Senator Jay Billington Bulworth
Obama has spoken longingly of “going Bulworth,” implying a sympathy with Warren Beatty’s Bulworth character, who tires of political politesse. “The rich is getting richer and richer and richer while the middle class is getting more poor,” Bulworth raps.
George C. Scott as General George Patton
Nixon watched Patton often and urged his staff to do so. In his 1977 interview with David Frost, he felt compelled to say that a viewing five days before ordering the invasion of Cambodia had “no effect whatever on my decisions.”
Facing a congressional threat to raise taxes, Reagan borrowed a line from Eastwood’s character in Sudden Impact: “Go ahead—make my day.”
Marshal Will Kane, played by Gary Cooper in High Noon
Clinton admitted watching High Noon some 20 times and once noted, “Any time you’re alone and you feel you’re not getting the support you need, Cooper’s Will Kane becomes the perfect metaphor.”
This article appears in the March 2014 issue of Washingtonian.
The next time Annapolis Police Chief Michael Pristoop testifies in the Maryland state legislature against the prospect of decriminalizing or legalizing marijuana, he might want to make sure he isn’t coming in with a half-baked argument.
Pristoop appeared before a state senate committee yesterday to urge Maryland legislators not to decriminalize pot, and in doing so, cited a story claiming that Colorado’s recent legalization has lead to widespread death and destruction. “The first day of legalization, that’s when Colorado experienced 37 deaths that day from overdose on marijuana,” Pristoop said.
The police chief should have checked his sources. Pristoop’s information came from a story published in early January by the Daily Currant, a notoriously un-funny Onion knockoff.
But State Senator Jamie Raskin, a Montgomery County Democrat sponsoring a bill that would legalize and regulate the sale of marijuana, quickly realized Pristoop was mistaken.
“Unless you have some other source for this, I’m afraid I’ve got to spoil the party here,” he said. “Your assertion that 37 people died of a marijuana overdose in Colorado was a hoax on the Daily Currant and the Comedy Central website.”
Pristoop acknowledged that he might have been mistaken—since legalizing weed on January 1, Colorado has not experienced any marijuana-related massacres—but he was convinced at the time he prepared his testimony.
“I believed the information I obtained was accurate but I now know the story is nothing more than an urban legend,” Pristoop said later in a press release. Politics can get so hazy sometimes.
A new poll released Tuesday night shows that Mayor Vince Gray is still on track to beat a crowded field in the April 1 Democratic mayoral primary, but that voters are still troubled by the scandal surrounding his 2010 campaign.
The survey, sponsored by WAMU, NBC 4, and the Washington Informer, finds that while 74 percent of likely voters in the April 1 Democratic primary feel the city is moving on the right track, 63 percent would like a new mayor. And though 56 percent of Democrats approve of Gray’s job performance, 70 percent say they believe he acted either unethically or illegally in 2010, when his mayoral run was aided by an unreported $653,000 “shadow campaign” that remains under federal investigation today. (Gray has not been accused of any wrongdoing.)
But even with cloudy campaign ethics hanging over him, Gray still leads the other candidates for his job, although his nearest rival, Council member Muriel Bowser, is closing. The poll gives Gray the support of 28 percent of likely voters, with Bowser getting 20 percent. A poll released in January by the Washington Post put Gray at 24 percent and Bowser at 12 percent.
Bowser also seems to be pulling away from other challengers: in the new poll are Council members Jack Evans, with 13 percent support, and Tommy Wells, with 12 percent support. Busboys and Poets restaurateur Andy Shallal, Council member Vincent Orange, and former State Department official Reta Jo Lewis continue to poll in single digits.
The poll was conducted last week by researchers at Marist College and surveyed 1,138 by landline and mobile phone, with a margin of error of plus or minus 4.8 percent.
The poll shows a racial divide among voters in their feelings about the federal investigation into Gray’s 2010 campaign. Eighty-two percent of white voters say the issue makes them less likely to vote for him, while only one-third of black voters say the same. Gray is also backed by 41 percent of black Democrats, but only 10 percent of whites, while Bowser’s support is more evenly split with 23 percent of blacks and 18 percent of whites backing the Council member from upper Northwest.
Bowser has been picking up steam outside of polls lately, too, nabbing the Post’s endorsement last week, as well as a nod from EMILY’s List, a political group that backs female Democratic politicians. “Now we’ve seen another poll that demonstrates there are only two options in this race,” Bowser’s campaign manager, Bo Shuff, writes in an email.
