Friday, January 28, 2005

Young Republican interview

Many of you, dear readers, are interested in politics, else you wouldn't read Carpe Bonum. I thought you might like to get some inside scoop on what it is like to do politics for a living in Washington, DC.

Mr. P is a political appointee in a Bush Administration Cabinet department. He works on important policy matters and frequently meets with the Secretary. He was kind enough to answer a few questions for Carpe Bonum.

Tell us a little about yourself: age, marital status, where you live, etc.

I am 27 years old and live with my girlfriend in Alexandria, VA.

What do you do for entertainment?

On most evenings my entertainment is limited to the queue of programs in TiVo®, particularly CSI, NYPD, Lost, Law & Order, West Wing, Joan of Arcadia, and Good Eats. I also make time for reading, live theatre, concerts (Recently: Muse), movies, and fine dining.

Aren't you a little young to be a Republican?

Not really. Age is not as big a determinant as other factors, and 45% of 18-29 year old voters voted to reelect President Bush. I fit the demographic pattern for males, Caucasians, my income bracket, people who work full-time jobs, and political conservatives. The most important factor that is rarely tracked by statisticians is upbringing.

Why are you a conservative? How did your political views develop?

I am not sure exactly how or when my political views developed. I was first aware of my political identity when I joined a debate society in high school and the other students labeled me a conservative Republican. Mom and Dad rarely expressed their partisan affiliation but we did discuss contemporary issues, such as taxation, national defense, and affirmative action. Conservative ideas have always made most sense to me.

What was your college education like?

My college education was not typical. I began as an acting student at the University of Illinois, but graduated with a BA in Political Science from the University of San Diego after nearly seven years of study. I stayed busy during college. I interned with San Diego Congressman Brian Bilbray, studied at Oxford University for two terms, studied in Mexico to observe the presidential election won by Vicente Fox, and worked full-time at a restaurant.

How did you get involved in the Bush Administration?

Landing my job in the Bush Administration was serendipitous.

I decided that it would be fun to spend my winter break volunteering for the 2001 Presidential Inaugural Committee (PIC) in Washington, DC, so I began calling their offices as soon as the election was concluded. After a number of attempts, I reached a woman who advised me to show up at the headquarters the day after Christmas at 7:30 am to help manage the volunteer office. I immediately bought a plane ticket and headed east.

As Deputy Volunteer Coordinator, I staffed PIC offices over the next three weeks. The head of President-elect Bush’s motorcade arrived in my office 10 days before the inauguration demanding volunteers because two had not shown up. By then, all of the PIC offices were fully staffed and I had sent all of our excess volunteers home, so I decided to fill one of the motorcade slots myself. I spent the next 10 days driving Bush’s senior staff van to meetings and inaugural events around town.

After the inauguration, I returned to San Diego and prepared to graduate but within a couple days the head of the motorcade called me and invited me back to Washington, DC, to interview in the administration.

Ever met any famous political figures? What are they like?

I have met many famous political figures. When first meeting political figures they are almost always charming; politicians succeed by making good first impressions. For instance, I had a fairly long conversation with Senator Kennedy at an event. He knew that I worked in the Bush administration and so he studiously avoided politics. He was engaged, insightful and funny. Except in rare moments, most horror stories concerning political figures come from people who know them well. Many politicians are abusive to their staffs.

I find the behavior of famous political figures’ staffs to be more variable and much more interesting. The worst I have ever experienced was Senator Clinton’s staff. I cannot share the details but I had to work closely with her staff at an event and I found several of them to be hostile, rude, abusive and manipulative.

Who is the most influential person no one has ever heard of?

I will answer a slightly different question: “Who is the most influential person no one outside ‘the Beltway’ has ever heard of?”

John D. Graham is the Administrator of the Office of Management and Budget’s Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA). According to the OIRA website, Dr. Graham’s responsibilities include “coordination of regulatory review, paperwork reduction, statistical policy and information policy in the Federal government.” This may not sound like much but it means that Dr. Graham must approve every regulation that is implemented by the federal government. He has tremendous power to sculpt regulatory policy and control the burdens that the government imposes upon the American public.

I find that he is well-known in Washington, DC, but virtually unknown around the country.

Don't you agree it's a bit unmanly to like cats?

I think it is unmanly to ask leading questions. But to answer the question, it is manly, and quintessentially American, to maximize the utility of all things in nature including household pets. I may prefer dogs, but I have learned to appreciate the unique companionship of cats.
Yeowch. Good one, P! I'm going to need a Band-Aid for those claw marks on my cheek...

Thanks for your answers, and your public service.