Thanks to Jim Webb of Hilton Head Island for sharing his behind-the-scenes glimpse at Washington, D.C.
By Jim Webb
Two years ago, when he was sworn in, I wrote an essay tracing my friendship and business relationship with House Speaker John Boehner. The story involved re-evaluating my wardrobe after 10 years on Hilton Head Island for what might be a different climate in Washington.
This year, Emily and I received an invitation again to attend his swearing-in for another two-year term as speaker. My response: "Emily and I gladly accept the invitation to be a part of the process."
My 44L overcoat, thankfully, hadn't been eaten by anything. I didn't even try to get into my only dark suit. The seamstress had maxed out the waist size two years ago. A simple blazer and gray slacks would do.
Then came the first glitch. "I'm not going," Emily declared. "I've had company since Thanksgiving; our family just left Dec. 31. I'm going nowhere." You have to understand Emily. She only does things once. On a cruise out of New York she napped as we cruised by the Statue of Liberty because she already had seen it on her high school trip.
I would be going alone.
I made a reservation at the same hotel. There weren't any events Wednesday -- just fly in anytime before the swearing-in Thursday. That was before I checked airfare. Plan B: Drive. It's only 10 hours. I'd just pour a little caffeine into my system and away I'd go.
I did my last begging to Emily and made my first pot of coffee. I don't drink anything with caffeine, but the first monster cup went down just like the decaf.
I finally approached Washington, D.C., long after my Garmin had predicted. Shortly after getting to my room, my cellphone rang. It was Kristen in the speaker's office. She asked whether I had received my email today. I hadn't. She said, "We have been trying to let you know the speaker wants to have dinner with you tonight. Can you join him at 7?"
My wardrobe had not planned on this. But, John is an old friend, and I wouldn't turn him down even though my clothes didn't fit the situation. "Sure, I would be happy to join the speaker for dinner. By the way, who will be there?" She rattled off some of our old friends, including his wife, Deborah. Ten of us.
This was the same day the speaker had told off Sen. Harry Reid. Plus the "fiscal cliff" bill had just passed the House, and John had personally pulled the relief portion for Superstorm Sandy from the bill. N.J. Gov. Chris Christie was trying to call John, and it was reported that John was not calling him back. (Truth is, John shuts off his phone when he goes to bed, and the governor left seven messages that John didn't receive until the next morning. He did call him back and already had made a plan to remove the "pork" the Senate added to the bill and pledged to pass the relief portion as House Bill No. 1.)
Plus, there were rumblings in the House about new leadership. We didn't know whether to take this as a wake or a fraternity party. We chose the latter. The wine flowed, old stories were told and great friends had fun.
The next morning, there was a 10 a.m. reception in the speaker's office.
After making it through security, it was off to the office: "six monster columns, turn left and one floor down." Our friends were there, plus a few others, but not a horde like two years earlier. The speaker's office has the most beautiful view in Washington. Fortunately, my blazer and slacks were perfectly in order, and nobody reminded me that it was the same jacket they had seen me in hours earlier.
We were escorted at 11:40 a.m. up to the gallery. The frat crew surrounded John's wife, Deborah. Last time, we didn't know outgoing Speaker Nancy Pelosi's husband was sitting right behind us. This year, our mouths were shut. The coup had been highly overrated. John was re-elected speaker for another two years, and all was well. I had had enough, and my wardrobe was completely exhausted.
Shortly before I left, I saw a young fellow who I had known back in Ohio. His name is Michael Sommers, and he is the speaker's chief of staff. Guess where his parents live: Hilton Head Plantation.
The trip home was uneventful, but I think I might start saving for a new suit.