Tonight, down on Capitol Hill, is the final gathering of former and current staff for my old boss, U.S. Senator Pete V. Domenici, who’s retiring from office. I wasn’t able to attend any of the similar events in New Mexico, so I’m glad Barb and I will be able to make tonight’s celebration.
While cleaning out my basement last month, I came across a manila folder crammed with mementos from my Hill years, and found this photo of the Senator’s personal staff, taken at the annual Christmas party in 1993:
That’s me in the back row, just right of center, with the dark red sweater and the beard, trying way too hard to look older than my 26 years.
Fifteen years later, I not only can still name nearly everyone in this picture, but I’m still good friends with many of them. This particular batch made up the Senator’s personal staff for much of the mid-1990s, and because we worked together for so long — a stretch of five years with a relatively cohesive staff is a rarity on the Hill — we were a tight knit group. To this day, we still refer to ourselves as the Domenici Mafia.
Of the members of our Mafia, Ari Fleischer — kneeling in the front row in the Santa hat — is probably the best known and most famous alumnus, serving as President George W. Bush’s press secretary in the early days of his administration. But the rest of the gang aren’t doing too shabbily, either. Some are serving in high-ranking positions in the federal government, while others are lobbyists. Some ran for — and won — locally-elected offices. There are attorneys and forest rangers and health care workers, retirees and stay-at-home parents. A few worked for the Senator right until the end. And there’s not a bad banana in the bunch.
I’m looking forward to seeing many of them tonight, along with countless others who made up the staff over the Senator’s 36 years in office. It’s always amazing to me how quickly we all fall together, even when we haven’t seen each other in over a decade. You’re never really out of the family.
Oh, have fun! Think Ari will wear the Santa hat again?
Tell Ari an Obama supporter in Germany thinks he (Ari) is a smart and level-headed fellow. I enjoy watching him on Larry King. Balanced perspectives are refreshing.
Dude, I don’t want to alarm you, but over your right shoulder in that picture?
Something you want to tell us?
Wendy & Steve: No Ari there last night, alas. But I'll still pass your suggestions, and compliments, onto him.
Dwight: And you know what? He was actually standing there in only his underwear, too. Yuck.
Oh, and by the way, I am NOT the bald guy with Hussein over my right shoulder. I didn’t lose all my hair for at least another four years. Hmmph.
I’m to the left of Hussein, the bearded blonde fellow, grinning crazily.
Ok, they think Charles is Sadamm Hussein? That is priceless….
Oh, and one of those in the picture is a well regarded television producer…bet you didn’t know that!