While millions descend on Washington for the historic inauguration of Barack Obama on January 20, some Republicans see it as an occasion to get out of town.
Out of power on both ends of Pennsylvania Ave and mostly out of favor on K Street, many emasculated elephants in the GOP herd will begin the Age of Obama with what amounts to an extended holiday vacation. Instead of fighting the quadrennial cold and what are expected to be record-setting crowds, they're heading out to greener pastures, with better temperatures, less hassle and more agreeable company.
“What better way to mark the Obama Inauguration (and his millions of adoring fans that will be in DC) than to get out of town to fabulous Las Vegas!” wrote Charlie Spies, a Republican lawyer and former CFO to Mitt Romney’s campaign in a blast email to GOP friends. “We hope you can join us for dinner and a fun evening on Monday, January 19th to celebrate the last few hours of our Republican president in the White House.”
Spies and his wife Lisa, a Republican fund-raiser, have gotten about 15 takers so far for this last supper or, as they billed it in the e-mail, their own “Inaugural in Exile.”
They’re far from alone. Others will usher in the new era from the slopes, the islands, the NFL playoffs and even on a serendipitously-timed honeymoon. Full Democratic control of Washington may be a bitter pill, but it’s easier to get down from a lodge, beach, 50-yard-line or, especially, honeymoon suite.
One Bush administration official who is heading to the Italian Alps explained the logic with precision in an e-mail: “1. I am out of a job on Jan 20 at noon, no better time to take a vacation. 2. I like skiing, and have not seen my whole family in almost a year, no better time to get home and ski for a week. 3. Why bunker up and be in this town for that week, when we all know that [the crowds] will be worse than [the] Cherry Blossom [Festival] or Memorial Day?”
Good capitalists that they are, some of these Republicans are among the Washingtonians looking to rent out their homes to well-heeled Democrats who will pony up for a place to stay.
One GOP aide to a well-known conservative despised by Democrats is hoping to head up to New York City and make a few bucks in the process—but is taking a page from Reagan’s “trust but verify” mantra.
“I want to rent my place out but don’t put my name next to that in case I do—don’t want people knowing they are staying in a [REDACTED] staffer’s place and trash[ing] the joint.”
Greg Crist, a GOP lobbyist who was willing to be named, said that “I will be pondering the future of my party at a remote location, aided in the conversation by my friend Jack Daniels.”
Other Republican, of course, are more open about their plans.
“I just booked my flight to Switzerland this morning,” crowed Jason Roe, a veteran GOP Hill staffer and campaign operative who now plies his trade on K St but will, along with his wife Patty, trade loafers for a snowboard that week. “As a lobbyist, I thought a neutral country like Switzerland would be appropriate."
Another Republican couple is taking a highly optimistic approach to the inauguration.
“Personally, the Snyders are embracing destiny and are looking forward to celebrating a truly historic weekend and coronation - not speaking of Obama, but rather Westbrook, McNabb and Dawkins,” said Pete Snyder, a GOP internet consulting executive and Keystone State native. “It's NFC Championship Weekend and we plan on being in Charlotte, the ATL or Phoenix to flap our wings and cheer on the Eagles, a true team of destiny as they continue their improbable run to the Super Bowl.”
Snyder said the playoff trip is being financed, fittingly, by inaugural weekend tenants in the Capitol Hill condo of his wife, Burson, a longtime GOP congressional aide.
And, yes, there is a back-up plan.
“If the Birds blow it, the Chapman family from Mississippi will be financing my bender in Vegas at the Wynn sports book and bar,” said Snyder. “I'll be rooting against whoever bounced the Birds.”
Kevin Sheridan, who served as spokesman for President Bush’s second inaugural in 2005, is heading to an undisclosed island in the Caribbean.
“The inauguration of Barack Obama will be a great moment for our country and the planners have a major logistical feat to pull off,” said Sheridan. “I figure I’m leaving a little extra room for my Democrat friends to enjoy it up close.”
Plenty of Republicans, of course, will stick around for the festivities. But few formal soirees have yet to spring up as they did following Bill Clintons’ swearing-in in 1993 (“Mourning in America: A Thousand Pints of Lite”) and 1997 (Mourning in America II: Feel our Pain”).
Anti-tax crusader Grover Norquist, who will take in the parade from the traditional inaugural party in conservative columnist Robert D. Novak’s Pennsylvania Ave. penthouse, put on a brave face in explaining the absence of a “counter-inaugural” this year.
“The good news is the reason for this is that all the folks who would have taken the time to do it are already rebuilding,” he assured.
Other longtime Republicans mix a civic-minded approach with professional obligation in explaining why they’re staying for the traditional rite of government.
“I'm chasing ball tickets, swearing-in tickets, hotel rooms, reservations, invites — what's new?” said Robbie Aiken, a veteran GOP lobbyist who has participated in every inauguration since he was a staffer on Reagan’s first, in 1981. “That's what Washington people are supposed to do, and I'm glad to help, with a smile, as usual.”
“I’ll be in town, going to events, taking care of clients,” said Republican lobbyist Juleanna Glover, who is planning a big, bipartisan party at her Kalorama home for the occasion. “It makes no sense to me [to leave town].”
Ryan Patmintra, press secretary to Sen. Jon Kyl (R-AZ), has a good excuse.
“Not only will I be down in Tampa getting married the weekend before the inauguration, but I'll be halfway across the world and hopefully sipping on a drink out of a coconut on the beaches in Phuket, Thailand, when our new president is being sworn in,” he said, with no small amount of glee.
And Patmintra will, not surprisingly, have some D.C. company at his January wedding down in the Sunshine State, including Tucker Bounds, late of the McCain campaign’s press shop.
“I will also be witnessing an historic ceremony—it’ll just have beach weather, cocktails and no gift ban,” said Bounds.