- The Washington Times - Friday, July 4, 2008

HOLD THESE BOXERS

Washington lawyer Christopher C. Horner passes along a humorous story surrounding his visit Wednesday to Brooks Brothers clothiers on Connecticut Avenue Northwest.

“I proceed to browse sale items when a distinguished gentleman, dapper and purposeful as Brooks’ sales force should be, strides directly toward me,” Mr. Horner begins. “Not a fan of the pushy types, and nonetheless loyal to Leah, who has efficiently taken care of me for years, I vibe him off with an askance, ‘How you doing?’

“Undeterred, he sidles up and busily attends to the same table, then engages in a colloquy with another well-dressed gent, involving one of them going downstairs to check for a certain size. I’m a little unclear at this point as to who is serving whom. So I asked the pair of them if they’d take a look for a 38x34 in khaki, too.

“The one in my space stared at me like I’d ordered a Pomerol with my quiche. The other nodded, and politely said, ‘I’ll be back momentarily, Mr. President.’ I appreciate respectful service but that seemed a bit over the top. But the first ‘salesman’ seemed to appreciate it. I think it was an inside joke because he really looked like former French President Valery Giscard d’Estaing.

“Not much help, though. He never did get me those pants. I nearly gave him a pile of underwear to hold at checkout for me.”

An official at the French Embassy in Washington confirmed for Inside the Beltway that Mr. d’Estaing was in Washington this week for talks surrounding Iraq. He returned Thursday to France.

As for Mr. Horner, he spent some of his early years in Paris, where his father worked.

STRANGE BEDFELLOWS

“I love the Senate because I like people with big egos and I love watching 100 narcissists in a small group,” the New York Times’ David Brooks explained at the 2008 Aspen Ideas Festival under way in Colorado.

“Actually my favorite vignette is if you hang around senators … you know they invade your personal space. They rub your shoulders, your thigh, your inner thigh. I can give names. I once saw Dan Quayle and Ted Kennedy hugging and caressing each other on the Senate floor.”

TURN OFF THE TV

On this 232nd celebration of Independence Day, it’s worth repeating what Sen. Robert C. Byrd, West Virginia Democrat, once said about how Americans “have become jaded, gotten away from the old-fashioned patriotism that used to mark our federal holidays.”

Here in the nation’s capital, he acknowledged, the Fourth of July is like nowhere else.

“But, in all honesty, I must admit that it is not my cup of tea,” said the senator, now 90. “No, I prefer to recall a simpler time and smaller celebrations back in the hills and hollows and rural towns of New Hampshire, and Vermont, and my own native West Virginia.”

What were they like?

“The high school band would don its very best regalia, shine up its buttons and march down the dusty, small streets lined with moms and dads. Children perched atop shoulders so they could see and point fingers as the parade went by. The baton twirlers would twirl and step high. Young boys and girls would run alongside just to be part of the spectacle.

“Meanwhile, ice cream cones would drip, drip in the sultry heat [and] somewhere nearby, perhaps inside a church basement, cakes, pies, fried chicken, potato salad, cole slaw, baked beans and hot barbecue and a cold Coca-Cola awaited all who felt inclined to take part in the holiday feast.

“And those were the days when a Coca-Cola really tasted unique,” recalled Mr. Byrd, who was first elected to the West Virginia House in 1947. “Coca-Cola doesn’t taste today like it did during the days of those old 5-cent Coca-Colas of my boyhood.

“And in the evening, a fireworks display, lasting all of 10 or 15 minutes. … There was pride and happiness on every face, then there was respectful silence when the Stars and Stripes were hoisted high and we all thanked God that we were free.”

But Mr. Byrd said families today are “all too distracted, preoccupied not only with raising a family and earning a living, but coping daily with the increasing complexity of ordinary life. At times, we seem less like a cohesive nation and more like a collection of continually warring tribes.”

Like the warring parties found on Capitol Hill, no doubt.

“Especially in this city, there is so much political sniping, so much game-playing, so much negativity and criticism that it seems as if the focus is always on what is wrong with America or what is faulty about the system,” he said. “We all need to stop and contemplate, and … spend some time with children and grandchildren, turn off the TV sets, turn them off, and hopefully leave them off and actually talk with one another. Maybe some can even find time to go stand on the sidewalk, view that small, local parade … and just for a moment be completely swept away by the sight of our glorious flag as it goes by.”

John McCaslin can be reached at 202/636-3284 or jmccaslin@washingtontimes.com.

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