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Tomarken.com > Daniel P. Beckmann > A Journalist’s journal on reporting in Washington DC on behalf of Montana… (04-02-02)
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A Journalist’s journal on reporting in Washington DC on behalf of Montana…

Daniel Paul Beckmann, Moderator of Letters
4/2/02-”The Stage is Set-Part One”
Capitol Hill-Washington, DC

This week’s assessment will travel in two installments…to preserve both attention span and effect…please stay tuned…

A new day has dawned…well maybe its been around while. Back in the old days…back when we lived in caves…it may have appeared on the surface that the most powerful men were those who were probably the largest. These larger men would give the appearance that they could kill more feed for their family and defend their cave from invasion. But, even back in those days, there had to be some way to control all the real estate of the burly man…for they could easily be out smarted by even the smallest diversion. But for the most part, only the strong would have survived…I mean with all of those boulders that needed to be lifted, somebody had to do it.

Now, in Washington, DC, arguably the center of power for the world, sits a community of some of the weakest and nerdiest dorks in the country. The people with the most power to blow things up, and with the most control of our laws do so by making statements and writing things down-not by running over to Iraq personally and starting a small fire in Sadaam’s tunnel. The heated debates around here are done by throwing verbose prose from opposing podiums not by hurling huge rocks between opposing caves.

In Montana, the area that I cover, while having strength is not all that it used to be, it still gains some great advantage in most of the prominent industries of farming, ranching, and leading tour groups down trails.

So, if there were no weapons or cameras or sticks to be found in the district, and instead just a fair honest fight…mono e mono…some rough and tumbler’s from Historic Uptown Butte’s bar district sure could kick some ass up here at Capitol Hill. Boy is our democracy vulnerable.

This week we were to get adjusted to the workings of DC…essentially the stage was about to be set.

If the face of George Stephanopolous is implanted in your mind as youthful politics-you may want to adjust your picture. Now it would seem that even young Stephanopolus of the Clinton/Gore ‘92 Vintage would be a grandfather to the average 20-somethings that are apparently running our country. But these aren’t just any 20-somethings, you see.. they like wearing ties…no, they love wearing those ties but only the blue, yellow, or red ones. But more than anything, they love the power of answering that phone: Senator Max Baucus’s’s’s’sziziziz Office…how may I help you?

These 20-somethings, just out of school, are seeking the power and thrills that only DC can provide them in one year. But while they are here, they become the ears, throats and minds of the politicians that they serve. They write speeches, read the newspapers and decide policy under their man’s name.

What a great gig for about 1.5 years-the average time that most of these heavy-hitters hold their offices before moving on to bigger and better things-there sure is quite a deal of turnover at your senator’s and congressmen’s office these days.

The Senior Press Secretary at one of my legislator’s offices is the ripe age of 24. He did me a favor when he offered his advice that I get a haircut so that I may look 3 years older on TV than I already am. I responded by asking him how old he thought I was…he said “I looked 24″…I told him “I was 21″.

This guy, serving the communications interests and needs of your average Montanan has never actually been to that state. No, he’s from California-born and raised. So when he censors the good representative/senator he knows from experience what your average rancher or ski bum understands and/or wants to hear from their man in Washington. No…your average Big Skyer doesn’t want someone that just speaks their language plain and simple…they want someone who will complicate their lives with endless rhetoric-boy that shit sure fools ‘em! I believe the secret to political success is understanding those all important swing voters…and if you want to know the key to Montana politics its getting those crazy anarchists to swing your way cause’ everyone else has already made up their mind.

In fact, out of the three offices that are currently serving Montana, most of the people working them are not only from places other than Montana, most have not ever been there. Sure, of course Montana, is a sparsely populated state with just under a million residents to its name and its just so far away from DC. And everyone knows the legend that most Montanans can’t leave the state of Montana for very long for fear of what might happen to them if they can’t run away to the mountains and hide from the world every once in a while.

Next, we heard from the Senate Press Radio and TV Gallery guru, straight out of the late 1960s “Mr. thick black glasses from the time when they weren’t cool” explained to us that there will never be an occasion when we will ever be able to get comment from anybody about anything unless it has been approved several score in advance. “That’s the rules!” he said, and he was right.. The rules were set up by an unbiased committee of politicians from two walks of life that never want to have to worry about being exposed to a situation where they may have to say what they think. This seems like a problem with DC in general…nobody ever says what they think…only what is diplomatically acceptable. It’s the PC era, with Political Correctness replacing racism-its still just as bad. This is why speeches never say anything anymore and now they are telling us now that we are to become part of the press machinery, that the way it works is that all news is planned well in advance.

How quaint. Everything in the capitol is made for these staged events…everything down to the backgrounds. In the House studio, where representatives gather for press conferences-they often stand in front of a book case that would give you the impression that maybe some of these people may actually own books that they read that they need located conveniently in their office. Well, in order to look good for the camera, all of the books are sawed in half so that they all stick out from the wall the same distance with no shadows. Mr. LBJ administration seemed to think it was funny..sort of a joke…it was not funny, nor a joke-the mockery of the American public isn’t that funny to people like my dad for instance, who watches those press conferences and takes them seriously. Or to Sadam Husein who watches them and uses them to make his people angry at us. A white wall on the top, will a pea green wall part on the bottom would suffice for me, Mr. “I hate Hulla-hoop and short skirts”….

They gave us our press badges with our pictures on them…they looked at us sternly though as they handed them out—they most certainly didn’t want to be handing these credentials out to people who might do harm physically (or maybe politically) to the blessed capitol.

But what I did find out later this week, through the utilization of my press credentials…was that our security system is currently based on a series of snooty looks and the general appearance of, to use the Orwellian term, big brother. Well, lets look at this situation logically shall we? I really don’t want Mr. Ashcroft coming over to my G-town house, so just like with the ingredients to nuclear weapons, I am going to explain just how fragile our democracy currently is based upon what is considered to be common knowledge…also, as far as free speech is concerned Mr. Ashcroft…I am alerting my readership to a flaw in our democracy and if I am so silenced by the likes or even the hates of you, then yes, this story will not be told, you will still have a problem, nonetheless mister A.

This week’s assessment will travel in two installments…to preserve both attention span and effect…please stay tuned…


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