For those Americans fortunate enough to live outside the Beltway, the only “Washington types” you may see on a regular basis are your representatives in the House and Senate. Now, from award-winning Washington correspondent James Rosen — also a cartoonist — a tour of the strange animals that capital dwellers confront in the Beltway jungle every day.
THE JUNIOR SPEECHWRITER
She stands off to one side of the hotel banquet room, practically hugging the wall, while her boss, the congressman, delivers his speech — actually, her speech, She wrote it. She slaved over it, in fact, until 5 this morning. Nervously she clutches her brown-leather portfolio binder, embossed in gold on the cover with the district number and its gerrymandered shape, inside of which sit the brilliant words the Junior Speechwriter crafted for this special occasion: the annual visit to Washington of the National Eyeglass Repair Parts Association, whose board sits in the district. When The Boss delivers the words as she wrote them, the Junior Speechwriter silently nods yes. But when he has the nerve to deviate from the text, she shakes her head no.
THE SOCIAL MEDIA SPRINTER
When you log on to your senator’s website, or receive his latest blast via email or text, you see these incredible photographs of him squinting over some piece of paper, his sharp young chief of staff walking in lockstep alongside him and pointing out the key passage so he doesn’t miss it altogether. Where do these amazing action shots, these iconic images, snapped split-second in the heat of mundane consultations, come from? Why, from the Social Media Sprinter! This is the newly minted college graduate, now in his second week with the senator’s office, whose neck sags with 12 different cameras and who can invariably be spotted scampering — sprinting! — behind the senator and the chief of staff, struggling to keep up with their breakneck pace of public service, forever thrusting a selfie stick their way, all the better to ensure those precious action shots don’t slip away, undocumented.
THE CRISIS PR GURUS
They spent 10 minutes working in the State Department or the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, handling basic PR chores, and now, desperate to shed their meager GS-12 salaries, they have left government to open up … a crisis communications firm! They are not alone, of course…their friends from Middlebury College, the ones who worked with them at state or CFTC, are pooling their two years’ experience in high-level comms work, so clients will be able to tap into all of their brainpower and savvy. Quickly, they develop their own unique styles: The Yeller, who tries to quash unfavorable press stories by bellowing into the phone, “You’re #%**ing killing me over here!”; the Smooth Operator, who never raises his voice, only assures client and foe alike that from where he sits, the critical point is X; and the Queen of Billable Hours, who has figured out how to talk trash on the phone with her friends on somebody else’s dime.
It’s pronounced “pee-dass.” Don’t forget it. The Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary at a Cabinet agency is first among equals, enjoying marginal but fervently cherished power above and beyond those wielded by his fellow deputy assistant secretaries. These are the tireless bean counters and nut cutters who actually run Cabinet departments! They set policy, tweak memos, nip and tuck actual pieces of legislation, guide their bosses toward just ends. I’m not a DAS; I’m the P-DAS! The only problem is, commanding so much power over the Byzantine megalopolis that is your modern Cabinet agency is, well, grueling work — routinely stacked with seventeen- hour days — and the P-DAS, freshly turned 55 and counting the days until retirement, with his pension and the house on the eastern shore, is having trouble staying awake.
THE THINK TANK LIFER
Call it an accident of birth, or good timing — whatever — but this career academic was blessed with the great good fortune to have had as a family friend a kindly old lady with more money than God. Her accountants and lawyers convinced her — she needed not much prodding — that her chief fiduciary duty was to avoid giving all her dough away to Uncle Sam. On that basis, she elected one day, 25 years ago, to endow her neighbors’ son — who apparently grew up and became a professor of some kind — with a lifetime chair at a prestigious think tank. Now, with the patroness long gone, the Think Tank Lifer enjoys the ultimate Beltway fantasy: sitting around writing books all day, maintaining his intellectual integrity because he doesn’t have to be out there hustling for paying gigs all the time, while making sure to appear on cable television every three days, opining about current events, just to make sure the think tank sees him getting out there and promoting the brand. Lately he has taken to sporting the most unconvincing of toupees.