Inside the Beltway

The great H.L. Mencken wrote: "A good politician is quite as unthinkable as an honest burglar."

Is he right? I don't know, but it seems as if Washington, D.C., is quite a mess these days, with a mounting deficit and acrimonious factions.

Still, one of the highlights on the HCN calendar is the National Lumber & Building Material Dealers Association (NLBMDA) Legislative Conference in Washington, D.C. This year's event, in addition to several rounds of strategizing and lobbying, featured presentations from not one, but two politicians.

Speaking to the gathering of lumberyard owners, supplemented by suppliers and members of the Window and Door Manufacturers Association; Senator Angus King, an Independent of Maine; and Representative Bill Johnson, Republican of Ohio, took turns speaking.

How did it go? Ladies and gentlemen, if these two gentlemen couldn't give a delightful speech that won over an audience, they wouldn't have been elected in the first place.

Johnson introduced himself as a man born on a "two-wheel wagon rut mule farm." This seemed to go over well.

King introduced himself as a board member of Hancock Lumber. This went over even better.

Johnson quickly recognized the importance of the audience and his affection for employment: "Your industry is very important to many job-creating industries," he said.

King pointed out that Hancock Lumber was actually exporting product to China.

Johnson showed detailed knowledge of the hot-button EPA Lead: Renovation, Repair, and Painting Rule, calling for the reinstatement of the opt-out rule for homeowners when there are no children or pregnant women in the house. Then he kicked sand in the face of the EPA: "It's the most out-of-control regulatory body in Washington."

King pointed out that non-defense discretional spending is at the lowest percentage of GDP in 50 years.

Johnson attacked Obamacare: "It's going to die of its own weight," he said.

King said he didn't vote for the Affordable Care Act, but he would have. "The idea of providing health care to millions of people who didn't have it is a good one," he said. "It's hard to argue with it." The room seemed to think hard about that one.

Johnson said, "Washington doesn't get it right very often."

Regaining his footing in front of an overwhelmingly Republican audience, King finished with a tried-and-true Abraham Lincoln quote: "The dogmas of the quiet past are inadequate to the stormy present."

How can you not love these guys? Bigger question: how come things are such a mess in Washington.

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