capitol hill

Llewellyn King | Naked came the lobbyists

December 1, 2012 

How do you get the nation to listen?

Seven AIDS activists – four men and three women – tried a new tactic when they went to the office of House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, Tuesday and took off their clothes. According to news reports, the activists chanted, “Budget cuts are really rude. That’s why we have to be so lewd.”

They also had “AIDS Cuts Kill” painted on their bodies.

But in what might be construed as sexism, Capitol Police arrested the three women. Maybe the speaker will want to look into Capitol Police policy pertaining to naked protesters. This is a delicate matter for Republicans and the alleged gender gap.

Boehner was not in his office. His staff – presumably not wanting to be seen gawking – rushed into nearby offices and closed the doors.

Therein rests an interesting juxtaposition. One would have thought that their instinct would have been to shield the naked activists from public sight; apparently it was to shield themselves from sights new to no one, but not habitually seen in the halls of Congress. Maybe the speaker’s staff feared being seen with the activists, who obviously decided that in the lobbying game, there is more than one way to skin a cat.

If Boehner had been present, what would he have done? My suggested course of action would have been for him to invite these Adams and Eves into his office, offer them something warm to drink and hear them out. He could have encouraged them back into clothing by saying sweetly, “It’s awfully cold in here. You may want to put on your coats.”

If lobbying au naturel is here to stay, one wonders whether Boehner will suggest talking-points for his caucus when they are caught on budget slippery slopes or cliffs by lobbyists who prefer to let it all hang out. Maybe he will suggest that his colleagues keep a stash of light blankets and to avoid such pleasantries as, “It’s good to see you.”

He may advise against the political habit of hugging lobbyists in the belief that they are good for campaign cash. That sort of thing can be misunderstood when it goes viral on YouTube.

Also, the speaker may advise his caucus to refrain from remarks about Dress-down Friday, for fear that some lobbyist might take it too literally. What, one wonders, will be the bipartisan response when a grassroots organization floods in the hundreds and disrobes on cue in favor of saving the whales, or legalizing pot, or tax cuts for the upper crust?

What, it has to be asked, will House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., do when confronted with 500 stark-naked people? Who knows? It could drive them to the unthinkable: bi-partisan agreement to say that nothing happened and that the media are to blame.

Contact King, host of “White House Chronicle” on PBS, at lking@kingpublishing.com.

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