- The Washington Times - Monday, November 22, 2004

Washington’s roots

We thought we knew everything there was to know about our federal city until reading “The Washington Century: Three Families and the Shaping of the Nation’s Capital” by National Journal contributing editor Burt Solomon.

Some intriguing nuggets from the new book:

• Frank Lloyd Wright criticized government buildings in 1938 — when the Federal Triangle monstrosities were going up — as “not built to serve the people, but to satisfy a kind of grandomania.”

“Much of Washington’s early architecture was very cool indeed, though some of it was controversial,” the author explains to Inside the Beltway.

Take the Old Executive Office Building, next door to the White House, with its 900 columns and flamboyant chimneys, revered by many but reviled by more. Its architect committed suicide two years after the building was finished.

• The Beltway’s first traffic snarl occurred the very same day the circumferential ring around Washington opened to motorists.

“After Governor Millard Tawes of Maryland wielded the golden scissors, everyone tried to leave at once, creating the Beltway’s first traffic jam,” Mr. Solomon says.

• Julius Hobson Jr., the top lobbyist for the American Medical Association, has learned from Sun Tzu’s ancient text, “The Art of War,” as well as a certain professional football coach in plotting his lobbying strategy, a subject he teaches at George Washington University.

“He studied the strategy of Joe Gibbs, the Redskins coach who had won three Super Bowls, buttressed by an ability to modify his game plan at half-time,” says the author, who adds of this disappointing football season: “Not sure that doctors would want Gibbs right now as their guru.”

• Today’s tight security around the U.S. Capitol feels much like Washington experienced on the night of Dec. 7, 1941.

“Overnight, Washington turned into a wartime capital. Helmeted guards patrolled the Potomac bridges. Soldiers with submachine guns secured the White House lawn,” Mr. Solomon writes of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. “The familiar air of leisure was gone, never to return.”

New leaders

The 109th freshman class of congressmen has elected its leadership, choosing as president Rep. Bobby Jindal of Louisiana; as vice president, Delegate Luis Fortuno of Puerto Rico (a speaker at the Republican National Convention this year); to its steering committee, Rep. Cathy McMorris of Washington; its representative to leadership Rep. Michael McCaul of Texas; and to its policy committee, Rep. Thelma Drake of Virginia, all Republicans of course.

Freeper’ sued

President Bush‘s 60-million-vote re-election triumph might have helped Inside the Beltway readers forget those 36 days in late 2000, when it seemed that Al Gore’s squads of lawyers might deprive Mr. Bush of his narrow victory in Florida. Providing moral support for Mr. Bush during the Florida recount nightmare were members of FreeRepublic.com.

The “Freepers,” as they call themselves, staged pro-Bush demonstrations across the country, from Palm Beach County to Washington, D.C., — where their chants of “Get out of Cheney’s house” reportedly were loud enough to rattle Mr. Gore’s nerves inside the vice presidential residence at the Naval Observatory.

Now, four years later, a Freeper says he is being bankrupted by a Democrat’s lawsuit over a Dec. 2, 2000, protest in Connecticut.

“I am broke and thousands of dollars in debt,” writes Jim Bancroft, who led a pro-Bush rally in front of the New Haven, Conn., home of Democratic vice-presidential candidate Sen. Joe Lieberman.

At the 2000 rally, Mr. Bancroft explains, he intervened when the leader of a Democratic counterprotest rushed toward former state Sen. Tom Scott, who was speaking from the back of Mr. Bancroft’s truck.

“I thought he was going to attack someone on the truck: either me or Tom,” says Mr. Bancroft. He stopped the Democratic protester, who was then hustled away by police.

“Tom and I decided not to press charges for assault or trespass on my truck, and let him go. Nine months later, the man filed suit against me for assault. I am not joking — nine months later.”

The result: Thousands of dollars in legal bills for Mr. Bancroft, who has been working temporary jobs since he was laid off during the telecommunications industry meltdown of 2001.

“Because of this false charge against me,” he says, “I am now over $8,000 in debt to my lawyer, and we cannot continue until I pay my bill.”

John McCaslin, whose column is nationally syndicated, can be reached at 202/636-3284 or jmccaslin@washingtontimes.com.

Sign up for Daily Newsletters

Manage Newsletters

Copyright © 2020 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

Please read our comment policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide