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This last week, Dan Spiro, one of my best friends from law school – and a longtime Federal employee – put his eloquent thoughts on the Federal shutdown into his blog (link below). Highly recommended reading.
I share Dan’s views – but when I think of the Federal shutdown, I also think of a lighthearted “brush with greatness” I had in late December, 1995. At that time, I worked for the Justice Department, and used to frequent the Justice gym. But the government was shut down, so the gym was closed. A Justice colleague with more expensive tastes, however, had a membership at a fancy hotel gym, and one night I went there as her guest.
Now, I’m not usually good at spotting celebrities, but some people are so recognizable that even I can’t miss them. In the men’s locker room that night, I spotted the unmistakable Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt, tying his shoes.
Now, at this point in that shutdown, it had already become clear that the American people were angry at Newt Gingrich and his cohorts for shutting the government down, and taking President Clinton’s side in the standoff. And I was pretty confident that Newt was soon going to cave (as he did). So I couldn’t resist walking over to Secretary Babbitt and saying:
“Mr. Secretary! Good week, isn’t it?”
I expected him to say “who the hell are you and what are you talking about?” But instead, he looked up and said heartily:
“At last! At last.”
I still treasure the fact that Secretary Babbitt knew exactly what I meant, and gave a spontaneous response to a random stranger who accosted him in the gym.