Welcome Freshmen!

By Greg Scandlen

Note to newly elected members of Congress:

Congratulations! You have been elected in a tidal wave of voters reasserting themselves in the political process. You were chosen because you listened to the people of your district. They sent you here as their champion, someone who will fight for them every day of the week. It is a sobering responsibility.

But, be warned. Washington has seen your likes before. Washington knows how to handle you. You will find that from the moment you get off the plane at Reagan National you will be surrounded by people who think you are just the tops. They will tell you how smart you are, how witty you are, how handsome you are, how very brave and courageous you are. They will be there 24/7, catering to your every need because you are so dad gum important to the future of America.

These will soon become your best buds because they understand you and they are so much fun to be around. Then, in a few months, when they explain to you how very important it is to change this little word in a bill from “shall” to “may” you will not want to disappoint them and it’s no big deal to make the change.

Is any human being exempt from such flattery? Probably not. Potomac Fever is not about bribes and corruption. It is about sycophants and egos. The only safeguard is staying in touch with the people who sent you here and your family. And to remember that the greatest sin is pride. Any talent you may have is only a gift from your creator. Be grateful for it.

Note to incoming staffers:

You will find that Washington is unlike any other place you have lived. You may think you have joined the Big Leagues where the cream of the crop works. But, in fact, the people you encounter here are no brighter and no more dedicated that the folks you left behind in Lincoln, Nebraska or Frankfurt, Kentucky. That is the dirty little secret that everybody in this town tries to hide.

You will discover some very peculiar things about these folks:

  • Most of the people in Washington do everything in groups. They live in group-houses. They join clubs when they have an interest in something: hiking clubs, bicycle clubs, reading clubs, investment clubs. If someone wanted to be a hermit, they would first join a hermit’s club to learn how to do it.
  • In most other places, a mark of a successful party is one in which there is a mix of people. So lawyers get to talk to mechanics, who get to talk to musicians, who get to talk to scientists, and so on. Not in Washington. There, such a mix would be considered a total waste of time. People want to talk only to other people in the same field.
  • At these parties, people always look over your shoulder while talking to you. They are always looking for someone more influential to go suck-up to.
  • People in Washington never want to admit they don’t know something. So, instead of asking a direct question they will make a statement and wait to be contradicted. If you don’t contradict them they will assume what they just said is true. So, a conversation might go something like: “What a great painting. Matisse painted that.” “No, that was done by Renoir.” “Yes, of course it was.”

Note to voters:

Don’t make the same mistake that we made in 1994. That year was similar to 2010, where an over-reaching liberal president was chastened by the electorate, who put into power a conservative Congress. After that victory, many of us thought our work was done. We had replaced a bunch of liberals with a bunch of conservatives, and we went back to concentrating on our real lives. We thought the country was now in good hands.

The new guys were pretty good for a couple of years, but soon enough they, too, sunk into the Washington swamp. They found a whole new set of best buddies and started wheeling and dealing to help their friends and punish their enemies. Not good.

We cannot do that again. We need to stay vigilant and remind our representatives who they are working for. Just because someone said all the right things in 2010, does not mean he or she will do the right things in 2012 or after.

This is not a burden, it is part of the responsibility of being a citizen in a republic. This is OUR country and it will be only as good as we make it.