Old Catania and New Catania

Observing David Catania at Dumbarton House the evening of Sept. 24 during his appearance before the Citizens Association of Georgetown, I couldn’t help but think of legendary Washington Post cartoonist Herblock. After Richard Nixon won the presidency in 1968, Herblock felt charitable and gave “Tricky Dick” a clean shave. Gone was the dark stubble and grisly appearance. Herblock was giving Nixon a fresh start.

Anyone who has watched Catania over the years perched on the dais of the D.C. City Council would find the “new Catania” totally unrecognizable from the “old Catania.”

The old Catania was downright unpleasant, unlikable and unappealing. His countenance was hostile and stern, his voice snarling and snide. To top it off his entire manner reeked of hubris and condescension. This was an individual whose sole purpose seemed to be to look tough and be the prosecutor-in-residence. He always had to prove to everyone in the room that he knew everything and that everybody else was just a rube.

That modus operandi has clearly gone out the window.

Now that Catania is running for Mayor of D.C. his handlers have obviously sent him to charm school. Now, he is all sweetness and light. He never used to crack a smile. Now, he smiles frequently and even attempts to be humorous.

He is knowledgeable and totally conversant with all the issues. He laces his long answers with copious statistics and has an easy familiarity with all the relevant topics. Well-informed is his signature trait.

When asked about his opponents Bowser and Schwartz, Catania even borders on graciousness. Commenting on Bowser’s absence that night, he diplomatically called it “regrettable.”

Bowser is clearly running a “Rose Garden” strategy. She is 17 points ahead and does not want to give Catania any chance to enhance his position. The public may tire of this tactic.

Catania’s past persona was definitely a high negative. He has enough baggage already. Now the “I-like-Ike” strategy is essential, if he is to advance at all.

60 Years of the Georgetowner

It is my turn to congratulate the Georgetowner on its 60th anniversary. I have been in D.C. for 50 of those 60 years. The publication looks sharp and smart.

A few years back, I contributed a feature called “You Take the Cake.” This was a quasi-tribute to someone in the news who for some reason rankled me. I remember the first recipient was Sen. John Warner (Mr. Elizabeth Taylor) of Virginia. We tried to deliver the actual cake to his Capitol Hill office. After some security concerns, it was done. They never commented on this distinct honor. Others got it, too. None seem pleased. That’s too bad. Maybe, it needs to be revived.

I fondly remember David Roffman’s biting, perceptive editorials on the Georgetown scene and the wry, bemused look on his face. Gary Tischler has for decades provided great insight and storytelling, whatever the topic.

Mark Plotkin has been writing about the mayor’s race for the Georgetowner and will be doing so until the November election. He is a political analyst and contributor to the BBC on American politics.


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