Baker offers history reading list to new senators

The nine new faces of the Senate received a lesson in the peculiar culture of their new workplace from Senate Historian Richard Baker on Sunday.

As the first meeting of their orientation session, the senators-elect met with Baker in closed session in the Old Senate chamber for about an hour.
The nine new faces of the Senate received a lesson in the peculiar culture of their new workplace from Senate Historian Richard Baker on Sunday.

As the first meeting of their orientation session, the senators-elect met with Baker in closed session in the Old Senate chamber for about an hour.
patrick g. ryan
Senate Historian Richard Baker met with the nine new senators-elect on Sunday.

“They were a very motivated audience,” said Baker. “They all showed up and were all very attentive.”

Scholar that he his, Baker even gave the senators-to-be some homework, albeit of the “suggested” variety. He said he recommended Robert Caro’s book, Master of the Senate, for “getting up to speed on the institutional culture” of the Senate, as well as the art and history section of the Senate web site and Sen. Robert Byrd’s (D-W.Va.) four-volume history of the Senate.

How seriously they take it is up to them. “They could step in up to their toes or step in all the way,” he said.

Baker’s session was one of several designed to foster a spirit of bonding and bipartisanship between new members and their families over the next few days.

New Senate spouses even have sessions to attend, in order to familiarize them with Washington culture.


Sweeney’s last days at Big Labor?

If you’re going to take the unusual step of writing a blog under the banner of a trade association, you might as well make waves doing it.

That’s exactly what Pat Cleary did last week, in only his blog’s first week. The senior vice president at the National Association of Manufacturers on Friday predicted on blog.nam.org that John Sweeney’s days are numbered as AFL-CIO president.

Cleary speculates that Sweeney “will either be defeated by a growing movement dissatisfied with his leadership” in July’s elections “or — in the face of overwhelming odds — will decide to return to the farm.”

He cites, among other factors, the threat by Service Employees International Union chief Andrew Stern to leave the AFL-CIO unless the umbrella organization is restructured, as well as a growing list of possible successors.

“Confronted by the troops, he may decide to step down, leaving Secretary-Treasurer Rich Trumka to carry the torch,” writes Cleary. “By then, as last time, the insurgents will be well-organized and focused, and will easily coast to victory.”

“It is only a matter of time before Sweeney’s marble Taj Mahal on 16th Street becomes his mausoleum,” Cleary concludes.

A spokeswoman for the AFL-CIO only reiterated that “President Sweeney has announced his intention to run for reelection and we’ll have our convention this summer.”

As for Cleary, he boasts that the new blog is “very cutting-edge for manufacturers, no?” He did assure The Hill, however, that there would be no sex in posts to follow.


Can the verb ‘to Specter’ be far behind?

Much ink has been spilled over the past two weeks in an effort to add the verb “to Daschle” to Washington’s insider vocabulary. The new usage can be loosely defined as “to aggressively target for defeat a liberal Democrat who represents an otherwise solidly Republican state.”

Tim Russert, for instance, commented that “Democrats who live in the red states, or Republican states, now have a new term — we have to be careful that we’re not ‘Daschled,’ referring to what happened to Democratic leader Tom Daschle of South Dakota.”

This is noticeably different from the previous use of “Daschled,” used mainly as a play on the word “dashed.” As in “Dem Spirits Daschled” (New York Daily News), “Tax Cut Hopes are Daschled” (Smart Money) and “Daschled Dreams” (Weekly Standard).

Those to whom the new term supposedly applies, however, are having none of it.

Staffers from Democratic offices in deep red states said, far from being cowered by the minority leader’s defeat, they’re just emboldened to dig in further. “I don’t think it will affect how we operate,” said one.

“There’s a tendency to overestimate the impact of what happened to Daschle,” said one aide to a Democrat from the prairie states, “which was that $20 million worth of lies was dumped in his lap.”

“There’s a lot of resentment, not fear,” he said. Putting an exclamation point on his comments, he said the more common sentiment among Democrats is: “Those bastards aren’t going to get away with this again.”


Sanders: It’s the economy ...

As the only independent member of the House, Rep. Bernie Sanders of Vermont — his state also claims Jim Jeffords, the Senate’s only independent member — won his eighth term this year by running on pocketbook issues.

So why did focusing on the economy work for the former Socialist mayor of Burlington and not for Democratic presidential nominee Sen. John Kerry?

“When you talk about pocketbook issues, you have to look at the history of candidates as well,” Sanders told the first anniversary issue of Street Sense, the D.C. newspaper published by the People’s Law Resource Center with the help of the poor and homeless and sold on the street by formerly homeless vendors.

“You can’t just look at what somebody says in a six-month campaign,” Sanders said, echoing criticism of Kerry by the Bush campaign.

“Kerry, for example, voted for some disastrous trade agreements. He has a complicated plan on how all Americans can get health care. It’s not something that I think a lot of people will initially understand.”

Sanders said politicians who fight for the poor and working people, oppose war and take on corporate America will win voters’ support “if they knew that the individual was sincere and consistent for those ideals.”


Publisher impressed by McCarthy’s writings

Samuel Scinta wasn’t even born when then-Sen. Eugene McCarthy (D-Minn.) mounted the anti-Vietnam War crusade in 1968 that forced President Johnson from office and hastened the end of American involvement in that war.

But when Scinta, who heads Fulcrum Press of Golden, Colo., read a New Yorker magazine article last January that said major newspapers and magazines refused to publish the 87-year-old McCarthy’s writings, he wrote him and offered to collaborate with him on a book.

“I was amazed that here is one of the great intellectual politicians of the 20th century who had no forum to say what he wants to say,” Scinta, 35, said yesterday.

The result is the most comprehensive collection of McCarthy’s writings, which Fulcrum Press will publish in late December under the title Parting Shots from my Brittle Bow. The 200-page book’s title comes from a McCarthy poem that was inspired by the Irish poet William Butler Yeats.

“What impressed me, going back through all his writings,” Scinta said, “was how fresh most of it is and how prescient he was. That’s the mark of a great political writer.”

McCarthy, who now lives in a retirement home in Georgetown, has written more than 20 books.


Suffering from recess blues

Sometimes it’s a drag to serve the public. Witness this posting from last week on Craigslist (www.craigslist.org), the online bulletin board, apparently from a terminally bored staffer caught between the election and Congress’s return.

The anonymous poster writes: “There is absolutely nothing going on in my office today and yet, I have to sit here at my desk until 5:00. I feel like Fred Flintstone waiting for the pterodactyl bird whistle to blow so I can slide down the tail of my dinosaur crane and head out to happy hour. In the mean time, if you have Yahoo IM, and you enjoy chatting with strangers, send me a line and keep me company.”
The only other information provided is that “this is in or around Capitol Hill.” Big surprise.

Just in case he’s still bored, his IM name is Emmet495US.