned a lot about what it takes to raise money for a campaign. I spend a lot of my days on the phone with donors asking them for money. That pretty much makes me a glorified telemarketer (this job has definitely given me a new found respect for telemarketers and I don’t think I’ll ever be mean to them again). Most calls go to voicemail, but occasionally I'll get to talk to an actual person. Usually I get a polite "no" then a hangup, but sometimes I get a grouchy person who blames me for all the problems in America or with the Party. Those are probably my favorite calls because those people make me feel that I'm actually making a difference somewhere in America. Oh well. Other than making calls I spend the rest of my time either going through mail, writing letters, or G-Chatting.

I’m not going to lie, I try to get out of the office as much as I can (one can only sit behind a desk for a limited amount of time). Last Wednesday I had a few adventures. It started when one of the office assistants asked me to go get ice cream for Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa (small vanilla ice cream with chocolate sprinkles on the side), who was coming in to make some campaign calls. When I got back, someone asked me to make a delivery to the Russell Senate Office Building. Being the starry-eyed intern that I am, I took advantage of that chance to do some Senator stalking. After dropping of the package to an office on the fourth floor I decided to walk around the building on the off chance that I see someone cool. Went up and down a few hallways, passed by the offices of John McCain, John Kerry and Ted Kennedy. Then I walked down one hall and saw Senator Chris Dodd of Connecticut, who I had seen the previous night on CNN, walking towards me. You might remember Senator Dodd as one of the 59823750 people who ran for President this year. I didn’t really know what to do or if I should/could talk to him, but, being me, I decided to go balls out and take action. Here’s how that ordeal went:

Me: “Hey Senator Dodd!”

Senator Dodd: “Hi” (or some other form of acknowledgment, I can't really remember)

Me: “You looked good on CNN last night, Senator!”

Dodd (walking into his office): “Thank you!”

I know, that was cheezy and lame...but so am I. I relish those types of conversations, especially when they're with a Senator/ex-presidential candidate. Later that day I ran into Senators Olympia Snowe and Lindsey Graham, two of my Senate HEROES (for being moderate Republicans, like myself), when they were walking around our building. Downside, I wasn't able to talk to them. Oh well, I'll get a chance sometime this summer. Goal for the summer: see as many Senators as possible. Four down (Dodd, Snowe, Graham, and John Ensign of Nevada), ninety-six to go!

Moving on to life here in D.C.

All of us Michigan interns (the PSIP-ers) are staying together at George Washington University. There are about fifty of us staying here, taking up about two floors of this dorm (City Hall). Being Michigan students, we try to make our presence known around here. Upon stepping off the elevator onto our floors you feel like you're back in Ann Arbor with the loud voices echoing through the halls and the Michigan-themed door signs hanging on all of our doors. Brings back sweet memories of Markley. The place is pretty sweet; it’s a converted hotel and the rooms are triple apartments. My room isn’t too bad. My roommates, Matt and Mike, are really cool and we get along well (I knew Mike coming in, but had no idea who Matt was). While Matt and I get along well, we get into daily political debates which makes life interesting, especially when it comes to the election (yes, we’re nerds, but hey, we’re in D.C.). The highlight/focal point of our room is our beautiful black-and-white TV. Let me tell you, watching the NBA finals in black-and-white is quite the experience. Who needs a flat-screen HDTV when you've got this bad boy?

Hanging out in D.C. has been really been an adventure. Not much has changed since the last time I was here four years ago (yes, on the infamous Band trip). I still feel the need to go around, take in the sites, and do touristy stuff. On Saturday we went around site-seeing (White House, Old Post Office) and went on a nighttime monuments tour. You really can't appreciate those monuments until you see them at night. We went to the Lincoln, Jefferson, FDR, WWII and Korean War Memorials and the Washington Monument, all of which look SPECTACULAR at night. It was a good chance to reflect and remember these brave heroes of our nation and also a chance to aspire to make the same impact the made on our nation. Afterwards Matt and I left to group to take a look at the Capitol Building at night. THAT was cool! I'm always amazed when I see that building, but seeing it at night was even more awe-inspiring. It really deflates the head a little bit when your marvel at the Capitol and what it stands for. I would not mind working there one day...

Whenever I'm away I always enjoy the free/down time spent with friends. Brady came down last weekend and we chilled in Bethesda with the Horvitz and Michelle. "The Crew" was reunited. Bethesda is a really cool town that reminds me of a much larger Birmingham/Ann Arbor. I could definitely see myself living there in the future. This past weekend was our student coordinator's 21st birthday, so we went out and celebrated. Lots of good times were had with Neil (and we may or may not have obnoxiously started singing "The Victors" and "It's Great to be a Michigan Wolverine" in a few crowded restaurants and bars...).

One interesting note about D.C. is how much life here revolves around happy hour. You get off work, everyone goes to happy hour. Got a meeting? Let's go to happy hour. Bored? Go to happy hour. For people like me who are underage, it makes for an interesting experience, usually spent sitting at the bar acting cool and sipping Coke.

Those have been my adventures here in D.C. It's uber hot and humid here which makes it difficult to do anything outside. This weekend we hit the upper-nineties with heat indexes of over 100! To give you a frame of reference, the only thing hotter than a day here in D.C. would be myself.

I do miss home a little bit, especially in light of the Red Wings winning the Stanley Cup. The Red Wings were one of my first loves in life and I wanted so badly to be home to celebrate with everyone else. Oh well, we'll do that next year!

Right now I'm sitting at my desk and the people who work around me are either on Facebook, G-chatting, or doing a crossword. Yes, much work gets done here in D.C.

That's all for now. I'll try to keep y'all updated on what's going on here.