The biggest surprise on my recent vacation was the surprisingly apolitical feel of Washington DC.
I was expecting see election propaganda everywhere, power brokers making deals all over the hill, protests on every corner, and an intense atmosphere of political machinations.
Granted, I delved about as deep as the reflecting pool. I wasn’t visiting the offices of my various senators and representatives or trying to get anything accomplished besides a little well-earned R&R. But while my glimpse into the sausage factory wasn’t entirely exhaustive, on the whole Washington DC doesn’t bleed politics (like Vegas does gambling) as I expected it would.
The highlight of our trip was the tour of the West Wing of the White House. It was a very special tour because it was conducted by a family member who has been working in the White House for the last several years. She gave us a very great, personal view into our nation’s central seat of power. It was so awesome to be in the place where policies and decisions of world import are made.
For someone as nutty about politics as I am, it was a dream come true. To be just outside of the Oval Office, Roosevelt Room, and Cabinet room – to be paces down the hall from the Chief of Staff’s office, to walk the west colonnade (the President’s daily commute) and to stand out in the rose garden was just too much for my idealistically American head and heart to handle.
(Yup… that’s me walking along the west colonnade from the White House to the West Wing – doing the President’s morning commute.)
My apolitical vibe was confirmed even more while talking to our family member. We were discussing her plans after the administration changes this January, and she was excited to be moving on and getting out of Washington. I asked her, assuming her excitement came from the dismal approval ratings and difficult administration, “Are you just sick of politics then? Ready to move on?”
I was surprised with her response, “It’s really not very political here.” She went on to explain that they work so hard to get anything done in the short time they are in office that they don’t have much time for ‘politics’ as the people and media perceive them.
So I asked the logical next question, “how ‘trunky’ (lame-duck) is the administration getting?” She said that the President was encouraging everyone to sprint to the finish line, and that (especially with the economy) that he still hoped to accomplish some critical things before leaving.
What this boils down to is that there’s a distinct difference between running for President and actually being the President. During the final days of this crazy election cycle where dirty, media politics abound, where people drop to the 3 point stance behind their party lines, and where lies, rumors, and speculation supersede truth and common sense, and where people everywhere seem to whip themselves up into a chicken-little frenzy – in this crazy time it would be good for us to sit back and actually consider which candidate would actually be the best president, not which one campaigns the best, or has the right war chest, staff, or resume to win.
If we would have done that 8 months ago, we’d have totally different candidates, anyways.
Whoever wins will sit in that seat on in January facing a more divided nation than ever, a more useless congress than ever, and the most fragile economy since the 1930’s . On that day they will have to stand up and be the President for the whole nation, not just for their party.
Suddenly, George W. Bush (or anyone crazy enough to want that job) seems much more gracious, human, and noble than ever before.