Another Report from Seattle

This was another interesting day at the ATLA Convention.

This morning I went to a breakfast featuring Senator Gordon Smith (R-OR).  He gave a good talk, not particularly dynamic but very informative and given with obvious conviction.  Senator Smith’s remarks included telling us about the relatively recent suicide of his son, a young man who suffered from manic depression.  He gave each of us a copy of his book about his son; I have already started to read it and find it well-written, informative, and profoundly sad.  I had not met Senator Smith before the speech but found him to be an intelligent, pleasant man who appears to have an understanding of who he is and what he stands for.

I heard James Carville speak at lunch.  Carville is an dynamic speaker who can really pump a crowd already leaning toward his views.  He is very bright and truly believes what he says but tends to use outrageous examples and words to drive his point home.   I have had the pleasure of seeing Carville speak three or four times and meeting him twice.  He is much more reserved in person and it is easy to understand why candidates seek his advice.

But, I confess, the most interesting part of the day was dinner.  After a cocktail party at the Harbour Club overlooking Puget Sound (with a snow-covered Mt. Ranier to the south) I went to dinner with Senator Joe Biden.  I was invited to this event by Anthony Tarricone of Boston; the event was organized by Todd Smith of Chicago.  Todd  wasn’t feeling too well and could not attend so I ended up sitting next to his wife Marcia and she sat next to Sen. Biden.   The 18 of us had a private room at Troiani, an Italian restaurant on Third Avenue.

We not only had a great meal but were fortunate enough to get two uninterrupted hours of discussion with Senator Biden.  All of you have seen the Senator on Meet the Press and other such shows;  his knowledge on foreign affairs is palpable.  He allowed us to ask him questions during the entire meal.  The vast majority of the questions concerned the Middle East and energy policy; other questions included health care policy and the message of the Democratic Party in the upcoming elections.  We had a fascinating discussion about the senatorial race in Connecticut and about a discussion he had with the leader of an (unfriendly) foreign country in the days following the 9-11 tragedy.

I have always been impressed with Senator Biden and this evening was no exception.  I love politics and it is a thrill to have the opportunity to have two hours of frank discussion with a Senator.   I am forever grateful to my friend Anthony and his wife Wendy for permitting me to join them for the evening. 

Tomorrow is more CLE and networking.  Senator John Edwards will be speaking at lunch.  He is a gifted speaker (the VP debate notwithstanding) and I know he will do a great job tomorrow.

Those of you who have never been to an ATLA Convention need to do what you can to attend next year’s convention in Chicago.  This is my 23rd consecutive convention; my first one was in Seattle in 1984.  I attribute a good percentage of my success as a lawyer to what I have learned at ATLA programs.  More importantly, I have met lots of wonderful people from around the country at these events, people I now count among my closest friends.

I return to Nashville on Wednesday and will be back to more substantive posts on Thursday.