Tales from the Trail

from Summit Notebook:

Senator Lamar Alexander tickles the ivories

SUMMIT-WASHINGTON/ALEXANDERIn the run up to the Nov. 2 mid-term election, senior Republican Sen. Lamar Alexander has more to worry about than just the results of the vote.

Just three days before the election, Alexander has a date on center stage to play the piano with the Jackson Symphony in Jackson, Tennessee.

"I try to keep a balanced life," the chairman of the Senate Republican Conference told the Reuters Washington Summit. "I even get to play the piano some, though not as much as I'd like to."

But on Oct. 30, the classically-trained senator will perform at a concert in Jackson, which he joked "is not Carnegie Hall."

"I used to do that when I was governor," he said. "It's been 26 years since I've performed with the Jackson Symphony and that may say something about what they thought of their last experience. Everyone who remembers it is gone."

Washington Extra – The finer things in life

lamarIf I come back in my next life as an American, I am thinking that a career in the Senate might be a better way to go than in the administration or the military. Whatever you think of their political views, the senators who have visited our offices for the Washington Summit this week have not just been charming and interesting to talk to, they also seem to have time for the finer things in life. Take Senator Lamar Alexander, who not only has the time to watch Tennessee football pretty regularly, but also likes to play classical piano and has a date on center stage with the Jackson Symphony at the end of next month. “I try to keep a balanced life,” he said.

gibbsNo such luck for hard-pressed administration types, working at a pace that White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs says “is and has been grueling for a long period of time,” especially if you take two years of campaigning into account. Take Austan Goolsbee, who used to compete in the triathlon, but now has no time to train and jokes he is so out of shape he can’t walk up the stairs without gasping for breath. Or General David Petraeus, who is already at work by 5:30 in the morning, and when he goes to bed around 10 or 11 at night, only manages a couple of pages in whatever book he is reading “before it falls on the floor.”

That grueling pace is one reason, Gibbs argued, why many members of Obama’s economic team and political inner circle are on their way out, to spend a bit more time “with their family and their friends.” It is not, as Goolsbee insisted, an acknowledgment that the administration has made mistakes, or that it needs to change direction.