I had the fortune to work for the Republican leadership of the U.S. Senate from 1999 to 2003. I got to run around on the Senate floor, act important, give senators advice, and watch them routinely reject that advice. It was great fun.
The highlight of my tenure as a Senate staffer was easily the the afternoon that I shuttled Milton and Rose Friedman from their hotel to the Senate and back again.
It was May 9, 2002, the day that Milton was honored both at the White House and at the Cato Institute’s 25th anniversary gala for his lifetime of service to the cause of human freedom. When I learned he would be in D.C., I opportunistically arranged a meeting between him and half a dozen senators so that Milton could share his ideas about health care.
Some cute memories stand out. I had to ask my two passengers to buckle up. When we arrived at the Senate, Milton and Rose – each standing about 5’2” tall – practically got stuck when they tried to step through the metal detector at the same time. I tried not to laugh as an enormous Capitol policeman repeatedly patted down the diminutive, apologetic, and 90-year-old Nobel laureate to find whatever deadly weapon Milton was trying to smuggle into the Capitol.
After Milton and the senators discussed health care, Sen. Don Nickles (R-OK) brought up the farm bill that the Senate had just passed. He and Milton had a lengthy exchange wherein Milton denounced the bill as a throwback to Soviet-style economic planning. On our way back to the hotel, I explained that Sen. Nickles had raised the issue to needle another senator, who sat right next to Milton at the meeting, had voted for the farm bill, and who uncomfortably stared at his hands throughout the entire exchange. Milton was unconcerned about the senator’s discomfort, asking only, “Why did he vote for that??”
That day in 2002 was the only face time I got with Milton and Rose. (Another highlight of my career came in 2005, when Milton wrote a blurb for a book that I co-authored.) Nevertheless, ever since he passed on Thursday, I can’t help feeling that I lost a great friend. Just another one of his gifts, I suppose.
Rest in peace.