Washington In a Nutshell

C@L readers with a cynical view of Washington and an openness to crude humor may appreciate Andrew Ferguson’s, er, celebration of the McLaughlin Group’s 25th anniversary over at the Weekly Standard. (Warning: Disturbing imagery.) In it, Ferguson describes his one-day tenure as a staffer on the show:

For my first task he told me to work up a lead-in to a segment on some bit of legislative sausage grinding its way through Congress. “Cokie Roberts had an excellent report on the bill on NPR this morning,” he said. “I taped it to make it easiah on you. It’s all the background resuch you’ll need.”

I went back to another office carrying Dr. McLaughlin’s handheld recorder. He had evidently propped it against his radio speaker to record the tape that morning. “Considerate of the old bastard,” I thought, pressing the play button. I heard Cokie’s swampy voice explaining the doings on the Hill. And then I heard water rushing, and a clatter of ceramic, and a mysterious release of air, and I realized that the doctor had made the tape in the bathroom. I was hearing his morning ablutions: the gush of faucets running and the honk-honk of nasal passages clearing and the rumble of phlegm rising and … much worse. Scraps of show tunes hummed off-key competed against every noise the human organism is capable of producing at that hour of the day, and together they threatened to drown out Cokie’s report: “The prognosis, critics say, is still a matter of PHLOOOTH!” At times I could barely make out what she was saying. I’d rewind the tape only to hear some new intimate eruption. I shut off the recorder after four or five minutes. I wrote up the lead-in as best I could and walked back to his darkened lair.

He was eating an enormous platter of steak and eggs from the restaurant downstairs. “Did you learn anything, Andrew?” he said from behind his desk, with a half smile. He dabbed his thumb and forefinger on the napkin tucked into his collar.

“It’s hazing,” one of the assistants told me later that morning. “He’s establishing the parameters of your relationship. This way you know who’s in the dominant position. He can embarrass you, but you can’t embarrass him. That’s the key: He refuses to be embarrassed.”

The anecdote absolutely speaks volumes about life in Washington. Idealistic young people beware: this is what awaits you in DC.

Added bonus McLaughlin Group parody featuring Dana Carvey here.