Read every word of this.
The subject was raised in an indirect sort of way. I just jotted down some notes and didn't think too much about it. But my drive home from D.C. is more than an hour long, and as I mentally rehearsed what I'd seen and heard . . . Well, what was that about?
Maybe it was nothing. But maybe it was something. I'm trying to stay calm. Don't try to predict the future.
Shoe leather is an amazing journalistic resource. This is the kind of reporting that gets the blood pumping. Because of unexpected complications in my itinerary, I didn't park my car at Union Station until 4:09 p.m., but after I got through on the Hill, I was whistling a happy tune while I walked back down First Avenue, re-entering the marble lobby of the station at 6:37 p.m., as my meticulous notes show.
From the start: Tourists were still standing in line for a chance to get into the Sotomayor hearings, and I'd left my cell phone in the car. "Deep Cleavage" hadn't returned my calls, and nobody was expecting my arrival on the Hill. It was pleasantly sunny but not hot, and the biggest hassle I had was having to empty my pockets and remove my belt -- the buckle sets off the metal detectors -- to enter the different congressional office buildings.
"The Other McCain," said the receptionist, becoming accustomed to my unannounced arrivals. X is on vacation. Hmmm. What about X's Deputy, Y? Not in. Well, how about Z?
I'm sitting on the sofa and, on the lobby TV, Lindsay Graham is applying a flamethrower to Sotomayor, trying to produce that "meltdown" he'd previously suggested was so unlikely. Get 'em, Goober! I'm almost willing to take back some of those homophobic slurs . . .
Good news! The receptionist says that Z will be there momentarily. Z is "Deep Cleavage." We had never previously met but are already becoming . . . eh, bosom buddies. Z arrives and, as we make our way down the elevator to the basement cafeteria, this unexpected subject arises.
It must have been important, otherwise I wouldn't have a full page of notes about it. But it wasn't what I came to ask about. Deep Cleavage raises the subject and discusses it at some length before I even get a chance to start asking questions.
At the time, however, it didn't register. We were both in somewhat of a hurry. I had other people to see, and Deep Cleavage had a 5 o'clock conference call. It seemed like we talked for 45 minutes but since I didn't even go through the metal detectors until 4:25 p.m. -- meticulous notes, you see -- it couldn't have been that long.
Au revoir, Deep Cleavage, and off I go. Another office, another TV screen with Sotomayor hearings. The person I came to see is not in, but the deputy is available. OK. Actually, much better than OK. Introduction to a staffer who is eager (!) to help. All the charm I can muster is employed in a quick chat in the hallway and I take my leave with a courtly bow. This could become a very important source.
Quickly cutting across the Capitol grounds toward Independence Avenue. The woman walking across from the other side of the avenue is talking on a cell phone, but looks up. "Excuse me, ma'am, but which one is [name of office building]?" She points to the building.
When I get there, neither the communication director nor the press secretary is in the office. The receptionist -- actually, "staff assistant" is her title -- isn't exactly eager to help. It's past 5:30 now, she's running out the clock, and she doesn't know me from Adam's housecat.
Ah, but there is more than one way to skin Adam's housecat and, with the help of directions from an older gentleman, I'm on my way through an underground tunnel to another office building.
In the tunnel, I encounter a cluster of young aides. Obviously, Republicans. The girls are too pretty to be Democrats. Turns out they're Georgians and blonde Shannon, who just finished her junior year at UGA, went to Lassiter High. Ah, once dated a girl from Lassiter, and another one at Sprayberry, but that redhead from North Cobb -- her backyard was the 10th tee at the country club and . . .
The Georgians think I'm joking (I'm not) and they razz me when I start humming the University of Alabama fight song. This is fine amusement as we're walking through the tunnel.
Reaching my destination, I connect with my source of last resort. We're talking in the office vestibule when the Congressman, his wife and children pass through. My source doesn't want to trouble the boss, but I know the magic.
"Congressman!" And immediately I'm shaking hands and schmoozing it up, making sure to praise the excellent services peformed by the congressman's staffer, my source.
The congressman and family exit and, as soon as the door closes behind them, I high-five my source. That, my friend, is how it's done: Impose yourself. They're public servants, right? Well, I'm the freaking public.
Explain to the source who it is that I need to get direct contact with. We briefly discuss -- of all people -- Conor Friedersdorf, whose satire of my methods was both funny and accurate. If only I'd remembered to bring my pink camera . . .
Assured that I'll be contacted by the person I need to talk to, I'm ready for the return trip. I ride down the elevator with a recently-elected Democratic member of Congress. I cut back across the Capitol grounds and a few minutes later, as I cross the intersection of First and C, I'm jazz-whistling "Georgia On My Mind." The policeman on the corner says, "That's something you don't see anymore -- people whistling while they walk."
No, you sure don't, I answer. What I don't say is that you also don't see reporters take their leave with a courtly bow. A sense of history -- an evocative name -- now occupies my mind, and I find myself switching the tune to "Shenandoah" as I cross past the Columbus monument toward Union Station. In a few days, there will be a major deadline, but this is far from my thoughts.
I'm going to beat you today -- and didn't I?
A 150-mile round-trip drive, 2 hours and 28 minutes on the Hill, and I've got notes for my next article, as well as a quick blog post at AmSpec, plus promises of connections to more sources in coming days. No sir, you can't beat shoe leather, and it's good for the soul.
Quick shout-out to Obi's Sister, Dan Collins, The Rhetorican and WWU-AM/Camp of the Saints, and this from Jimmie Bise:
So, keep the faith, folks. We may well get that accountability and transparency Barack Obama promised us yet, no matter how hard he fights to break that promise.Ah, Jimmie, my boy! When will you be back in DC? Check your schedule for Friday. What tales I have to tell, and what new friends you must meet. Y'all be sure and hit the tip jar -- another courtly bow, and good-night!