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That wasn’t at the party, though. She said it to me earlier, after the president had finished speaking, as the members and guests were filing out of the chamber. She also told me I should have someone lance my boil. Do they even do that anymore?

Anyway, it’s not a boil, it’s an infected bruise. I think. I mean, what’s a boil?

The Speaker probably wouldn’t have been so disappointed by my professional ineffectuality if she’d known how much traffic my SOTO presponse had been generating. People weren’t finding it funny or anything, they were mostly commenting on my “boil.” Still, I was being noticed.

Just as SHE had noticed I’d been hangin’ out with Mike Grimm, kidding him about how, since Staten Island was almost New Jersey, his indictment for corruption was close to certain. Pelosi was probably as unhappy about my spending time with “The Grimm Reaper” (as we like to call him) as about my absence from the legislative fray. Don’t know if I got him stressed out with my joking about the corruption thing, but it was right before he lit into the reporter from NY1. Then, after he threatened the guy, he was mad at me for not backing him up.

But he was WRONG.

Plus, I realized I was probably also one of those people he figures he can break in half like a boy, so I felt a sense of solidarity with the reporter, who I now think of as “my fellow boy.”

1

Just getting in now from the last of the State of the Union parties. The Vanity Fair one was as great as press reports always make it out to be. BIG stars there. I met Christian Bale and Joey Fatone and Macklemore!

Best one, though, was the Governors Ball (a name quite witty in this iteration).

You know how they sometimes have areas at Bat Mitzvahs where guests can take pictures with other guests as if they were in the South Seas or something? Well, at the Governors Ball, they had an area (inspired by me?) where guests could record their own State of the Union responses with different, official-looking backgrounds that could be keyed in behind them. Later, they showed the responses on big screens all around the ballroom.

Best was the president’s own, where he rebuked everything he’d said earlier and mimicked Mike Leigh’s strange, up-looking eyes and Cathy McMorris Rodgers’ Shirley Temple-like cutsie bullshit. Everyone loved it, even Cathy.

Okay, not everyone. Mike is sensitive about being a dork. But Ted Cruz laughed louder than anyone at Obama’s “Leigh eyes.”

Oh, and Speaker Pelosi said she was disappointed in me.

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Eliot Engel, my colleague in the New York congressional caucus, gave me 75 bucks to hold his seat in the chamber while he was interviewed on MSNBC a couple hours ago, being palpably desperate to maintain his traditional position as ridiculous sycophant in front during the president’s State of the Union address tonight. As a veteran of the first iPhone line (Soho store), I was the ideal choice, though it galls that I was paid more to wait for the iPhone than the Prez.

Pre-“State” hubbub has, I don’t mind telling you, provided me with much-needed distraction from the pain of swelling above my mouth, in the spot where that Tea Party guy hit me a week or so ago. The swelling is beginning to look a lot like a small ball (which, due to the texture of my skin, is more Pennsy Pinky than Spaldeen).

I guess I should go see a doctor. I woulda gone today, but Eliot NEEDED me. Meantime, between the waiting and the swelling, I was bored, so while I seat-filled for Engel, I recorded and uploaded my response to the president’s address.

Why would I record a response to a president of my own party? And why would I do it in advance?

Well, aside from the fact that, in my opinion, there should be no “official” response from anyone (since the chief executive’s address is in his capacity as president, not partisan), it’s pretty clear this year’s four “official” Republican responses were written in advance as well. So, what exactly are they in response to? I decided that if various Republicans could pre-craft responses to something they hadn’t heard yet, I should trump them with a response both written AND disseminated before the event.

Perhaps I should have called my address a “PREsponse.” If it goes real well, maybe next year I’ll be asked to do the “Rand Paul Response.”

It can’t ALWAYS be delivered by Paul.

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A makeup man attempted to cover a bruise on my face, but the segment producer insisted there was no time for perfection and I should get to the set. “Are the other panelists here?” I asked, while being pushed toward some chairs.

“Just you,” she said, as a hot light went on above us and commenced to cook me like an Easy-Bake minicake. Gretchen Carlson, the anchor of the hour, asked what I, as a newer member of Congress, made of the tide of departures from the body. I started to answer but she cut me off.

“Forgive me, there’s some breaking news we have to report. A Pew study released today indicates 47% of independent voters would consider Benghazi when deciding…”

It doesn’t matter what she said. It was “Benghazi” again.

“This is breaking news?” I asked a PA, who just shrugged.

“Sorry for the interruption. We were addressing what a new arrival like yourself makes of the decision some lawmakers have made…”

The baking light went out again and I knew what to expect. Every time I was close to answering a question, I got cut off in favor of something else. It wasn’t until the segment was over that I realized what they were up to.

“We’re sorry we weren’t able to interview Congressman Lederer. Then again, he’s yet to speak in the House, so maybe it’s fitting he didn’t get to speak here.”

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There’s a certain amount of pride, hopefully not a sinful amount, in being the bigger man, in letting things, even some which have weight and meaning, simply run off your back. Not, however, being a prideful man, I called the Capitol cops and sent my attacker to a dank, fungus-ridden cell.

I’m kinda proud of that.

My phone vibrated while I was there amidst the wreckage of the tiny demonstration, rubbing my bruised mouth and savoring the blood taste which lingered, as if from a minimally brutal dental procedure. Fox had developed a hole in their schedule and wondered if I would be willing to immediately return. I said sure, not mentioning the transportation slight, and hopped on the Metro in reverse.

When I got to the studio, none of the other reps were in attendance.

They were, I was told, on their way. But their limos were stuck in traffic.

