“I said, ‘Here, let me take that. You get in the picture with your wife,’” Isakson said.
The next thing he knew there were 10 people waiting for him to take their picture with the Capitol behind them, so he took them all.
“It’s been more fun than a barrel of monkeys,” the Georgia senator said about the barrage of constituents who converged on Washington for Tuesday’s inauguration of President Barack Obama.
But, the hospitality Isakson showed those people in taking their pictures is the same hospitality that was being shown throughout the nation’s capital as people stood in lines that wrapped around the legislative office buildings, waiting to pick up tickets to the swearing-in ceremony from their elected officials.
The office of U.S. Sen. Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., received ticket requests as early as January 2008, said Ashley Nelson, his press secretary.
“We had over 30,000 ticket requests and had to just keep a running list,” Nelson said. “We had less than 400 to give out.”
So, after allotting tickets to a few community leaders, the rest were doled out to Chambliss’ constituents Monday.
“We’ve had a steady stream all day,” Nelson said. “It’s always good to have Georgians stop by.”
The situation was no different in Isakson’s office.
“I know there has never been a demand like this for tickets,” Isakson said. “We got 21,000 ticket requests, but only had 393 to give out.”
After office staffers gave out a few to select community leaders, they then allotted 155 pairs for Georgia residents.
And, in between meeting constituents, Isakson took a few minutes to elaborate on the occasion of Obama’s inauguration.
“It is a historic day to think that a country that started out at a time when slavery existed, 60 years later started a civil war and 150 years later elected an African-American president of the United States. It is the promise of America,” Isakson said, emphasizing that although he didn’t vote for Obama, he prays for him every night. “I want him to be a success because when our president is successful, our country is successful.”
He also praised the speed in which Obama put together his Cabinet and many of the choices he made.
On his high list was Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., who is expected to be confirmed shortly as secretary of state, and Arne Duncan, Obama’s pick for secretary of education.
Although he calls Secretary of Treasury nominee Timothy Geithner “brilliant,” he does have his concerns.
“That’s a pretty serious thing not to pay taxes and be over the IRS,” Isakson said about the nominee’s oversight on his personal taxes. “I don’t think they would give me a pass like that.”
Isakson also expressed his concerns about Obama’s economic stimulus plan.
“We passed a $150 billion stimulus in March of last year, then put $700 billion in the banking system,” he said. “The Federal Reserve, outside of Congress, has put something like $2 or $3 trillion out there either in the form of guarantees or money. I worry that if you just throw money at the problem without treating the root of the problem, you’re not going to ever solve the problem, but you’re going to deflate the dollar.”
A better option, Isakson said, would be to give taxpayers a meaningful tax credit on the purchase of single-family homes.
“Any American family that buys a house and live in it as their home, give them a $15,000 tax credit,” he said. “People aren’t going to feel like it’s reached the bottom until they see people out buying houses. And they are not going to buy houses until we give them an incentive to do so. If we will do that, it’s not a silver bullet, but it does stabilize the root of the problem and give us a way to build out.”
But, on Tuesday the inauguration was the big topic in Washington. The rest will wait until today when the inauguration is over and all the ball gowns have been packed away. That’s when the real work starts.