Artist pins ‘Hope’ on a button…




Turns out, business is booming here — lots of it, and many are cashing in off the Obama image.

I think they were all in D.C.’s Union Station last night.

There were Obama figurines, shirts, pins, cds, books, dolls….Just about anything you can think up, it was being sold, and people were definitely buying.

It was like a great big Obama Festival.

A lot of the Obama memorabilia was copied stuff…not all that original, mass produced and sold through a vendor who was not the creator of the item.

That wasn’t the case with Delia Paine’s wares.

She’s cashing in too, but it was off a design of a pin I hadn’t seen yet.

I don’t want this article to be an ad for her, but the pins did stand out, because their design was different than a lot of the stuff out there.

Anyway, last year, she was just going along creating her arts and crafts in Bend, Oregon, when she wondered if her button-making technique could work for an Obama button.

They were a bit more elaborate than the buttons that were out there, and more costly to make.

But her initial batches sold well — they were the top-selling item at the Deschutes County Democratic campaign headquarters. But from there, they were a hit at the Democratic convention in Denver, and ultimately she was getting orders for her pins from all over the world. The pins ultimately became a huge fund-raising tool for Democratic party offices in the western United States.

The success brought Paine and her family to Washington D.C., for the whole month of January.

A year after her initial impulse was that the pins wouldn’t work, a steady crowd of newcomers to D.C. were buying up them up quickly at her Union Station kiosk on Friday night.

And for some, just to buy them was an emotional experience.

“I’ve seen grown men getting choked up,” Paine said.

It wasn’t only about the buttons, but what they symbolized, Paine and her husband Matt said.

“Many people coming in were part of the civil rights struggle in the 1950s and ’60s…for them, this is all a culmination of a long path,” he said.

A necessary evil?





I’ve never seen so many porta-potties in one place in my life. They are ugly, green and everywhere.

You look at the beautiful white tones of the Capitol and the lawns of the National Mall, and then you see these things — rows and rows of them — all around. Although, I must say, there is a certain interesting symmetry to the rows of them…

Anyway, they’ve never been more necessary.

Turns out, there’s going to be about 5,000 of these portable restrooms all over the National Mall and the inaugural parade route for the expected gigantic crowd.

I read one estimate that based on the number of people expected to show up for Tuesday’s festivities, that will be one toilet for every 300 people.

I think I’m going to eat and drink light on Tuesday morning..if you know what I mean.

But if I really have to go, at least I’ll have options…







Front seat to inauguration moments…



It’s time for an installment of Great Inaugural Moments with Mr. Dreier:

Rep. David Dreier was in his 20s when he witnessed the first of what would be many presidential inaugurations in his nearly 30 years as a congressman.

He rattled off the presidents he’s been on the Capitol steps to see sworn in:

“This will be my eighth inauguration….Reagan, Reagan, Bush, Bush, Clinton, Bush, Bush, Obama…”

Reagan’s first one, in January of 1981, made a huge impact on the then rookie congressman.

“The most exciting one for me was the first one…,” he said.

Reagan was the first president to take the oath of office on the west front of the Capitol, Dreier said — a symbol of looking toward California.

But that wasn’t all that was significant on that day for Dreier. So were events in the Middle East.

“When Reagan was in the middle of his speech , 52 Americans held hostage for 441 days were released…” he said.

A few days later he found him standing in the south lawn of the White House, welcoming them back.

I’m sure the moment was bitter-sweet for many of Dreier’s colleagues on the other side, who found it sweet that the hostages were released, but bitter that it came essentially at the moment that outgoing President Carter left D.C.

But that’s the context in which Dreier’s congressional career began…

The enthusiasm of those early days has driven Dreier’s Republican politics, he said, as he approaches his 30th year representing the 26th District — which represents much of the San Gabriel Valley.

“I’ve still got the same enthusiasm…but I’m a lot grayer and older,” he said.

But in terms of excitement over inaugurations, things have come full circle, the congressman said.

The enthusiasm that he had for Reagan’s inauguration is the kind of enthusiasm he’s seen over Obama’s.

“It’s clearly history making,” he said.”The hope that surrounds this is contagious, even to a Republican like me.”

The parallels with President Lincoln’s inauguration bring Dreier back to the symbolism of the moment for his own party.

“Who is the one president frequently quoted by by Obama?” he asked. “The founder of my party,” he said.

Taking it all in…ahead of time



The sharp, freezing breeze hit Patricia Habersham’s face hard Thursday as she proudly set her gaze on the Capitol.

The view was worth it.

Maybe 100 yards in front of her, Barack Obama — the first black man to be elected president — will stand up and take the oath of office.

He’ll look out to see possibly millions of people standing out on the National Mall, as he looks west.

It was all in Habersham’s mind Thursday, and she was taking it all in as crews readied the area for Tuesday — a day when Habersham herself will sit back at her home and watch.

She won’t be in the giant crowd. In fact, she’ll be home not far away in Fort Washington, Md.

But Thursday was a better day — quiet and uncrowded. And yet, the moment was just as special, because she was physically closer to where it will happen than she ever could be if she was there, she said. It will be as close as the 59-year-old African American woman and retired U.S. Postal Service worker might ever get to a man who can make a difference in the world, she said.

“I know it’s going to be crowded, ” she said. “I just wanted a little sense of it.”

So there she was on Thursday…

“It’s history,” she said. “It’s a historic event.”

