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.