But Gray is still the frontrunner, and his campaign manager, self-declared election constabulary Chuck Thies, is confident it will remain that way.
“Seven candidates and the local media establishment have been campaigning against Vince, yet he is still in the lead,” Thies tells Washingtonian. “We know exactly how to deal with that kind of opposition. Muhammad Ali taught us the technique. It’s called rope-a-dope.”
Thies might be taking notes from the Greatest Of All Time, but the poll shows that even if Gray prevails in the primary, he is vulnerable in the general election. When asked if they would vote for Gray if he is their party’s candidate in November, 41 percent of registered Democrats say they will “definitely vote against him” with just 44 percent sticking with him.
Those figures can only be a boon for Council member David Catania, who is in the exploratory stages of an independent run but certain to enter the race after the Democratic primary .
Gravity. Despite its departures from fact, Discover magazine’s Corey Powell says George Clooney and Sandra Bullock’s characters have “definite resonance” with astronauts Mike Massimino and Megan McArthur, who spacewalked to fix the Hubble telescope. “Massimino had that swagger,” Powell says. “And because it was McArthur’s first mission, there was a protective attitude toward her.” But the film’s real stars, he says, are at the Air and Space Museum, where “a lot of fragments that went into the movie are scattered.”
Dallas Buyers Club. As Ron Woodroof, an HIV-positive Texas electrician, Matthew McConaughey denounces the FDA’s favored AIDS drug in the 1980s, AZT. Anthony Fauci, director of NIH’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, says Woodroof was right: The drug wasn’t effective on its own. But Fauci notes that the FDA eventually came up with a better remedy, and he defends the agency’s effort to save lives. AZT, Fauci says, “was the only drug we had.”
The Monuments Men. As so many Washington efforts do, the events portrayed in the movie started as a commission, created by President Franklin Roosevelt to find a way to spare cultural artifacts in the path of World War II. George Clooney’s Frank Stokes, an Army lieutenant in charge of art experts, is based on George Leslie Stout, but it was chief justice (and National Gallery trustee) Harlan Stone who prevailed upon the President, not Stout, as the movie has it.
12 Years A Slave. Upon waking one day in Washington, the movie’s hero, Solomon Northup,finds himself in a dungeon underneath the so-called Yellow House—a.k.a. 800 Independence Avenue, Southwest, now the site of the Federal Aviation Administration. A slave trader in the film and in real life, James Birch, owned a booming slave operation at 1315 Duke Street in Alexandria, today the Freedom House Museum.
Philomena. Though the title character travels to Washington looking for the son she was forced to give up for adoption—Michael Hess, a real-life lawyer for the RNC who lived with his partner in the Wyoming, a building in DC’s Kalorama—the actual Philomena never sought him in DC; it was Hess who traveled to his birthplace in Ireland looking for her, which the movie does note.
Lee Daniels’ The Butler. The watchful White House steward played by Forest Whitaker takes his story from that of Eugene Allen, a Scottsville, Virginia, native who served in the executive mansion as Lyndon Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act, attended a state dinner as the Reagans’ guest, and celebrated at Barack Obama’s inauguration.
American Hustle. “Some of this actually happened,” says the film’s opening title card. That “some” includes the six congressmen and one senator videotaped by the FBI accepting bribes, most at a rented house on Georgetown’s W Street, in a late-’70s anticorruption operation known as Abscam.
This article appears in the March 2014 issue of Washingtonian.
In the decade-plus that I’ve lived in the DC area, I have chosen a few places to share with visitors that I feel provide real Washington flavor. I was reminded of one of my faves recently as the Rosslyn, Virginia outpost of Ben’s Chili Bowl opened--now we Commonwealth types don’t have to cross a bridge to experience some of the most delicious half-smokes to be found anywhere.
So I was surprised not to find the original Ben’s Chili Bowl on U Street in Where the Locals Go: More Than 300 Places Around the World To Eat, Play, Shop, Celebrate, and Relax from National Geographic Books. But as I chatted with the book’s editor, Keith Bellows (who is also the Editor in Chief of National Geographic Traveler magazine), I realized that with a city like ours, he had a nearly impossible task. As he managed to include our beloved Politics & Prose Books and the ever-cool Busboys & Poets, I decided not to harangue him about Ben’s and instead listen to what Bellows had to say about his travel philosophy.
