Saturday, November 13, 2010

This one is fun

I really enjoyed this well-written little bit of snark. You should read the whole thing if you're even mildly interested in how politics plays among those who are in Washington for reasons of ego rather than principle; but if you're the kind of person whose mind instantly turns off when it sees words like "neoconservative," then here's a nonpolitical excerpt for you:
What makes Beinart’s campaign of self-promotion conspicuous—week after week, year after year-—is its utter lack of inhibition. There’s a kind of insouciance to it.

As far as I know, it first came to general notice in a brief biographical sketch that Beinart circulated early in his career. Having climbed over the bloody, dismembered carcasses of his co-workers and mentors, Beinart was named editor of the New Republic in 1999, at the dewy age of 28. His self-written bio made unsurprising mention of an undergraduate degree (Yale), a Rhodes Scholarship (Oxford), and a master’s degree in international relations (ditto). And then, deathlessly, there was this: “Beinart won a Marshall Scholarship (declined).”

That “(declined)” became a much-loved inside joke among Beinart watchers, a large and contented group who have known ever since that their man always repays scrutiny.


I’ve never met him nor spoken to him, as far as I recall, but—if you’ll forgive a closing personal note—I do cherish a single, vivid memory of him.

I was living the life of Riley as a writer at Bloomberg News at the time. I returned from lunch to find a voicemail message from Beinart, then the editor of the New Republic. The message commenced with 90 seconds of flattery, densely packed, followed by an insistence that I had to write for his magazine, simply had to. Did I have any ideas? Of course, I had ideas...someone of my stature. He had ideas of his own, though they could only pale next to mine. Perhaps lunch would be in order? He had never dared allow himself to dream that such a transcendent experience would be available to him, but if I might find time...

It had never occurred to me that there could be such a thing as too much flattery, no matter how insincere. I discovered then that my upper limit is about 45 seconds. We were well into overtime when I figured out what was coming next.

Each year Bloomberg News followed the annual White House Correspondents Dinner with a sumptuous “afterparty,” held in a Beaux Arts mansion ringed by rope lines to hold back the hordes who couldn’t get in. Invitations were restricted to Hollywood celebrities, powerful newsfolk, top-of-the-chop politicians, and, grudgingly, employees of Bloomberg News.

My faithful fan made noises as if to ring off. And then came the sudden turn, in a voice that had the texture of Vaseline: “Oh, one other thing. You know it’s so odd, but I’m embarrassed to admit that I’ve never been to the Bloomberg Party! You don’t suppose...”

My colleagues enjoyed the message as much as I did, and the Beinart legend grew. Even more satisfying was the thought of the word that best described his request: declined.


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