What do you think of Adrian Fenty’s performance?
The thing I like about Adrian Fenty is the fact that he handed the schools over to Michelle Rhee, and he stood behind her. The schools are the most difficult part of all the city’s problems to solve.
I think Rhee is doing a great job. The school system couldn’t even order textbooks on time for years. The roofs were leaking. The teachers were not trained. It’s like the automakers in Detroit—you need to turn it upside down and inside out. That’s what she’s doing. And Fenty stood behind her. He didn’t back off the first time people started picketing. The DC school system has been an embarrassment, and they’re putting it on the right track.
Who were your best friends in Congress?
Frank Wolf, David Dreier, Jim Moran.
Jim and I share baseball tickets, and our wives are friends. His son worked for me last summer. We’ve done some long-distance races together. Jim is a good runner, but we did one when he wasn’t in the best of shape. We started running together, but he said, ‘Go ahead, I’m holding you up.’ As we got farther behind and everybody was passing us, I told him we could not stop unless we get passed by the guy who runs a lot of these races while juggling. About two minutes later, the juggler passed us.
What’s the most important thing government should be doing?
Government spends too much time redistributing income and not enough time doing the basics. That means building highways and other infrastructure, investing in education, and research and development. Those are the future.
Will we have a problem replacing retiring federal employees?
It is a big problem. John Kennedy talked about asking not what your country can do for you but what you can do for your country, and that inspired lots of people to come to Washington to work in government. We’ve lost that by sitting up here and ridiculing federal employees as pointy-headed bureaucrats. They’re only following the laws that Congress passed. There are a lot of dedicated people in the federal government who are not 9-to-5. They’re working late; they’re underappreciated. They could have gone out in the private sector and tripled their salary.
Will Interstate 66 inside the Beltway be widened?
I think it ought to be widened. People have talked about it, but nothing gets done. The bottom line is Democrats are incapable of widening 66 inside the Beltway because Arlington is a Democratic enclave, and the political leaders in Arlington are opposed to it. So you’ll continue to get traffic jams. They give it rhetoric, but they have not done anything.
Would you favor ending the limitation on building heights in DC?
To boost economic development, I would remove the height limit. I wouldn’t do it along the flight path of the airport but certainly downtown.
Do you think it’s going to happen?
No. I just think there’s too much inertia.
What’s our biggest environmental problem?
The Chesapeake Bay. When John Smith came here in the 17th century, you could look straight down in the bay 20 feet or more and see the bottom. We’ve got to put restrictions on development around the edges of the bay to prevent runoff.
Are you bitter about being pushed aside by conservatives in the Republican Party for the Senate nomination?
Given the kind of election year it turned out to be, with the Democrats driving turnout, they probably did me a favor because it gave me a reason not to run. I think it would have been a much different, much closer race between Mark Warner and me. But “close” doesn’t get it; you’ve got to win.
I was running more out of duty than ambition. I’d chaired John Warner’s campaign; we were in the same mold. He was leaving. It was a natural fit. But the party was never comfortable with Warner. They wanted somebody more conservative. I just decided it’s time for me to do something else. But I’m not bitter about it. You take the hand that’s dealt you.