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...

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