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If You Thought I Hated D.C Before...; As Herself


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Jonah Goldberg

IF YOU THOUGHT I HATED D.C BEFORE…
It’s hot out. Very, very hot. It’s so hot I can barely leave my house. Instead I feel compelled to stay inside with the TV and air conditioning blaring. It’s way too hot for me to exercise or get professionally dressed or even to shave.

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Oh, wait a second. I could be describing early February.

All right. All of those things would apply to a healthy person. That’s right: It’s so hot today — it renders everybody into a potential G-Filer.

There’s something about Washington hot that’s different from New York hot or Boston hot. It’s certainly different from, say, Arizona hot, which is a dry heat (of pithy observational wisdom, I would say “but it’s a dry heat…” is even more frequently used than “it tastes like chicken.” But I digress.)

Did I mention it’s hot?

When I first moved to Washington way back in the waning days of the Bush administration, I became friends with any number of people who were smarter than I (I have since been feeding them milk shakes with lead paint dust and making listen to the audio book The Wit and Wisdom of Senator Carol Mosley Braun and Joe Kennedy — the lead paint dust is just in case they don’t listen to the tapes — so I’m now way ahead). Anyway, back then any number of people would tell me that the Founders (yes, that’s a capital, deifying “F,” you post-modern, there’s no capital “T” truth, life is nothing more than the accumulated chafes of a wet bathing suit, yutzes) picked Washington because it was hot and swampy, like Roseanne Barr’s trailer. They believed, goes the popular urban legend of this hot urban center, that the Founders thought it would ensure limited government. If you felt like you had melting cotton candy in your pants and thought your head might be liquefying, you would be much less inclined to hang around writing complicated, lengthy and unnecessary laws. “Let’s declare war and get the hell out of here,” is the thinking the hotness was supposed to encourage. Anyone who’s had to go into the office on a Sunday, when the AC is off, is familiar with this mental efficiency.

In the 18th and 19th centuries a congressman wouldn’t be caught dead in Washington during July. Well, actually, they might be caught dead, because they wore all those clothes and were so fat that they might have died while trying to get out. The British Embassy, for example, moved the entire kit and caboodle to Maine every summer.

The idea is: Ban air conditioning in Washington and you would cut the “productivity” of the government by more than a third (say from late May to late September) and return the United States to the limited government the Founders intended. D.C. is still full of members of this school of thought.

Now, at first I believed this because A) young people are very inclined to believe cool stories; B) if I had my way back then I would have capitalized FOUNDERS from the F to the S, and included a little harp music every time I spoke about their wisdom; C) having just graduated from college, I still instinctively believed that no one was supposed to work in the summertime; D) these guys hadn’t listened to the Joe Kennedy books-on-tape yet; and E) it was so damned hot I’d believe anything, just to get these guys to shut up.

Now, I’ve done a bit of … what’s that word again? Right: reading about the founding of Washington, D.C. and I’ve never found any evidence that it was picked specifically for the fact that it had all the atmospheric charm of the inside of an old tire after a rainstorm in Baton Rouge. Remember, the Constitution and the Declaration were written in Philly during the summer.

Here is what my vast and intense research has revealed. George Washington liked the spot and believed we needed a new capital city in roughly the geographic center of the 13 colonies. George Washington was a hoss and it was his way or the highway. So, up went the capital.

But this morning’s Washington Post has reopened the debate. In a front-page, big-type, above-the-fold story the Post reports that “It Was a Lot Worse” in D.C. before there was air conditioning (Can anyone say, “slow news day”? In fact, one would call this a “glacial news day” except for the fact I would spend the rest of it thinking about putting my belly on a glacier like a basset hound on a cool marble floor.) Yes, that’s right, the Post nailed the story that before air conditioning your thighs stuck together inside and outside.

Yet, if one gets past the hard news of the story (it’s hot) and reads through to the analysis on the jump page (people don’t like being hot), you might notice an interesting timeline of Important Dates in Air Conditioning History. If you look closely, the growth of the leviathan state tracks pretty well with the growth of AC. In 1928, the House of Representatives got the big chill. The following year the Senate took some heat off the filibuster. In 1930, the White House, Executive Office Building, and the Department of Commerce all became habitable year-round.

