"The Washingtonian is too sophisticated to believe any more in solutions. He is bred to the idea that life offers no soluble problems, but only unpleasant alternatives, some of which are less unpleasant than others. This makes him a professional and accounts for the glazed look which quickly betrays him in, say, a typical New York conversation about world problems after someone has announced that everything would turn out happily if only people would love one another."
-- Russell Baker, from "It's Middletown-on-the Potomac" in the New York Times Magazine (1965)
At the moment, I'm reading the book, Katherine Graham's Washington. It very different from her first book, the incredibly wonderful Pulitzer-Prize winner, Personal History -- highly recommended, as much a history book of the 20th century as a charming, yet riveting memoir. Graceful, but open and honest. This second book is a huge (800 pages) collection of short pieces about Washington, D.C., each with introductions written by Graham, to put them all in perspective.
The book is consistently full of fascinating excerpts about Washington and politics in general, and it occurred to me that I should quote from them, from time to time, as well as other books, that don't necessarily require any commentary, but just are rich on their own. Here's the first one --
"If you think too much about being reelected, it is very difficult to be worth reelecting. You are so apt to forget that the comparatively small number of persons, numerous as they seem to be when they swarm, who come to Washington to ask for things, do not constitute an important portion of the population.of the country, that it is constantly necessary to come away from Washington and renew one's contacts with the people who do not swarm there, who do not ask for anything, but who do trust you without their personal counsel to do your duty. Unless a man gets these contacts, he grows weaker and weaker. He needs them as Hercules needed the touch of mother earth. If you lifted him up too high or he lifts himself up too high, he loses the contact and therefore loses the inspiration."
-- Edward G. Lowrey, The Washington Scene from Washington Close-Ups (1921)
Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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