“This book's approach, it’s how I’ve always traveled,” he says. “I’ll reserve a first night in a hotel and just make it up from there. I mean, here we are, living in Washington, we think we know it pretty well--but my bet is that we don’t know it as well as we think. What’s even more local than what the locals know? By that I mean we don’t walk enough, we don’t go out of our way enough--when folks come in from out of town, we take them to the usual places…”
I am so busted. Now my ears are really open. What should we be taking people to here in DC?
“First of all, if you head far enough up along the Potomac, you see that this is one of great wild rivers. People would never realize that on their daily commute across it. And Glen Echo Park! What a treasure that place is. It’s got a wonderful carousel, Art Deco buildings, and an incredible arts and crafts program. If you can start in your own backyard and find new things, imagine what you can do when you travel to London or Singapore or Sydney.”
Bellows says that the most unusual local experience in the book might be the “night feasts in Marrakech, but if somebody really wants to be shocked and surprised by travel, I always say--go to India. All you have to do there is walk down the street to be completely enveloped in an intoxicating melee of sensations, noises, colors, and tastes.”
However, it’s that “melee” that makes a willingness to reach out important. “For instance, Japan is a society that’s difficult to penetrate without a guide. In Kyoto, I had a friend take me to a special gym where sumo wrestlers train. It was an amazing experience, and I couldn’t have gotten there on my own.”
For those of us who don’t have a friend in Kyoto, Bellows has simple advice. “Don’t think of travel as a duty, and don’t go to the “must not miss” place in a guidebook. Go to a coffee shop or a bar and pick out the coolest looking person there, and ask that person where she’d have dinner tonight. Travel is transformative, and the more you open yourself to the unexpected, the better off you’ll be.”
Sounds as if I need to head to Glen Echo Park--but maybe I'll make a detour to Ben's in Rosslyn along the way... Ater all, that's not a duty. It's supporting a local treasure that might one day wind up in Where the Locals Go: DC Edition.
DC Council member and mayoral candidate Tommy Wells says that after the tragic death of 77-year-old Medric Mills, who suffered a heart attack outside a Northeast DC fire station and died January 25 after no one on duty came to his assistance, it’s time for heads to roll. In a letter to Mayor Vince Gray today, Wells demanded the resignations of Fire Chief Kenneth Ellerbe and Ellerbe’s boss, Deputy Mayor for Public Safety Paul Quander.
Wells, who chairs the Council’s Public Safety and Judiciary Committee, was apparently not satisfied with the answers he got from Ellerbe and Quander at a hearing yesterday on Mills’s death. A report released last week by Quander’s office states that five on-duty fire fighters neglected to respond to Mills, even with his daughter screaming and witnessess pleading for help.
“Specifically, I wanted to hear the Mayor’s plan to fix the situation so it will never happen again,” Wells writes in his letter. “The administration’s response was deficient and disappointing. Our city deserves better.”
Quander was critical of the fire fighters during his testimony yesterday. “There appeared to be apathy and total disregard for human life,” he told Wells. Ellerbe said that the lieutenant who was supervising the station when Mills collapsed has been reassigned from desk duty and is awaiting an internal hearing, but that he added that he is confident in the department’s disciplinary process.
Wells writes that he does not share that confidence, and he is also calling out Ellerbe and Quander for previous mishaps that have given the DC fire department a shoddy reputation.
“The shortcomings evident in the most visible and horrifying incidents—in which citizens like Mr. Mills have lost their lives—are just the tip of the iceberg,” he writes. “From burning ambulances, uncertified fire trucks, and no procurement plan to adequately equip our fire and emergency personnel, to a shortage of paramedics, delayed response to emergencies, and poor training and management, this department has enormous and urgent challenges to overcome. Yet the administration has no coherent plan to improve the department’s performance.”
Gray’s spokesman Pedro Ribeiro blasted Wells’s resignation demands as political maneuvering.
“It’s another shameful and idiotic political stunt on Council member Wells’s part,” Ribeiro says, noting that Wells blocked a plan to deploy more ambulances during daytime hours than during overnight shifts. “At best,” says Ribeiro, “he’s a hypocrite.”
But Ribeiro adds that despite the failure by five fire fighters to help a dying man across the street from their station, Gray has no plans to make any changes to upper management. “Those first responders should have done their jobs,” he says. “If the mayor didn’t have faith in [Quander and Ellerbe], they wouldn’t be at work.”