Now, could FDR have crammed through the WPA, TVA, NRA, AAA, and all those other capital letters if it was a zillion degrees inside? Would anyone have built the Pentagon — the bright shiny temple of the military industrial complex — if everyone entering needed to buy two Slurpies at the local Seven-Eleven: one for drinking, the other for pouring in your lap?

While the Founders may not have intended for Congressmen to sweat like the cast of Barton Fink, it seems clear that the productivity that AC allowed in the private sector made government meddling a lot easier too. Indeed, a 1957 Government Services Administration study found that government productivity increased almost 10% when people got AC. In other words, when the IRS is on “High Cool” it can reach 10 percent deeper into your wallet. Perhaps this was why Frank Lloyd Wright opposed air conditioning as late as 1954.

So the FOUNDERS (cue the harps) probably didn’t put the capital in this meteorological armpit because they thought that it would limit government. They simply assumed that government would be limited and therefore people wouldn’t need to hang around here in August, in the first place.

What’s the point of all this? How the Hell should I know? Good God, man, do you realize how hot it is?

AS HERSELF
So Drudge reports that the Networks have decided to take a pass on making a movie about the Hillary Clinton Story. I for one am deeply disappointed. Wouldn’t that have been fun? — especially if they took one network executive’s idea to heart and had her play herself in the starring role. Remember, Muhammad Ali did this to adequate effect in The Greatest.

For Ali, we had the poignant and impressive moment when he sacrificed his title and entire career — and it was already quite a career — in order to refuse induction into the U.S. Army. He could have been a P.R. trophy for the army or he could have left the country. Instead, he accepted the legal consequences. In the Hillary story we could recreate the equally poignant moment when her husband ate pot brownies at Oxford while he sent out more letters than Publisher’s Clearinghouse trying to work the system and evade the draft.

But, of course, this would be the Hillary story, so we would have to learn about how she persevered for the good of “the children” and her feminist ideals with a husband who behaved like a rogue Bedouin prince around women. Indeed, one wonders how long into the film it would be before viewers realized they weren’t watching the sequel to The Burning Bed. Would they include the time Bill and Hillary verbally assaulted their young daughter until she cried, in an effort to prepare her for the horrible things she would hear about her parents? Probably not, unless they could write it just right.

But they would have to include her moments of leadership in the White House, like during those early days of the administration, when she took firm control of things for the sake of “the children.” “Get these #$%%@^^& travel-office workers the %$#@@$& out of here, or I’ll have you %^^%$$##@ in a @#$%&^& sling!” And her incredible effort to socialize a seventh of the economy, which didn’t even result in a House or Senate vote.

And how would they portray her lapdog, Sidney Blumenthal? Maybe they’d get Alan Alda: sensitive, charming, and arrogant but in that funny way only people without senses of humor can laugh at. As he whispers in Hillary’s ear, “Let’s say the Twinkie is a deranged stalker,” it’ll be just another of those beloved quips Hawkeye used to offer on M*A*S*H. Heck, they could even get Larry Linville (Major Frank Burns) to play Ken Starr. That way, when Blumenthal calls Starr an evil, deranged zealot and, of course, a ferret face, the producers would know exactly where to put the laughtrack.

But who should play Bill? Travolta was passable as President Clinton in Primary Colors. But he wouldn’t be quite right for TV. But you know who would be perfect? John Ritter of Three’s Company. After all, Bill’s defenses could have been from classic episodes of that vintage 70s show. You see, Ken Starr was simply an uptight Mr. Roper (Norman Fell, who, alas has passed: see G-File, December 15, 1998), and everything he heard was simply a “Hillary-ious” misunderstanding. “That tastes gooood,” “If this were ten years ago I’d have you on the floor right now,” “It depends on what the meaning of “is” is,” and all the rest would be explained at the end of the movie at the Regal Beagle.

But again, this is Hillary’s picture and that’s probably why it was cancelled. Hillary takes herself way too seriously for comedies and laugh-tracks. That would make a life-story epic pretty hard. Hillary has few achievements of her own; that is why she’s running for senator, after all. She has suffered with faux dignity at the hands of the husband she deserves. A movie about her life story would be like making a movie about Robin instead of Batman (or perhaps, more appropriately, Alfred the butler). Sure, she was there but that’s about the best you can say about her. Except, of course, she’s sat in on a lot of meetings.



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