I was. Last night. On the night train coming back from Boston. I met Charles Rangel in the cafe car. I was chatting with the cafe man and drinking a beer.
Here is one of the most powerful men in America. Taking the night train. Tired. No entourage. Willing to talk. We did. He knew my father a little bit. They were both proud draftees. Rangel was sad to hear of my father's death. "But he was young... well, younger than me!"
"I know," I said as I gripped his arm sympathetically.
Rangel got a cheeseburger. I offered to pay for it. I insisted because I knew my father would have loved any story that involved me paying for the Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee's cheeseburger.
So there we are, Charles and I, each trying to get the cafe man to take our money. Because I already had an in with the cafe man, I won (it helped, as I later found out, that the cafe man didn't know who Rangel was). Rangel thanked me, said a few nice things, and returned to his seat.
At Penn Station I watched Rangel get off the train. There he was, gentleman, congressman, 78-years-old, carrying his own bags. I offered to carry them for him. But he politely declined. I figure in this day and age you could get in trouble for grabbing a congressman's suitcase, so all I could do was offer again. He declined again. We went up the escalator and said goodbye. I told him to keep up his good work. There he went, Charles Rangel, walking off alone into the night at 3am.
It made me proud to be an American.
It bothers me when people (politicians included) blame politicians and "Washington" for our nation's woes. Or when politicians encourage cynicism and promote the idea that running our country doesn't take any special skill set or intelligence.
Our system ain't perfect, but it's the best we got. And if we throw all the experienced bums out, we'll have mediocre bums leading a mediocre country. Churchill said democracy is the worst system except all other. And I wouldn't swap it for any other system in the world.
Two weeks ago I met Maryland Senator Paul Sarbanes. He, a good and honorable man, told me not to be too cynical about politics. I'll try not to be.