1

I was a little annoyed when Fox gave some of the other guys a limo after the panel was canceled, but not me. I asked retiring reps Jim Matheson and Frank Wolf for a lift but maybe they didn’t hear me, so I had to take the Metro, that crumbling, Washington subway which never ceases to frustrate me. Maybe that’s why I was in a mood when I got back to the Capitol.

On the mall, there was one of those small, scary, right wing protests that always get overcovered in the media, leading to more power for slime-covered mutants than the none they deserve. One of the speakers was droning on about “Democrat this and Democrat senator so and so” in that way GOPers have of refusing to use the name of our party correctly for fear it will imply we’re more democratic than they are (which, of course, we are).

I walked up to the guy and said, “The name of our party is the Democratic party. Our senators are “‘Democratic’ senators and our initiatives are ‘Democratic’ ones. Calling someone a “Democrat senator” has a touch of the epithet about it, as if, when you tell your Klanmates about this, you refer to me as a ‘Jew bastard,’ when, properly, I am a “Jewish bastard’.”

He punched me.

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The most important thing you can do in American politics is appear on TV, anyway, not speak in the chamber (itself TV, but only C-Span, which is hard to watch ’cause it has no commercials). That’s why it was so wonderful, though strange, that I was gonna be on Fox News today.

The Fox brigade wanted to talk about something besides Chris Christie, who they like and hope to protect. So, with all those guys opting out of reelection, they put together a panel of departing reps and new faces to weigh the pluses and minuses of legislating in The Gridlock Age. Then Benghazi reared its Libyan head again and we all got the the shaft so that they could bury Hillary and insulate Christie with the mound of soil displaced in the process.

I wonder how they decided on me. Probably they picked me off a list. No one has before, but I’m a veteran new guy now, so maybe it’s time.

You know, I met Roger Ailes, long before Fox News, when I was just a kid. He even talked about managing me then, said he wasn’t sure if I was a genius or crazy (or something like that), which you could also say about him. I remember lying on my parents’ bed, talking to him on the phone as he breezily recounted how he had once jumped out of a plane and broken pieces of himself during the Nixon campaign, irrespective of the campaign’s need for him and vice versa. I was supposed to like him for that.

I did.

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Eric Cantor picked up the slack and enthusiastically led partygoers in singing Jewish holiday standards. Cantor knew ALL the words to ALL the songs, even songs I never heard of.

Jesus (so to speak), the guy must have been the pride of the Richmond chapter of B’nai B’rith Youth, ca. 1978. Really saved my bacon (as it were). His Yiddishe singalong (including the likes of Mark Sanford and Pete Sessions. fearful that if they didn’t sing of Maccabees, they’d be shunned by AIPAC) degenerated into a dreidel-based drinking game that left me begging for mercy in the face of the awe-inspiring spinning skills of Keith Ellison.

That the sole Muslim member of Congress bested me at a Chanukah game made me kvell. It also made me miss my speech, not that some dissociative state would have allowed me to witness myself in action, but because I forgot to go.

Nobody noticed. Nobody cared.

Now, it’s the third week of the new year and I’m probably the only member of the House who didn’t speak his entire first year in office.

It wasn’t a whole year, though, so maybe it’s not that embarrassing.

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I live a life that straddles both sides of dismissiveness, my balls hanging directly between the inherently unworthy and those rendered unworthy by their disregard of me. If the balance of these races is sufficient, I feel free, surrounded almost exclusively by people who don’t like me and people who don’t mean anything anyway, kinda like the world is to begin with.

In such a world, I can do whatever the fuck I want. And the congressional Christmas party provided such a world, a room filled not just with the Yolos and the Stockmans, who deserve neither attention nor respect, but also worthy legislators of all power levels who, at best, don’t know why I’m around. As hired carolers piously harmonized on paeans to MangerBaby (named by God for the phrase used by Italian mothers to get their children to eat), I tried to induce the twenty-odd Jewish members of the House to sing, as a kind of rebuttal, our favored Chanukah songs..

“Is it legal to sing that religious stuff on the grounds of the Capitol?” I asked no one in particular, in a less than resonant voice. “Where’s the ever-popular ‘Jingle Bells’ and ‘Santa Claus is Coming to Town’ repertoire of inclusion?’ I wondered. “I demand equal time!”

“What?” a caroler asked?

I answered, in the manner of my clan, with a question: “Don’t you know any Jewish songs?”

“No, but I can follow on my concertina if you want,” he shot back with ridiculously unnuanced Christian sweetness.

I started on “Oh, Chanukah, Oh, Chanukah,” but didn’t know any of the other words, so I switched to “Ma O Tzur” for a word or two. Jerry Nadler continued for a few words more, then HE stopped. The concertina guy looked to me for guidance as silence overtook us all.

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It killed me to see Katherine Clark strutting around with one of those root beers at the congressional Christmas party. She was elected by, like, three people (maybe four). I think they said on CNN that turnout for her election was the lowest since the founding of the Massachusetts colony in 1620, so per voter cost of her root beer must be astonishing. My voters, on the other hand, in the theoretical world in which they’d be dunned for my root beer, would pay far less dearly. Why am I not on the budget committee?

It’s not the cost, though, that gets me, it’s the symbolism. I’m not the new kid anymore and if I’m no longer new, what am I? Maybe after my speech, I’ll know.

As expected, there was an open bar, yet root beer could not be had, by the rest of us, at any price. I think Uncle Steny forbade its disbursal to protect the specialness of the newbie’s drink. Sure, I’ve never, anywhere, at any point in my life, seen a bar that served root beer, but I’m sticking to my sense that Hoyer put the kibosh on root beer for Christmas. This is the House of Representative, for soda’s sake, it’s hard to believe our bar would not serve root beer if a member wanted some for Christmas.

Unless it had been muscled.