It’s a hell of a challenge: You’re here on a real trip to Our Nation’s Capital in order to take part in a pretend protest led by a pair of faux-news personalities. What to do during that chunk of the trip you won’t spend yukking it up on the National Mall with Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert?
Oh, sure, you could get all earnest, like you did back at the Obama inauguration, taking in hallowed sights like the Lincoln Memorial, or the National Archives, with its original copies of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence. But where’s the fun in that? After all, you’re here for an elaborate political pantomime, not to wait in line for civics lessons like some sort of tea-partying rube.
Luckily, Washington City Paper is here to help. With our official Ironists’ Guide to Washington, D.C., we pick out the zaniest stops for your fake-protest itinerary. Because, here in the District, there’s no reason to stop the phony politicking just because you’ve left the Mall.
This fast-changing neighborhood is most relevant in Daily Show circles for being the childhood home of Michael Steele, Republican National Committee chairman and reliable televisual punching-bag. Take in the ambiance that helped make Steele the statesman he is today. Taunt neighbors by chanting the local son’s most famous line: “Drill, baby, drill!” (Note: if passers-by are young professionals pushing expensive strollers, they likely come from Petworth’s burgeoning population of gentrifiers. In their case, shout “Bar and grill, baby, bar and grill!”)
This venerable park, also known as Malcolm X Park, hosts Washington’s only statue of James Buchanan, who many historians believe was America’s worst president. Imagine what fun a 19th-century version of The Daily Show could have had with Buchanan’s dithering response to the panic of 1857! Of course, right-wing hard-liners would say the reviled Buchanan is better than Barack Obama. Prove your sanity-restoring, conservative-mocking bona fides by visiting the 15th president’s statue and spitting on it.
In August, when thousands of Glenn Beck admirers came to town, one Tea Party guide warned visitors to stay away from these subway lines entirely, for safety reasons. The issue? Unclear, but it just might have something to do with the lines going through several predominantly black neighborhoods. Show your non-racism by riding each line from end to end at least twice. Also, to help our cash-strapped Metrorail system, exit and re-board at each stop, paying your fare each time.
There are quite a few comedy-oriented reasons to visit the Reagan Building—for one, it was the most expensive federal office ever constructed, despite its namesake’s claims to fiscal restraint. But the best reason is that the Capitol Steps frequently perform in the amphitheater there. This group, before Jon Stewart came along, was what passed for political satire. Wow your friends by using the backdrop to tape your own a capella ditties about McCain-Feingold.
Until he went a little nuts on Bill O’Reilly’s Fox News show recently, this was where Juan Williams spent his workdays. In case he drops by to pick up his final paycheck, stand outside in a burqa so you can scare him away. Then quickly cash the paycheck so you can dine out in style.
6. 133 C St. SE
This brick rowhouse, sponsored by a conservative Christian organization dedicated to preserving traditional values has been the home to Nevada Sen. John Ensign, South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford, and former Mississippi Rep. Chip Pickering. Unsurprisingly, all were great moralizers. More interestingly, all three residents turned out to be great philanderers, too! Careful: Merely walking by may be enough to make you cheat on your partner and then get all preachy about how we must protect the family.
This was once the home of Signatures, a fancy restaurant owned by GOP powerbroker-turned-felon Jack Abramoff. When Republicans ran the federal government, Abramoff would comp members of Congress to big steaks and stiff drinks. After he went to jail, it became D’Acqua, an Italian restaurant; when the Republican-designed economy collapsed, D’Acqua closed. Take ironic photos of the now-vacant interior. That’ll show ‘em.
This nondescript building hosts the diplomatic mission of the country where President Obama was not born, but where an alarming number of your fellow citizens swear angrily that he was. Just for fun, see if you can talk an embassy official into showing you his birth certificate.
9. Fox News Bureau (400 North Capitol St. NW)
The great war on Socialism is waged from this bland office building near Union Station. Oddly, however, the broadcasts of MSNBC and C-SPAN also originate from the same building. Don’t forget to wear your American flag lapel pin on the fifth floor, where Fox’s studio is; make sure not to wear the pin on the other floors.
10. CNN Bureau (820 1st St. NE)
On Oct. 15, 2004, Jon Stewart appeared on CNN’s Crossfire and demanded it “stop hurting America” with its knee-jerk reductions of every major issue to political talking points. The show was soon canceled. Six years later, the network only shows thoughtful documentaries about public policy. Use your visit here as a chance to reflect on Stewart’s previous efforts to improve the country.
If you’re here for the Stewart/Colbert rally, the Tea Party already thinks you’re a puppet of George Soros and America-hating agenda that led Soros to immigrate to America and become engaged in civic life. Stop by and ask for $50. When they say no, that’ll prove those conspiracy-theorists wrong once and for all. (Or will it? That denial could all be an elaborate ruse…)
A portrait of Stephen Colbert hung here from November 2008 until September 2009, when it was moved from a display in the museum’s “National Treasures of Popular Culture” collection to “the Smithsonian collection.” Which is to say, those perfidious big-government curators have the picture in a storage locker somewhere! Demand the portrait be restored to its rightful place.
This massive tribute to the power of the First Amendment was planned years ago—before anyone realized just how screwed the journalism industry was. Soon enough, it’ll be all that’s left to remind Americans that they used to get their news more than 140 characters at a time. Stop by for a visit, and laugh as you realize that most professional reporters can no longer afford to pay the $19.95 admission fee.
14. Lafayette Square
This was the site of one of the first Tea Party gatherings, on April 15, 2009. It ended early when someone teabagged the White House. (And by “teabagged,” we mean threw a box of teabags over a fence.) Make up your own sign about how un-American things are all around you, and wave it wildly—someone is sure to show up and start agreeing. Plus, if your sign-waving gets captured by TV cameras, there’s a one-in-seven chance you could end up with a GOP congressional nomination somewhere.
15. FDR Memorial
Don’t be fooled by the government propaganda here about the 32nd president of the United States—Franklin Delano Roosevelt was just another Progressive chump who helped prolong the Great Depression! That’s what Glenn Beck told us, at least. Show the world you disagree by swimming in the memorial’s fountain. You’ll strike an even bigger blow against Insanity if you do your swimming in the nude.
The official story is that this is where the government prints money, from the lowly $1 bill to the $100. But if you watch Fox News, you know better: Gold is the only way to go! Stop by and tell the fools waiting in line for a tour that everything in the building is worthless. Demonstrate just how worthless by burning the contents of your wallet while praising Glenn Beck and Goldline spokesman G. Gordon Liddy.
A private club conveniently located next to the Republican National Committee headquarters and an easy walk across the street from several House office buildings that’s likely to be much, much busier after the November elections than it is now. In the meantime, see if you can order some arugula.
According to angry congressional candidates across the country, many of the nation’s worst decisions are made over drinks at the nefarious “Georgetown cocktail parties” that the denizens of this neighborhood throw seven nights a week. No invitations necessary: You only have to demonstrate your elitist disdain for hard-working ordinary Americans.
Bonus Ironic Activity:
Listen to 95.5 FM WPGC While You’re Here: This station was Glenn Beck’s employer when he moved to the Washington area in 1983. Back then, it played mostly Top 40; now, it’s one of D.C.’s two hip-hop stations. Try to imagine Beck introducing the latest hit from Drake.