Vital Signs

A Journey to Mecca

The pilgrimage to Mecca sponsored by the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) was everything it was meant to be. The faithful were comprised of hot- and cold-running state legislators from all over the union. They came in all shapes, sizes, genders, brands, and parties; they all had agendas, lists, forms, and maps of Milwaukee, where the annual event was held last summer. The thing kicked off appropriately with a circus parade, and the following week would see virtually every group in America represented in the Mecca exposition hall.

Lobbyists were lobbying each other, state reps and senators huddled in groups throughout the two vast floors of the Mecca Center. The odor of power and good cologne drifted all over the place. The first floor was filled to the edges of its 30,000 square feet with aisles of booths, a trade show of American culture, and it was a buyer's market. The Beer Institute was mercifully passing out free brewskis, and as I gratefully accepted a cool one and sat on a little park bench they had provided in an astro-turfed park setting, I realized that I was staring at a Lyndon LaRouche booth manned by an individual in a rumpled suit streaked with what appeared to be cigarette ash but in fact may have been heroin smeared by Henry Kissinger and the Queen of England.

There were bags and bags of things to be had there. The National Right to Life Committee was passing out "Precious Feet":...

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