In 2002 I made a promise to myself that I would make the break from my employer before the next election rolled around. By April 2004 I was gone.
Recently, I read “The Garden of Agony”, an essay written in 1986 by Hunter S. Thompson, that perfectly describes that defining moment in 2002.
He works now as a political consultant in Washington, for $1000 a day, for either party or any candidate who can afford him. “Things are different now,” he told me last week. “The only thing that matters now is money. It’s so much worse than it was 10 years ago that you don’t even want to hear about it. This town is worse than it’s ever been. These new people have no shame. It’s like living in a whorehouse. I’m getting out.”
Then, one afternoon last last week, I got a call from my old friend Patrick Caddell, one of the ranking pollsters and wizards in the business, who stunned me by saying that he also was “quitting politics.”
“Don’t lie to me, Patrick, ” I said to him. “You were born in this business. It’s your life.”
“No more,” he replied. “The whole political system is a disaster area, and it’s getting worse. There are some very sick people in the business today. It has gone from the Best and Brightest to the Worst and Meanest. I got into politics because I believed in things; now I’m getting out for the same reason. It got so bad that I was feeling dirty all the time. I finally had a shower built into the office, but it didn’t do any good.”