By Betsy Rothstein - 09/12/07 05:26 PM EDT
On Monday night, Washington learned that many powerful people named on GQ’s “50 Most Powerful People in D.C.” list must be off doing whatever they do that makes them powerful, because they weren’t at Café Milano in Georgetown to celebrate the culmination of their years of being so important.
Among the first of the 20 “powerful” who did show up to the party was Steve Elmendorf (a.k.a. Elmo), a political consultant and former top aide to former Minority Leader Dick Gephardt (D-Mo.).
“Where are the celebrities?” he asked, standing in the sparse room of partygoers. “I want to see some celebrities!”
Does Elmendorf (No. 33 on the list) feel powerful? “Some days, yes,” he said. And then, laughing, he added, “Some days, no. Most days, no.”
Clearly something powerful was going on. Later in the party, Elmendorf momentarily separated himself from the crowd to do what Washington power people do best — they text.
Just then, another among his stripe of powerful showed up: Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.). Leahy shares a spot — No. 18 — on the list with House Oversight and Reform Committee Chairman Henry Waxman (D-Calif.).
Leahy did not seem chagrined to occupy a shared slot with Waxman. After all, Leahy joked, they have the same receding hairline. When asked about their power, Leahy replied, “We discuss it on our daily trip to the barbershop.”
On a more serious, less hairy note, the senator added, “Henry is a dear friend of mine.”
Gradually the party picked up, and the temperature in the room rose. Jackets came off. Sweat poured off people’s faces. The restaurant packed in well-dressed, well-coiffed spectators, but sadly, many of the magazine’s most powerful people were not among them. Waiters roamed, handing out fanciful hors d’oeuvres such as truffles perched on little spoons, caviar on crackers, miniature quiches and Greek-stuffed olives with a shred of veal. Most guests drank goblets of red and white wine.
“It looks like a wake,” one partygoer mused, looking out into a sea of people dressed in New York black. Meanwhile, the music was ill-fitting for this powerful crowd. One partygoer described the tunes as “Malaysian techno-fusion mixed with Hopi-Indian mating ritual.”
Among those who didn’t show up to claim their mantle of power: Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice (No. 1); New York Democratic Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (No. 8); and Illinois Democratic Sen. Barack Obama (No. 20).
The star of the evening clearly was Leahy. After all, pickings were slim and someone had to assume the power post. “I don’t think of myself that way at all,” the Vermont senator said, amidst flash bulbs. Snap! Snap! “I feel I’m the same person I always was.”
To be sure his head doesn’t get too big with such an accolade, Leahy recalled what his children had to say after they heard he was among the city’s most powerful.
“My kids asked me, ‘Who voted?’” he said.
Midway through the evening, a rumor circulated that No. 2 on the list, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), was on his way. He never made it. But a few other powerful people on GQ’s list trickled in as the night wore on. Among them were The Washington Post’s Dana Priest; The Palm’s executive director, Tommy Jacomo; and Bill Novelli, CEO of AARP. Billy Tauzin, president of the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, also briefly showed up.
The power grew more powerful as the night marched on. Later arrivals included Heritage Foundation President Ed Feulner; the State Department’s senior Arabic diplomatic interpreter, Gamal Helal; attorney Michael Hausfeld; and Washington Post National Editor Susan Glasser.
Also making an appearance were Ed Corrigan, executive director of the Senate Republican Steering Committee; Democratic fundraiser Nancy Jacobson; Isabelle Goetz, Washington’s premier hair stylist to the pols, of Christophe Salon; Washington Redskins owner Dan Snyder; FCC Chairman Kevin Martin; Susan McCue, president of the ONE Campaign; New Democrat Network President Simon Rosenberg; political cartoonist Tom Toles; and the CEO of the Center for American Progress, John Podesta.
At 7:40 p.m., No. 17, otherwise known as Rep. Rahm Emanuel (D-Ill.), showed up. Elmendorf immediately sought him out — perhaps for solace more than anything else of making an appearance at your own power party (powerful solace, of course).
Also among those in the crowd were powerful people-in-training. There was lobbyist and longtime Jack Abramoff protégé Todd Boulanger, senior vice president of Cassidy & Associates, and his wife, Jessica, communications director for the National Republican Congressional Committee; Federal Strategy Group lobbyist Jason Roe (who claimed to be No. 51 on GQ’s list); CNN White House correspondents Ed Henry and Suzanne Malvaux; and lobbyist Tom Quinn of Venable. Also in the mix was the brand-new owner of Teatro Goldoni, Michael Kosmides.
As one partygoer put it, “It’s the 50 most powerful people. The only thing missing are the most powerful people.”