Political cocktails

>> Thursday, January 29, 2009

Now, see, I knew there was a reason I liked the man.

Slate's John Dickerson has a nifty piece up about the cocktail party President Obama threw Wednesday night for Congressional leaders from both parties. Drinks will be served, presumably hors d'oeuvres, and maybe all these tightasses will relax a little when they've downed a few and be better-equipped for coming up with some kind of compromise recovery package.

It seems like a frivolous thing, and Dickerson takes the whole affair with an appropriate sense of levity, but he also makes a good point when talking about Washington D.C. of the '60s. It's true alcohol can be a problem for leaders--James Schlesinger allegedly ordered the Joint Chiefs Of Staff not to take orders from President Richard Nixon without double-checking with him first, and Nixon's heavy drinking at the time seems to have been part of the cause for concern (Anthony Lane's contentions that the President was taking stronger substances as well is a bit iffier--Summer's Arrogance Of Power is so questionable an authority I'm not even going to link to it here, and I despise Nixon). However, there's also something... I don't know, classy about the way business was done over drinks in the Kennedy years, and something disarmingly and charmingly and classically Southern about LBJ with scotch in a foam cup.

But it's mainly the Kennedy comparison that comes to mind. Whatever Kennedy's faults--and let's face it, in a lot of ways his was a mediocre Presidency--there is a kind of elegance and class, a glamour (and you have to spell it with the "u" for JFK) that everybody noticed at the time and that was etched into the American collective consciousness after the events of late fall '63 froze the Kennedy years in time. One imagines men in classy suits and the women all wearing hats, martinis on trays and the quiet chatter--Edward Albee one moment, the stability of the Phoumi regime the next.

Yes, yes, yes--it's a romanticized image. But you have to admit, it's a picture of classiness that's been missing from the White House since... well, since 1963, frankly. And, yes, maybe it wasn't really real then, either.

But it's a nice image, isn't it--the contemporary one, I mean? Here's President Obama asking Senator McConnell how he's doing, here's the First Lady leaning into Representative Pelosi's ear to whisper a joke. A tinkle of glasses on a tray and there's Dick Durbin and Lamar Alexander in a corner agreeing over a handshake to some brilliant plan to rescue the economy.

It's a better image than the poo-flinging monkeys on both sides of the aisle we've been settling for for... not eight years, more like sixteen, maybe.

Maybe part of the reason this all sounds promising--and it's just a cocktail party, for fuck's sake!--is that on Wednesday I finally read what seemed like a reasonable explanation of why Caroline Kennedy might have made a good Senator; of course I read this after she'd withdrawn, and the explanation was in an article in The New Yorker performing a post mortem on her disastrous does-it-deserve-to-be-called-a-bid bid for Hillary Clinton's old seat. I think I've previously said I didn't much care who New Yorkers got for a Senator, and that hasn't changed, but I have to admit I didn't know enough about Ms. Kennedy to think much of her and I have the same dynastic fatigue so many other people have--the idea that she ought to be in politics because she's a Kennedy seemed absurd. But in this profile/post mortem I happened to read at lunch, I did run into this interesting statement by one of Ms. Kennedy's friends, Washington insider and Kennedy buddy Lawrence O'Donnell:

"The politics of campaigning are so simple: I’m going to beat you and leave you dead in a snowbank in New Hampshire and never look back. But in the Senate you can be trying to prevail over another senator on Tuesday afternoon whose vote you know you're going to need on Wednesday afternoon for something else. The ordinary work of the Senate never involves fighting. Virtually all the people who run for Senate seats lie and say they’re going to fight, but what they’re actually going to do--which they may not know when they go to Washington for the first time--is beg. And beg people like me, whom they’ve never heard of, the staff director of this or that committee, before they ever get to meet the chairman. So the personal qualities necessary for Senate work are politeness and charm and graciousness and generosity, which New York tabloids have no comprehension of. Why should they? The press is never allowed in the rooms where governance actually takes place."

And I found that interesting, and it actually made the case for Ms. Kennedy that nobody else had--oh well.

But, anyway, if O'Donnell's right--and I suspect he is--then cocktail parties hosted by a smooth and charismatic community organizer and his smart, funny, attractive wife are what this country needs, and that seems really odd for me to write for all sorts of reasons. (One of them being, I'm the guy Dickerson mentions who's lonely at parties or doesn't get invited.) It seems perverse and counterintuitive, but there it is.

So, here's hoping some ice got broken Wednesday night. And something expensive and copper-colored poured over the ice. And that Representative Pelosi kept her top on. Because, you know--we don't need them to loosen up too much inside the Beltway.


Leanright,  Thursday, January 29, 2009 at 3:51:00 PM EST  

Cosmos and little smokies. Sounds like a good time.

I imagine that Pelosi ordered the "Blood of Convervatives" straight up.

She's so charming.

Eric Thursday, January 29, 2009 at 4:51:00 PM EST  

By the way, and just out of curiosity: obviously, liberals' blood is pumped by our hearts... how is it circulated in conservatives?


(Sorry, couldn't help myself.)

Leanright,  Thursday, January 29, 2009 at 6:22:00 PM EST  

Sacrificially with the corpses of the poor, and the elderly. Once we have done so, we WILL it through our bloodstream. It's quite cold.

Thank you, and...


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