Dropping by

Art Buchwald

June 15, 1993|By Art Buchwald

THERE are approximately 2,456,430 political dinners held in Washington every night. Obviously, elected officials cannot attend all of them. So they do what is called a "drop by," which means stopping in to shake hands and have their pictures taken with the dinner's organizers. It's dirty work -- but somebody has to do it.

Sen. Mike Kandoo is probably the champion "drop by" artist on Capitol Hill, having never missed an official dinner in 24 years of public service.

I arranged with one of his aides to take me along on Kandoo's rounds.

The aide was briefing the senator as we walked in to the lobby of the Washington Hilton. "We're going to drop by the Lasagna Association dinner first. They're trying to reduce the amount of real cheese that goes into their product as opposed to the fake stuff. Ordinarily, you would be against this because the milk industry donated $25,000 to your campaign. But the Lasagna PAC came up with $50,000, so you are re-assessing your position."

We entered the ballroom, where we received a standing ovation.

The Lasagna Association director told the crowd: "We have a friend in Senator Kandoo. As a child he always ate lasagna and, if he has his way, every student in America will be having it for school lunch."

Senator Kandoo shook his hand and we moved on. The aide whispered to him, "They're having a small dinner upstairs for people who have contributed more than $100,000 to the Lethal Weapons Association. I promised them a 'drop by' on the understanding that you would come out against the 15-minute waiting period to buy a gun."

The reception was cool. The president of the LWA told the senator that if he ever voted for any anti-gun legislation he'd make sure that Kandoo never ate lunch in the Senate dining room again.

From there we descended to the basement to drop by a costume party given by the Texas Chain-Saw Manufacturers Organization. They asked the senator to say a few words. He did. "If anyone needs a tax break in this country it's the chain-saw manufacturers, and I promise you that the president knows where I stand on this issue."

In an hour we covered parties and dinners and balls at the Sheraton Park, the Mayflower, the Omni and the Hyatt Regency. I was puffing hard, but the senator was fresh.

"Do you get credit even if you don't stay for the entire meal?" I asked.

"We never promise anyone that I'll stay for dinner. The big boys just want to be able to tell their people that I came."

The aide said, "Senator, we're coming up to a cocktail party given by the 'We Are Women' coalition. I am sure that they are going to ask you why you voted for Justice Thomas and against Anita Hill."

"I'll tell them the truth. I'll say that I made a mistake."

"Good thinking, senator. After that we're slated to go over to the White House. That might be a good opportunity to tell the president what a mistake he made in closing the Briny Air Force Base."

"I will, but I don't want him to take up too much of my time. The Teamsters Union has a debutante ball for members' daughters tonight and I've never missed one yet."

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