Tuesday, July 31, 2007

FROM OUR OVERSTOCKED ARCHIVES: HAIL TO CHIEF

[50 years ago this summer, your editor covered his first story in Washington. Throughout the year, the Review will offer excerpts from "Multitudes: The Unauthorized Memoirs of Sam Smith," the full version of which is available on our site]

SAM SMITH - The US Capitol Police force was once comprised mainly of young men benefiting from the patronage granted their fathers by various members of Congress. It was a fairly pleasant crowd and you knew you were not just dealing with a law enforcement officer but perhaps a grad student whose dad was a buddy of the majority leader. My favorite Hill cop story from that period involves a friend who was a bagpipe playing Lebanese Catholic from Boston, knew everyone in the Democratic Party and had worked for a number of them including Massachusetts governor Foster Furcolo and, later, Ted Kennedy.

She was on her way from Boston to an LBJ State of the Union address but was late and arrived from the plane still carrying her bagpipe case in which rested not only the instrument but some pita bread her sister had made. In a hall crowded with some of America's most powerful, my friend was told by a Capitol police officer to open the bagpipe case. The officer was puzzled and disturbed by what he found inside. "Don't worry," said my friend. "It's just a bagpipe and some pita bread. . . Call your chief and tell him Terri Haddad is here with her bagpipes. He knows me."

The officer did and at the other end the Capitol Hill police chief issued one blunt order: "Tell her to play 'Danny Boy.' And so for the chief and many of America's most powerful, she did and then was allowed to repack her instrument and go hear the speech.

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