Sunday, October 7, 2012

The Speaker and The Ford House Five

[The following is an excerpt from my ebook Profiles in Courageousness: The Jack Kimble Story, which will be out for most electronic formats in the next few weeks.]

The Speaker and The Ford House Five - An Excerpt from Profiles in Courageousness: The Jack Kimble Story

Together the four of us made Ford House something special and even though Danny and Carlton have moved on and Tex, Bill, and I have grown older and a bit more mature, the days of the Ford House Five will always remain special to me.

The Ford House parties are legendary and nowhere is the spirit of bi-partisan cooperation more inherent than when you look into my office at 3 in the morning. You’ll find a Republican sprawled out on my couch, while a Democrat has put two chairs together, and another one has passed out on the floor. Meanwhile, I’m sleeping comfortably in my bed.. By the end of my first year in the House, my office had become party central, but unfortunately we had also gained a reputation.

I remember the first time Nancy Pelosi visited us in the office. We were setting up for a party celebrating the Preakness Stakes horse race from New York. The Preakness is the often overlooked third jewel of the Triple Crown and we thought that it definitely deserved its own party and we were going to give it one.

I was filling balloons with helium while Tex was making a Texas Tornado Everclear punch in the kitchen. Next to him was Bill who was making Jello shots, while Carlton had gotten on one of the wooden pole horses and was pretending to ride out the door of my office. When he opened the door he ran right smack into House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

“Gentlemen,” said Speaker Pelosi, “Though I am using that word most loosely.”

“Hello Speaker Pelosi. It is great to see you today. Is this visit for business or perhaps for pleasure? You know how tense Congress has been lately. We thought we’d have a party for the Preakness.,” I said.

Unfortunately, the helium fumes I had been inhaling all afternoon made my mock sincerity completely transparent to the Speaker who studied me with a look of pure disdain.

“And will there be alcohol at this party?” she asked obviously noticing that our elder colleague was still riding his imaginary horse, but had at least slowed it down to a cantor.

“Oh I thought my guests might like some spirits to unwind after such a historic week. You know the legislature never really rests Madame Speaker,” I said. “It sure was great seeing you. You should come by again sometime when you have more time.”

“She brushed aside the older Congressman and his horse and slowly made her way across the room. Let’s be blunt gentlemen. I don’t like you,” she said calmly.

“We’ve always held you in the highest regard Speaker Pelosi,” said Bill coming to my defense.

“Don’t BS me Congressman. It doesn’t become you,” said Pelosi.

“It’s true Madame Speaker. Why just the other day, I was telling my dear sainted mother…” I started and just like that, she cut me off.

“Let’s get down to brass tacks gentlemen. Mister Kimble, you’ve been here for over a year. Now nobody would ever confuse you with Daniel Webster or even Sam Rayburn, but in that time your sole legislative output has been to honor six Boy Scout troops, four little league teams, and Jack Webb three times,” she said.

“I have some big plans that will just take a little while to get pulled together,” I stuttered.

“I’m no fan of your right wing agenda Congressman, but bloated, intoxicated, and uninformed is no way to spend a term in Congress,” she said.

“Hey Jack, do you think I could get in on that Jack Webb Highway thing,” interrupted Bill.

“Consider this a warning gentlemen. Clean up your act or I will censure and I’ll let you explain your family values to the voters back home,” she said as she stormed out of the room.

The Preakness party was a huge blow out. Between lobbyists and our staffers there were plenty of women and the Texas Tornado punch was a thing of genius. I’d like to think that Speaker Pelosi would have enjoyed herself if she would have just let her hair down for a moment. There were plenty of Democrats there too. It’s like that old song says, “Got my hands up, they’re playing my song. I know I’m gonna be OK. Yeah! It’s a party in the USA!”

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