Officially, DC Council member David Catania is still “exploring” whether he’ll run for mayor in the general election as an independent, but as the eight-person Democratic field dukes it out on the way to their April 1 primary, Catania is already collecting political endorsements. Catania got a nod today from the Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund, the nation’s largest political action committee geared toward electing openly gay candidates.
“David Catania brings an incredible amount of passion and commitment to his job,” Torey Carter, the group’s chief operating officer, says in a press release. “He is ideally positioned to lead a city with such diverse and dynamic people.”
Those officially running for mayor have also been collecting endorsements from large political groups, especially Mayor Vince Gray, who has racked up support from the Building Trades Council; Service Employees International Union; American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees; hotel workers; and laborers. Council member Vincent Orange got the endorsement of the United Food and Commercial Workers.
Not every big union is picking sides, though. The Metropolitan Washington Council of the AFL-CIO, which represents over 150,000 workers in the DC area, said today it will not endorse a candidate in the Democratic primary. Candidates are also waiting to hear from the unions representing the city’s teachers, police officers, and fire fighters, all three of which have had frosty relationships with Gray’s administration.
But Gray, who got a critical endorsement from the Washington Teachers Union when he defeated Adrian Fenty in 2010, appears not to care about a repeat nod from the city’s educators. His campaign manager (and self-declared election cop), Chuck Thies, tells Washingtonian that Gray did not answer a questionnaire from WTU and also turned down an in-person meeting.
“The mayor has said that if someone has good ideas to improve schools, he’s happy to have a discussion,” Thies says. “The Washington Teachers Union is not that. The one debate hosted by WTU that Mayor Gray participated in was not well managed."
That debate last December, which marked Gray's first appearance as a candidate, was very hostile toward the mayor, with an auditorium full of teachers repeatedly jeering his defense schools chancellor Kaya Henderson. "This campaign will not allow students and educators to become political footballs in this election," Thies says.
A spokeswoman for the Washington Teachers Union says the snubs aren’t necessarily dealbreakers. The union plans to make its endorsement in the next 10 days.
In other non-union endorsements, Council member Muriel Bowser, who was endorsed by the Washington Post last week, gained the approval of EMILY’s List, which raises money for female candidates. The organization’s president, Stephanie Schriock, saying Bowser “has the plans to improve DC’s schools, infrastructure and city government.”
The DC government plans to add nearly 19 miles of bike facilities to city streets this year, an ambitious goal considering it accomplished a tiny fraction of that in 2013. The District Department of Transportation today released a map and spreadsheet of the bike lanes, cycle tracks, and other cyclist-friendly items it plans to install this year, but bike advocates say the agency might be a bit optimistic considering its recent lack of accomplishments.
The first item on DDOT’s list is the long-delayed, mostly protected cycle track along M St., NW, through the heart of downtown DC. Although the project is classified as “ready to go,” riders have been waiting nearly a year for the track to be completed. DDOT started painting some lines between 15th and 17th streets in December, allowing the agency to say that it started the project in 2013, but the 1.4 mile route remains far from completion.
But Greg Billing, the advocacy coordinator for the Washington Area Bicyclist Association, says DDOT routinely kicks old projects into the following calendar year.
“This is exactly what happened last year,” he says, referring to a bridge carrying the Anacostia Riverwalk Trail over a freight yard in Southeast DC. Although the bridge was planned for 2012, it did not open until last May.
Another project listed as “ready to go” is a two-block protected lane on First St., NE, connecting the Metropolitan Branch Trail to street level. (Currently, cyclists must haul their bikes up a staircase to access the trail’s southern end.) DDOT also plans to install bike lanes, including some that run against traffic, on F, G, and I streets, NE, to give cyclists in that part of town routes that don’t run alongside the streetcar line on H St.
Billing says those lanes should have been put in long ago. “G and I should have gone in when the streetcar tracks went in years ago,” he says. “I think what DDOT has shown is that they are filling some of the major gaps.”
The plans for 2014 also include converting mile-long segments of two residential streets in upper Northwest to “neighborhood bikeways,” similar to a program in Portland, Oregon in which low-traffic roadways are resigned and repainted to make cycling and walking the preferred modes of transportation instead of driving.
The planned bike lanes are drawn up from the Bicycle Master Plan, a 2006 document in which the city committed to install at least 10 miles of bike facilities per year. “I don’t think they’ve hit that,” says Billing, who calls the new list “hugely optimistic.”
