Eight Reasons Why Congress Offers the Worst Job in America
2. You will be seventeen again -- and not in a good way.
Politicians like to describe their profession as "war." It conjures a portrait of courage, gallantry and hand-to-hand combat -- preferably featuring nicely oiled pectoral muscles. Which means it's a wholly unsuitable metaphor. When you fight by insulting people on TV, you're more Joan Rivers than George Patton.
After all, the dignified statesman does not stoop to fisticuffs. This is seen as inelegant -- not to mention scary. So you assault your foes with innuendo, misinformation, rumor and, of course, Photoshop.
In other words, it's just like high school.
In the last election, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce presumably hired the cast of Mean Girls to attack Sherrod Brown. In one ad, his photo was doctored with a five-o'clock shadow to make him look as if he'd just returned from a three-week bender while living under a bridge. Sherrod Brown: He doesn't even bathe.
Rumor works just as well, as West Virginia officials learned during the recent sign-up for Obamacare. Some residents resisted, having heard that it required the implanting of a chip in their bodies. This, apparently, was a deal-breaker.
You can even count on being undermined by your own party. Tancredo recalls the incessant pressure from leadership to toe the Republican line. On this job, independence is one of the graver signs, certain to leave lasting stains on your permanent record.
"The most serious threats they could muster is that you were going to ruin your career in this place," he says. "People there, that's the most enticing thing to them. I'd tell him, 'I don't want a career in this place. I don't even like this place.'"
Then there's the case of Congressman Vance McAllister (R-Louisiana). Last month, he was working late in his district office. This afforded him the opportunity to engage in a brief but festive makeout session with aide Melissa Peacock.
Problem No. 1: McAllister had appeared in campaign commercials with his wife and five children, promising to "defend our Christian way of life." (Most likely by renaming post offices after biblical greats.)
Problem No. 2: Ms. Peacock was married to someone other than Vance McAllister.
Problem No. 3: McAllister's amorous lip wrestling was caught on security tape. And leaked to a newspaper. Allegedly by someone on his own staff.
This Judas environment is to be expected. When an entire enterprise is built on avoiding accomplishment, backstabbing and palace intrigue become the sport of the realm.
DeConcini recently visited a Republican friend in Congress. "He told me how terrible it was," he says. "He said it was just awful, even in his own caucus. There's a gotcha feeling."
He then visited with a liberal Democrat. "He told me the same thing about the Democrats: 'I gotta have my way, and I gotta show that I'm tough.'"
But since everyone in Washington is busy being so not Washington, the toxicity of the job is always someone else's fault. Yes, crowing about "personal responsibility" plays before the cameras -- yet only amateurs dare practice it.
"Even members of Congress hate Congress," says an aide. "It's just that they each believe themselves to be the exception to the rule. Congress is not a team with a collective identity. It's a collection of individuals guided almost exclusively by ruthless self-interest."