A room full of Republicans…

I thought after meeting conservative radio talk show host Hugh Hewitt getting off the plane in D.C. that I’d seen the lone Republican who is actually coming into the city this week.

But today I found myself in a room full of them.


It was a House Republican budget workshop in which conservatives bounced around ideas for how to get the economy going again.

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney was on a panel with E-Bay Meg Whitman, who ran E-Bay and is rumoured to be considering a run for California governor.

Together they sang the praises of tax cuts and incentives for business. If Obama has any plan to stimulate the economy, it had better include these, they said, otherwise the entire economy will go to hell, along with the rest of the world’s.

Rebate checks? Forget it. Evidence shows they don’t work, Romney and Whitman said. Government spending? Nope. That just creates debt that will take down the rest of the world with the U.S. economy — an economy in which lack of confidence will be its final death blow, Romney said.

“We Republicans should make it clear this should not be a parade of pork,” he said.

No, when it came back to it, conservatives lived up to their name. There was nothing new here.

Tax cuts, incentives for business, lowering the corporate and business tax rates, research and development tax credits … these are the best ways for government to act, they said.

And in doing, cities and states should “use this time to finally align spending with revenue,” Romney said.

As for Obama’s plan to revamp the nation’s infrastructure? That’s all fine and dandy, but “there is no free money here,” Romney said. Whitman said projects had to be “stimulus ready.” And unions? Let’s just say Romney isn’t the biggest fan of the card checks

Indeed. Nothing new here.

But at the same time, it was refreshing. As I sat there watching Romney and Whitman, there was a noticeable change in tone and emphasis on the Republican side from the rhetoric of last year’s presidential campaign.

They emphasized the middle class – and job creation, as if trying to disconnect a bit from corporate American.

I don’t know how valid that is, but it was good to see – particularly with Romney. When he was candidate for president, he never did seem to totally buy into the rhetoric of his counterparts.

That may have hurt him in the end.

But watching him on Thursday in a room full of Republicans made me wonder if he shouldn’t have been he nominee.

I might not agree with all of his politics, but he articulated them in a way that made me want to listen.

Once I was done listening, I went back into the cold D.C. air, and realized I should have worn another pair of socks.

The next governor of California in the House?

No more than an hour after listening to former E-Bay CEO Meg Whitman — who is the focus of speculation that she will run for governor — discuss with a House forum of Republicans ways out of the nation’s economic woes, I accidentally ended up sitting two seats away from her in the gallery of the House of Representatives.

No, I wasn’t stalking her for a story.

By way of some scheduling logistics with Rep. David Dreier’s office, where I had a meeting with the congressman, I ended up in the gallery, about 20 minutes after writing another article about the forum at the McDonald’s at the National Air & Space Museum.

You know, McDonalds can be a great place to get work done, if you put your mind to it. The gallery would have been too, if security officials would have allowed notebooks and cameras inside.

Anyway, it’s true I wasn’t stalking her, but as Whitman, former Schwarzenegger spokesman Rob Stutzman and Stutzman’s acting spokesman Henry Gomez left the gallery toward Dreier’s office, I couldn’t help but ask if she for sure was running for California’s top political seat.

I guess being known to them as the sole reporter in the bunch, my question was doomed to fail.

Basically, the answer was no comment.

But it was worth a try, right?



A Republican in the freeze…

Hello from D.C., where seriously, it’s really cold.

My plane landed at Dulles about 5 a.m. this morning, I walked out of the terminal and I got a blast of freezing air like I’ve never felt. I think it was about 20 degrees, but I’m going to notch that down to about 15, because of the thermal shock of going from a 90-degree L.A. day to a 20-degree morning in five hours.

But I’m not complaining. I’m a business reporter from the San Gabriel Valley Tribune who has the chance to see history. Plus, everybody else on that plane was in the same boat, facing the cold, including Hugh Hewitt.

That’s right, I happened to be on the same flight with Hewitt, the conservative radio commentator and the only Republican coming into town at a time when they’re all supposed to be leaving.

Kidding aside, I also happen to be a bit of a talk-radio junky, so seeing Hewitt prompted some questions.

So I accosted him in the Dulles Terminal, and he was gracious enough to talk with me briefly as we walked through the terminal, bracing for that cold blast.

It was spur-of-the-moment, so among the first things I could think of asking was: Isn’t conservative talk radio being a little hard on Obama, when the guy hasn’t even taken office yet?

Not the serious hosts, he said — Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity, and the Dennis Pragers of the world aren’t in the business of taking anybody down, he said.

I wonder about that sometimes.

But that said, Hewitt has been among the most articulate of Republican opinion-meisters, and let’s face it, the last several years, Republicans have needed help in articulating that message.

Speaking of articulating a message, it’s the ability to do that, which makes Obama pretty shrewd, Hewitt said.

His deliberative style, and media savvy will serve the president well, Hewitt said, noting Obama’s breaking of the bread the day before with conservative thinkers.

Still, what will make him successful is not how Obama talks, but what he does with the economy and national defense.

“Grow the economy; don’t let the nation get attacked.”

That’s what will make Obama successful, he said, adding that proposed tax cuts make him hopeful.

And with that, Hewitt had to go.

And I was off into the dark, freezing morning, looking for a Super Shuttle.

Hewitt didn’t ask me to do this, but for his ideas, check out