DDOT says it can get the 19 planned miles done this year. "It seems to be a reasonable target," spokesman Reggie Sanders says, adding that projects scheduled for completion in 2013 suffered from "unanticipated" delays, including inclement weather.
But proposed bike lanes also appear to perpetuate something DC Council member and mayoral candidate Jack Evans noted recently, that his ward contains more miles of bike facilities than the rest of the city combined. But some bike projects can get highly politicized, especially the M St. track, which was delayed last summer after the historic Metropolitan AME Church complained that the lane would take away some of its worshippers’ parking. At a mayoral debate hosted by a group of ministers last week, several candidates told the crowd they would take steps to protect church parking.
Billing says the success of protected bike lanes like the ones running along L and 15th streets and the continued growth of Capital Bikeshare mean that the next mayor will have to take cyclists’ interests into consideration.
“We are going to have some major decisions to be made to distribute the streets,” he says.
Comedy fans are reeling from the death Monday of Harold Ramis, the director of Caddyshack and Groundhog Day, writer of Animal House, and actor in Ghostbusters, among other credits. Ramis was 69.
In a statement released by the White House this morning, President Obama remembered his fellow Chicagoan, finishing with a nod to one of the eminently quotable Ramis’s most famous lines.
Michelle and I were saddened to hear of the passing of Harold Ramis, one of America’s greatest satirists, and like so many other comedic geniuses, a proud product of Chicago’s Second City. When we watched his movies—from Animal House and Caddyshack to Ghostbusters and Groundhog Day—we didn’t just laugh until it hurt. We questioned authority. We identified with the outsider. We rooted for the underdog. And through it all, we never lost our faith in happy endings. Our thoughts and prayers are with Harold’s wife, Erica, his children and grandchildren, and all those who loved him, who quote his work with abandon, and who hope that he received total consciousness.
Here's the context, if you need it.
Dorothy McAuliffe: She’ll now split her time between Richmond and the couple’s McLean home. But those close to them say she’ll still be a full partner.
• Aneesh Chopra: The US’s first chief technology officer, he once ran for lieutenant governor. With his ties to Obama and local pols, he’ll be “very helpful,” an insider says.
• • Bill and Hillary Clinton: Bonded to McAuliffe since the early ’90s, they both stumped for him in the governor’s race, which many consider a dry run for Hillary 2016.
• • David Jones: A finance staffer for leading Democrats since the early '90s, Jones is now a partner with the DC consulting firm Capitol Counsel.
• Hani Masri: McAuliffe has been heavily involved in this generous donor’s Tomorrow’s Youth Organization, which helps families in the Middle East.
• • • Jackson “Jay” Dunn: Their friendship pre-dates the Clinton years. The 2004-cycle DNC finance director was on Hillary’s team in ’08 and may play McAuliffe’s role in a 2016 run.
• John Boland: McAuliffe did business with Boland, a commercial real-estate broker from Chevy Chase, in the 1990s, and the two remain “closest friends,” according to an insider.
• Levar Stoney: An ex-employee of McAuliffe’s electric-car venture, he became deputy campaign manager and has risen to Secretary of the Commonwealth. A favorite of the governor’s.
• • Mark Bowles: A major fundraiser for McAuliffe-for-governor and a partner at the politically connected Richmond law firm McGuireWoods.
• Patrick Hallahan: The thirtysomething political consultant was a senior adviser for the gubernatorial run but stayed out of the administration. Look for him to pop up on another major Dem team for ’16.
• • Peter O’Keefe: A skilled fundraiser, he worked for McAuliffe at the DNC and has remained extremely close, several political veterans say.
• Sean Parker: McAuliffe, who likes to talk business and raise money, will likely keep the wealthy Facebook invest-or and political do-nor (and Herndon native) close.
• • Senator Mark Warner: Former Virginia governor Warner met McAuliffe at the DNC in 1980 and may be his best political resource in the state.
• Suzette Denslow: His deputy chief of staff was a legislative liaison to governors Kaine and Warner and is a line to Richmond mayor Dwight Jones, from whom McAuliffe swiped her after his election.
• John Raffaelli: With Peter Kelly, he was part of McAuliffe’s first law and lobbying firm. The three former partners remain close.
A version of this article appears in the March 2014 issue of Washingtonian.