While the Congress remains in holiday recess, it’s easy to assess the two best developments of 2009. First is the fact that the resilient American people are now fully alert and standing in determined opposition to the runaway expansion of federal government. Second is the HUMAN EVENTS Diet.
This past year was my first year covering Congress for HUMAN EVENTS. I had no idea what was in store on this new journey, but as Lloyd Bridges so famously said in the 1980 film Airplane!, I picked one helluva time to quit smoking.
Perhaps I should start at the beginning.
One fateful Monday morning back in August of 2008, on a call with good friend Sweet Baby James of the Sean Hannity radio program, I offered to run down to Congress the following day and give him a first-hand assessment of the newly-declared Energy Revolt in the House of Representatives. The weekend had passed since Speaker Pelosi had abruptly adjourned the House and pulled the plug on the C-SPAN cameras, leaving Republicans literally fuming in the dark without a promised vote on their energy plan with gasoline at $3.50 per gallon.
Conservatives were wondering what these upstarts in the House were up to, hoping for a spark of life. And, like anything else concerning conservatives, the so-called mainstream media was completely uninterested.
Bright and early Tuesday, I headed down to the Hill, having phoned a former colleague there asking for insight on happenings and procedure for a first-hand look at the floor protest. A pass was waiting at the House visitors’ desk when I arrived, and I was escorted to the Republican House cloakroom where visitors and press alike were asked to leave cell phones and cameras behind before going out on the House floor to observe the speeches firsthand.
Sliding right in with the conservative media and bloggers in the cloakroom, I had brought my laptop and surfed around for coverage, wanting to be complete in my assessment to James. HUMAN EVENTS Editor Jed Babbin, an old friend from my days producing a cable news program, had written a thorough piece of the happenings since Friday and I dashed off a note saying hello from the cloakroom seat he had occupied the day before.
I also quickly found on the web that Code Pink-o, the terrorist sympathizer group (who actually gave hundreds of thousands of dollars to opposition groups fighting our Marines in Fallujah), was threatening a disruption of the revolt in the House chamber. A quick call to my buddy Hannity, and he asked me to get footage of whatever broke loose.
There was just one problem: no cameras or cell phones allowed in the House chamber.
Sean laughed and said, “I’ve got bail money.” I laughed, too. Really. I did.
Code Pink-o figured out if you hug a tree in the forest, and it falls without someone recording, it didn’t happen. Or something like that. No protest, no coverage, no bail money, only an e-mail back from Babbin asking if I’d like to cover the protest for HUMAN EVENTS.
I covered the protest day after day. Hannity loved it and so did the readers of HUMAN EVENTS. Jed started asking me for more and more coverage, and I started to get into sort of a groove. Then the 2008 elections hit us and Jed then asked me to cover Congress as a regular beat beginning January of 2009.
My prior work on the Hill was as a speechwriter. Not much preparation for what I was about to encounter.
The first thing you learn covering both the House and Senate on Capitol Hill is that the operative word is “hill.” And — despite the laws of physics — it’s the only place in the world where regardless of the direction you’re going, it’s always uphill. I soon discovered that my days often began with a Republican House leadership availability in the lobby of the RNC building behind the House offices and was followed minutes later by a hearing room in a Senate office building.
During a break in a hearing, I scurry to the hallway to ask a senator for one-on-one commentary only to hear, “Sure, could you walk with me to my next appointment?”
“Absolutely,” I answer, glancing wistfully at the laptop and briefcase it’ll take another trip to come back to the hearing room to retrieve.
Then it’s on to a press conference in the House Radio and Television Correspondents Gallery on the third floor of the Capitol Building House side, back to an interview in a Senate office building hallway, then over to an informal pen and pad session in the Capitol or in a House office building.
Have you seen the steps at the Capitol Building (no time to wait for elevators)? Try that multiple times a day schlepping a laptop in your briefcase.
The Human Events Diet® was born.
Once the day on the Hill is done, it’s transcribing, writing and submitting a story in the wee hours, pausing occasionally to wonder, “Exactly when was the last time I ate? I think I had an apple Tuesday. What day is it, anyway?”
Note to self: keep apples in the briefcase. Was this skirt a hip-hugger when I bought it? What’s up with that?
But that feeling passes. Back to work.
In April of 2008, I quit smoking, gradually putting on a bit of weight in the successful struggle to beat the nicotine addiction. That extra weight is gone now and then some — upwards of 30 pounds and counting (I finally found the time to step on a scale).
I am blessed by God to be in the place I’m supposed to be, doing what I’m supposed to be doing. And to top it all off, it’s not fattening!
Looking forward to bringing you the news from the Hill this year and perhaps the Human Events Diet® book and accompanying DVD. (Hint: It’s really simple: don’t eat, don’t sleep and just keep writing. Or something like that).
The House is back on Tuesday, January 12, the Senate Tuesday, January 19.
Happy New Year!