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Political commentary from Andrew Malcolm

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News Flash: Good-looking people DO live in D.C.

The Nation's Capital is used to being unloved.

Built on the northern edge of a humid subtropical climate zone, it featured large swaths of mosquito-infested land when Congress opened for business in the city in 1800. It was hardly a prime destination spot; in his classic 1968 book, "The Washington Community, 1800-1828," historian James Sterling Young found in the writings of early lawmakers acid descriptions of the environment. Many were loath to come to the town and could not wait to return home; for some, the horrid living conditions were reason enough to retire from public office.

Property values weren't helped when, during the War of 1812, British soldiers burned and gutted several buildings, including the White House, in retaliation for the American sacking of Toronto. After that little tiff was over, for decades the British diplomats assigned to Washington received hardship pay because of the prevalence of malaria.

For decades, of course, politicians of every stripe have dined out by campaigning against "the mess in Washington." And the city has earned itself several none-too-complimentary labels.

John F. Kennedy, in particular, liked to characterize it as having "the charm of the North and the efficiency of the South." In recognition of its long-struggling --- and ultimately defunct --- baseball team, the Senators, a once-popular phrase went: "Washington, first in war, first in peace, and last in the American League. (With the city's new team, the tag still applies by simply substituting National League for American League.)

And then there's this description of Washington, which has gained currency of late: "Hollywood for ugly people."

Ouch. But at least on this front, there can be some debate. Just check out the latest installment of one of the most eagerly awaited annual features in D.C. journalism, the list of Capitol Hill's 50 Most Beautiful People, as compiled by the keen-eyed observers at The Hill newspaper.

We can't quibble with a single choice. We do note, though, that a quite a few come from California.

-- Don Frederick

   

 
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About the Columnist
A veteran foreign and national correspondent, Andrew Malcolm has served on the L.A. Times Editorial Board and was a Pulitzer finalist in 2004. He is the author of 10 nonfiction books and father of four. Read more.
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