Washington Encounters: Perils of … the Elevator


It had been a long day, by the time I slipped out towards the end of a two hour late afternoon event on (what else?) Iran held at the Hudson Institute in downtown Washington’s K-Street corridor, down the street from the White House. After nabbing a bottle of water for the road, I pressed the down elevator button in the foyer between the two Hudson Institute sixth floor offices, and then waited, and waited, and waited for one of the five elevators to arrive. Minutes went by. At some point, another guy came out of the Iran conference, to wait for the elevator down.

“Interesting event,” I offered.

“We had a good Iran event at Middle East Institute last week,” he replied.

“It was great. Lots of people from the region,” I responded.

And we continued to wait for the elevator in the foyer.

Just then, a slender, wizened, besuited type carrying a brief case, came into the foyer to wait for the elevator with us. And I double-taked. It was none other than I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, the former chief of staff to vice president Cheney, the subject of the big trial you might have heard about, and for my purposes, a major player in the life of someone whose memoir afterword I wrote.

Naturally, I asked Libby, now a fellow at Hudson, and looking a lot thinner than at the trial last year, about what was up with the elevators.

At that very moment, the light on the downward arrow for the elevators went from “lit” to dark.

“It’s like lighting a cigarette,” Libby said, as the doors of one of the elevators opened, and we all got on.

I stared at the brown pointed pumps of one of the women already on the elevator.

“So you guys are having [State Department Iraq coordinator David] Satterfield tomorrow?” I asked the guy from Middle East Institute. Libby tilted his chin in our direction.

The MEI guy shrugged. He was new and didn’t know about it.

The elevators opened to the lobby, and Libby politely waited for the rest of us get out first, and then spill outside into the darkness of the street. There, just a couple blocks from his old office in the White House, but a world away from the prison sentence he was spared, Libby headed to get his car retrieved from underground parking.

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