Capitol Attitude

‘I’ve got cameras in my face’: Hill freshmen arrive in Washington for The Show

Rep.-elect Cresent Hardy, R-Nev. talks with reporters after arriving at the Capitol Hill Hotel on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Nov. 12, 2014, for new member orientation.

Rep.-elect Cresent Hardy, R-Nev. talks with reporters after arriving at the Capitol Hill Hotel on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Nov. 12, 2014, for new member orientation.  (AP)

On a long bus ride in the baseball classic “Bull Durham,” Crash Davis tells a bevy of minor-league prospects of how things are different in “The Show.”

“The Show,” of course, refers to the Big Leagues. No more dragging your own luggage through third-rate hotels in baseball outposts like Round Rock, Texas, and Billings, Mont. No. Someone totes your bags for you in The Show.

“You hit white balls for batting practice. Ballparks are like cathedrals,” opined Davis. “The hotels all have room service. And the women all have long legs and brains.”

“Really hot, huh?” asks one player.

“Yeah. And so are the pitchers. They throw ungodly breaking stuff in The Show,” replies Davis.

The Show is really something to behold.

And it can be unforgiving, too.


The House Administration Committee orchestrates an elaborate orientation for the incoming freshman class after each congressional election. This week, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., armed each Republican freshman with a 125-page bound booklet titled, “Hit the Ground Running.”

Welcome to The Show, Washington-style.

The confabs and literature, of course, don’t cover everything.

Rep.-elect Cresent Hardy, R-Nev., discovered that Wednesday morning. Hardy flew to Washington for the transition from low-profile state legislator to member of Congress. The Nevada Republican was one of the first freshmen to emerge from the Capitol Hill Hotel behind the Library of Congress early Wednesday –  to discover a phalanx of reporters waiting to pepper him with questions.

“I got here last night. Woke up this morning and now I’ve got cameras in my face,” Hardy said of his jarring experience.

“Well, welcome to Washington,” a reporter retorted.

Rep.-elect Ryan Costello, R-Pa., had a similar experience before facing the reporter barrage. Costello got up early to play with his 11-month-old son, then hopped Amtrak from Wilmington, Del., to Washington.

“And here I am in front of all of these TV cameras,” quipped Costello, a gust of wind tousling his hair.

Costello spent fewer than 90 minutes on the train zipping to D.C. for the orientation. That was not the case for Del.-elect Aumua Amata Radewagen, the Republican non-voting member from American Samoa. Radewagen spent the better part of two days trekking to the Capitol. She flew from Pago Pago to Honolulu. Then skipped to Chicago. She finally landed at Reagan National Airport.

Radewagen’s wardrobe reflected the diversity of weather she encountered in her globe-trotting. Radewagen wore sandals, a down, winter vest, and a wrap-around, green floor-length skirt.

Inscribed in big letters at the bottom of the skirt were the Samoan words “Palato Mo Amata.” Translation: “Vote for Amata.”
Sartorial issues were also a concern for Rep.-elect Mike Bishop, R-Mich. He arrived at the hotel toting several pieces of luggage.

“We’re going to be here for eight days. It’s not casual like I’d like it to be. It’s business attire,” Bishop said.

Rep.-elect Bruce Poliquin, R-Maine, faced a similar packing challenge. Brooks Brothers garment bags festooned each piece of luggage he rolled behind him.

“I need to find where the cafeteria and the men’s room are,” Poliquin said.

Rep.-elect Brenda Lawrence, D-Mich., observed a cultural phenomenon which is different from the Midwest.

“I don’t think people cook in Washington because there are a lot of restaurants,” Lawrence said.

Unlike Lawrence, one incoming member well-versed in both the folkways of  Michigan and the Beltway is Rep.-elect Debbie Dingell, D-Mich. She’s the wife of retiring Rep. John Dingell, D-Mich., the longest-serving lawmaker in congressional history.

“I’m just like any other freshman,” the congresswoman-elect insisted.

Except that her husband has served continuously in the House since 1954. Mrs. Dingell suggested her spouse actually put her at a disadvantage.

“I think my husband has been more careful not to tell me anything for fear his head might be cut off,” she said. “I would benefit if he would talk to me a little more than he is now.”

If Dingell’s retiring husband won’t chat her up, colleagues from the burgeoning Michigan freshman class will. In addition to Dingell, Bishop and Lawrence – the Wolverine state also dispatched Reps.-elect John Moolenaar, R-Mich., and Dave Trott, R-Mich., to Capitol Hill.

“We’ve got a great Fab Five from Michigan,” said Dingell.

Rep. Richard Hudson, R-N.C., surfaced near the Capitol Hill Hotel by mid-morning. Still in his first term, Hudson went through the orientation drill two years ago.

“I’m here for a do-over,” Hudson joked. “See if I can get it right this time.”

Rep.-elect Frank Guinta, R-N.H., was in fact on hand for a “do-over.” Voters elected Guinta in 2010 and then showed him the door in 2012. Guinta won re-election last week.

“I know what the pitfalls are,” Guinta proffered when asked if he had advice for the true freshman. “Enjoy this time. Don’t make too many promises.”

The rookie lawmakers seemed overwhelmed at the attention. Such was the case with Rep.-elect Lee Zeldin, R-N.Y. A job for Zeldin meant jobs for other people, too.

“As soon as the election was over dozens of resumes were flowing in,” said Zeldin. “Even as the results were still coming in.”

That’s how things work in The Show. And just like in The Show, sometimes superstars flame out.

In June, a little-known college professor named Dave Brat upset then-House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., in the primary. Brat emerged as an undrafted prospect playing the equivalent of political American Legion ball who eluded all the scouts and cross-checkers. Brat blossomed at the right time and made the team.

The House swore-in Brat to fulfill Cantor’s unexpired term.

“It’s been a very long road. Very few gave me a chance when the journey began,” said Brat in his maiden floor speech.

While new lawmakers filed into the hotel, a brief tableau played out directly across the street. Rep. John Barrow, D-Ga., made his way up C St., SE without fanfare. Slung across his back were several suits and shirts, sealed in plastic dry-cleaning bags. The congressman walked up a stoop and disappeared into a townhouse. A makeshift sign hung in the window.

“For Rent,” the sign read.

Barrow lost last week to Rep.-elect Rick Allen, R-Ga. Republicans tried to chase Barrow for years. Always a survivor, Barrow fended off repeated GOP challenges.

Until now.

As Crash Davis said in Bull Durham, they throw ungodly breaking stuff in The Show. And sometimes the rookies squeeze out the veterans for a spot on the roster.

Capitol Attitude is a weekly column written by members of the Fox News Capitol Hill team. Their articles take you inside the halls of Congress, and cover the spectrum of policy issues being introduced, debated and voted on there.