Happy Birthday, Charlie Cook: “So You Don’t Think It’ll Be Hot Enough for You?”

Charlie Cook: insightful and entertaining

Charlie Cook, founder of the Cook Political Report, turns 65 today. What he’s accomplished, along with Amy Walter and the rest of his talented staff, is worth celebrating.

While Washington seems to become ever more heatedly partisan and journalism more and more focused on attitude and opinion, the Cook Political Report remains fair and balanced and the most valuable political site in the nation’s capital.

I had one lunch with Charlie and it was both a lot of fun and in Charlie’s inimitable Louisiana way memorable.

Charlie Cook continues to be the most insightful and entertaining writer and talker about politics in Washington. He founded the Cook Political Report in 1984, wrote for Roll Call, a Capitol Hill newspaper, from 1986 to 1998, and then moved his column over to the National Journal.

Ken DeCell, a longtime editor at The Washingtonian, is from Mississippi, where he grew up having a bottle of Coca Cola every morning for breakfast. He started editing at The Washingtonian in 1982 but took a break in the late 1980s to edit Roll Call. Charlie is from Louisiana and the two Southern boys hit it off.

After Ken came back to The Washingtonian, he set up a lunch with Charlie so the three of us could talk politics. We went to Cafe Atlantico, a downtown DC restaurant opened in 1995 by Jose Andres, now maybe the city’s most famous chef.

Cafe Atlantico specialized in “Nuevo Latino” cuisine and on the menu that day was “Jerk Chicken,” a dish Charlie knew from growing up in Louisiana.

When the waiter took our orders, Charlie ordered the Jerk Chicken and asked if it was hot.

“Pretty hot,” the  waiter said.

Charlie said, “Tell the kitchen to kick it up a little.”

After 15 minutes of drinks and talk, the food arrived. Ken and I were sitting across from Charlie and as we ate we could see Charlie’s face getting redder and redder with beads of perspiration on his forehead. I looked over at the waiter, who was standing nearby with a half-smile on his face.

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