“You covered Washington for so long,” I asked, “weren’t you ever tempted to go into politics yourself?”
“Once,” he answered. Sixty-five years earlier, when Izzy was in high school, the political “boss” of his class had offered him a place on the editorial board of the school paper ‘his dream job’ in return for campaign help. But whatever temptation Izzy felt was quickly overwhelmed by a wave of nausea and a vow never to approach active politics again.
I respected that sentiment, envied it, felt slightly shamed by it, but didn’t share it. My new work seemed too thrilling to renounce, and I was a natural at the game of politics: at knowing who knew what I needed to know, at absorbing the rhythms of legislative life by walking the halls, at preparing committee hearing questions for my boss that might get picked up by the press, at learning to anticipate his political needs and to use his position to advance my issues too, at succumbing to the lure of the closed room and the subtle power rush that comes from hearing words I wrote come out of someone else’s mouth.
A democracy needs people like Izzy on the outside to keep it honest, but it also needs people on the inside to make it work – people who will play the game for the sake of getting good things done. But you have to be careful. Your first deal is like your first scotch. It burns, might make you feel nauseous. If you’re like Izzy, once is enough. If you’re like me, you get to like it. Then to need it.
All Too Human