Freshman year: The upperclassmen are so much bigger. You're lost in the hallways without a pass. You want to stay home for three years and come back a senior.
Not this class.
"The first 100 days, Newt says, we're going to be working 25 hours a day. I'm excited. It will be the best first day in history. We're going to enact nine different reforms on the first day," said one of the typically rarin'-to-go Republican congressional freshmen, Randy Tate of Washington.
FOR THE RECORD - U.S. Rep.-elect Robert L. Ehrlich, Jr.'s name was misspelled yesterday in a story in the Today section.
The Sun regrets the error.
Oh, to be young, Republican and restless. Oh, to be on a first-name basis with the new speaker of the House and so darn thrilled with wresting control of Congress from the Democrats that you don't mind being cooped up for three days in a downtown Baltimore hotel attending seminars on tax relief, federal farm policy, congressional reform and conservative governance.
Wake us up when Rush Limbaugh gets here.
Of course, being the suspiciously liberal media, we weren't allowed into those seminars -- only the lunches, dinners and cocktail hours that break up three days of the political education camp. The conference is being held at the Radisson Plaza Lord (( Baltimore downtown -- a "symbolic" locale for these anti-Washington newcomers, one official said -- and run by the Heritage Foundation and Empower America, two Washington-based conservative groups that provided sanctuary for Republicans during those dark years of Democratic rule.
Nearly all the 73 newly elected Republicans RSVP'd to attend, as did two of the braver 13 freshman Democrats, but, like all freshmen, their faces are a blur. Who can tell them apart at this point? The only recognizable face of the freshman class, Sonny (and Cher-less) Bono, a Republican from California, was a no-show, at least at yesterday's opening events.
Other freshmen are better known for who they vanquished. When cameras lit up yesterday morning around a pale, be spectacled and mustachioed man in khaki pants, it wasn't quite clear who he was until a reporter began his question, "So now that you've beaten [Dan] Rostenkowski . . ." (That would be Michael Flanagan, the little-known Chicagoan who toppled the powerful Ways and Means chairman. He's already starting to get around, though: Fellow freshman, Bob Ehrlich of Baltimore County, said he's bringing him to WQSR's wacky "Rouse & Co." radio show this morning.)
Many are similarly unknown inside the Beltway. In fact, that's why they're here. Greg Ganske, for example, is an Iowa doctor and farmer who drove a 1958 Desoto during the campaign to make the point that his opponent, a 36-year incumbent, was out of gas.
Just like in real school, though, the class stars, at least at this early stage, were the two football players, Steve Largent and J. C. Watts, both Oklahomans. They got to sit with Jack Kemp and Edward Teller, father of the hydrogen bomb, at the primo table during yesterday's luncheon.
Mr. Largent is the Hall of Famer whose Ripken-like streak -- 177 consecutive games in which he caught a pass -- will probably be broken this weekend by former Washington Redskin Art Monk; Mr. Watts is the former quarterback who led the University of Oklahoma to two straight Orange Bowls and -- attention Baltimore CFL fans -- won the Grey Cup MVP award in 1981.
"My previous career was challenging physically; this is challenging mentally, and it's every bit as intense," Mr. Largent sound-bited as he went off for a private schmooze with Mr. Kemp, another former football star.
Mr. Watts is already getting immense attention, in part because he's both black and Republican. "I look like very few of my colleagues," he acknowledged.
He's had breakfast with George Will, is running for class president, been courted for important jobs by the House leadership, and is already turning down about 60 percent of the media's interview requests. At least, he jokes, now he gets to be clothed while interviewed.
The questions are no less inside-baseball, though, judging from the earnest queries yesterday from Hill reporters on the minutia of committee assignments and the jockeying for class president. "You go out and play -- let the score decide," he said breezily when asked about the class president race as he left the luncheon, skipping the seminars to go back to Oklahoma instead.
Like the sports banquet that it resembled, yesterday's lunch was something of a victory party. They're perhaps not tanned, nor are they necessarily rested after all the campaigning and caucusing they've been doing, but these Republicans are ready. As are the Heritage Foundation and Empower America, which are naturally pleased that they have a whole new market for their latest product lines.
"We can provide expert witnesses," Heritage Foundation president Edwin Feulner told the new congressmen with Amway-like enthusiasm. "We can translate your ideas into legislation. . . . Please use us!"