Georgetown Is Over: McLean Is The Hot Spot, Says New Republic
Listen up, all you Beltway bashers, you populist polemicists, you anti-plutocrat rabble-rousers: It turns out you’ve been lobbing your rhetorical cannonballs at the wrong target!
While you’ve been denouncing elitist “Georgetown dinner parties” all these years, a new elite has taken over — and it lives across the river, in McLean. Ooops!
The cover story in the newest New Republic makes it official: “So long Georgetown, McLean is the new home of America’s ruling class.”
Over the past decade, McLean, formerly a sleepy little burg, has been overrun by hordes of Republican pols, pundits and lobbyists. McLean has become “the psychic center of the Washington Republican establishment,” writes Michael Crowley. “It is packed with the people who impeached Bill Clinton, elected George W. Bush, launched the Iraq war, and have now learned to make millions from their association with government.”
McLean’s 40,000 residents include GOP bigwigs such as Newt Gingrich, Scooter Libby, Colin Powell, Andrew Card, Liz Cheney, Bill Kristol, Clarence Thomas, Antonin Scalia — and scads of obscure Republicans who were Hill staffers in the Gingrich revolution and are now raking
Michael Crowley, in big bucks as lobbyists, thus enabling them to afford to live in a town where the average house sells for $905,000.
Georgetown is still a swell place, of course, but its power has faded with the demise of the liberal Democrats who made it famous for dinner parties where John Kenneth Galbraith entertained Pamela Harriman with bons mots.
“The migration of power from Georgetown to McLean represents the shift in American politics in microcosm,” Crowley writes. “The Northeastern liberal elite drawn to the urbane sophistication of Georgetown has receded. In its place has risen a new conservative striver class . . . that has set itself up as landed gentry across the Potomac in McLean.”
These rich Republicans don’t want to buy venerablebut-understated 18th-century Georgetown houses with creaky staircases and ancient plumbing. No, Republicans prefer something a little more like . . . the palace at Versailles.
Edwina Rogers — a former Bush White House aide and the wife of Ed Rogers, a former Reagan aide now lobbying for Eli Lilly, Lorillard Tobacco Co. and the government of Qatar — gave Crowley a tour of Surry Hill, her 18,000-square-foot McLean mega-mansion. “Edwina doesn’t know the total number of rooms in Surry Hill,” Crowley writes, “but an elevator services the house’s three floors. Upstairs, Edwina’s bathroom (one of eight) features a small fireplace by the tub . . . ”
But Rogers is proudest of her private art gallery and its extensive collection. “We do a lot of lobbying for foreign governments,” she tells Crowley. “I just can’t imagine any country we haven’t gotten a piece from.”
Building palaces with money made shilling for foreign governments. Is that how Republicans became the party of patriotism?
One of McLean’s few prominent Democrats, Zbigniew Brzezinski, who was Jimmy Carter’s national security adviser, hates these gaudy new “McMansions.” He describes them to Crowley as “pretentious, pompous, much too large for the typical family of two adults and one child — plus the requisite visiting divorce lawyer.”
Meow! Don’t you just love these ruling-class catfights?
McLean has a fine public school system, but the new elite — like the old elite — prefers to educate its spawn in private school, especially the tony Potomac School, where the annual tuition is $22,000 per tyke. Every year, Crowley reports, the school auctions off the naming rights for the little road that ambles through the bucolic 87acre campus. The bidding runs into “five figures,” and Ed and Edwina Rogers have won the last two auctions. This year the road is called Sabra Lane, after their daughter. Last year it was Haley Lane after their son, who is named for Ed’s old lobbying partner, Haley Barbour, the former RNC honcho and current Mississippi governor. Isn’t that special? Life in McLean is just ducky, Crowley reports, except for one pesky problem: Sometimes, according to local lore, the illegal immigrants who keep the McMansions clean accidentally drive onto the grounds of the CIA and they’re never seen again.
And it’s so hard to get good help these days.
The Worldly-Wise Bill Clinton
Love him or hate him, Bill Clinton remains one of the most fascinating pols in America. This week’s New Yorker contains a very long but riveting piece on Clinton by David Remnick, the editor of that magazine, who apparently assigned himself the job of traveling with Clinton to Arkansas, New Hampshire, Germany, South Africa, Malawi, Rwanda and Ethiopia.
Along the way, Clinton hobnobbed with Nelson Mandela, Bill Gates and several heads of state, played endless games of Oh, Hell with his staff, and discoursed on everything from the history of light bulbs to the spread of AIDS.
On the U.S. failure to stop genocide in Rwanda: “That was my fault. I should have been alert and alive to it. And that’s why I went there and apologized in ’98.”
On Boris Yeltsin: “I don’t care how drunk he was sometimes. Yeltsin really hated Communism.”
On contemporary Republicans: “Nixon was a Commuget