Washington and the coffee conspiracy

Well, maybe no conspiracy. But I have a new theory about what’s wrong with this country. It doesn’t appear you can get any coffee in Washington until about 5:30 a.m. And I don’t think anyone starts working until 9 or 10. Good grief. And we’re worried about global competitiveness. My only hope is the Starbucks across the street from where I’m staying. Yeah. It’s come to that.

I’m here this week for the annual meeting of Corporate Voices for Working Families and for a breakfast we are holding Wednesday to honor members of Congress for their leadership roles in advocating legislation that benefits working families. The flight from Cleveland yesterday was uneventful, following the now expected strip search going through security. I wonder though what they mean by “in the event of an unexpected water landing?” Would one ever be expected between Cleveland and Washington? I’m starting to worry when people tell me things like that.

And after nearly a decade in the academy I’m starting to get back into the business buzzword game. I was talking with a guy at Kodak Friday about brief  talking points we were writing. He said he had a lot on his plate. Wanted to know if I had “the bandwidth” to do it. And he asked me that not once but several times. Ugh. I don’t know. Maybe I’ll tee it up as a point of entry at one of our panel presentations today.

What got we thinking about buzzwords — words without meaning to most people — was an article I read yesterday by a writer who is precise, colorful and specific: William Safire. He also knows the rules and when to break them. He wrote an op-ed in The New York Time Sunday, “The Maverick Ticket.” The point. Safire, a former Nixon speechwriter and NYT pundit, took a look at the speechs given at the conventions by Obama, McCain, Palin and Biden.

Give it a read. It’s great. Both from the standpoint of how Safire views the speeches. And from the standpoint of how to write a commentary in general. Here’s a sample:

Then the St. Paul convention was hit by Hurricane Sarah and her admirable family. The cliché is that — faced by part of a party long troubled by McCain’s different drumming — the governor of Alaska was able to “energize the base” of social conservatives. The more salient fact is that her skillful speech and joyful demeanor was even more impressive than Obama’s introduction to the Democratic Party four years ago. The establishment-shaking candidate was a happy warrior in the glare of major-league scrutiny. Most of the huge, uncommitted audience at home enjoyed this strong woman’s national audition; the first test of McCain’s gamble paid off.

Though her “lipstick” ad lib got the laugh (and may have offended pit-bull fanciers), she forcefully delivered a Sorensenesque line that crystallized the choice this year’s voters face: “There are those who use change to promote their careers. And then, there are those, like John McCain, who use their careers to promote change.”

And Safire knows something about bashing the Washington media elites. Remember, he worked with Tricky Dick and Spiro Agnew. So he has some perspective.

As one whose only claim to coinage fame is in Spiro Agnew’s 1970 nattering nabobs of negativism, I have an attack dog in that fight (though not a maligned pit bull).

Well, it’s almost 5:30 a.m. Wonder if I have the bandwidth to make it across the street to Starbucks. I’d like to hit the streets before the Washington media elite roll out of bed.


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