…You read every single word of this 470,000,000,000,000,000-word article about Congressional staffer-turned-lobbyist-turned-staffer-turned-bridge-burner Jeff Connaughton.
I used to avoid reading insider joints like this. I used to skim the first page, shrug, and open up a novel: truer insights into power there, I thought.
But something clicked, and there I was, perched over this profile like it was a celebrity divorce tell-all.
Which it kind of is.
There’s passion, as when young collegiate Connaughton saw Biden speak on campus:
Here was tragedy, here was energy, here was oratory—just like the Kennedys. … The last time he dropped Biden off at the Birmingham airport, he made a promise: ‘If you ever run for President, I’m going to be there.”
Suspense: does young Jeff ever get his wish?
More passion: Why does Biden spur his young loyalist so??
More suspense: Why is the article spending so long on Connaughton’s lobbyist days? Where is this going?
Tragedy: Jeff loses everything on a bum deal on South American real estate whose he shoulda been smart enough to see.
Connaughton was happy that Obama and Biden were in office, but he was pissed off about the state of the country. He was angry at the bankers, lawyers, and accountants on Wall Street who had kicked aside the laws and rules and codes of behavior that he believed in. He was angry at both political parties for letting it happen. He was angry at the S.E.C., the ratings agencies, and the other regulators who hadn’t done their jobs. He was angry on behalf of the middle class, especially Baby Boomers.
And, in an election year referendum on the 2008 Obama, a fable for those who believe that idealism alone can dent the echelons of power.
Connaughton’s financial reform bill (he helped write it for the nothing-to-lose Biden-replacement Ted Kaufman) failed. Never even got out the gate. Killed by Wall Street lobbyists.
So our workhorse hero retired to Savannah and wrote a book about his experiences.
Most profiles of power focus on the dudes we know about: Obama, W., Lyndon Johnson. Very few of them focus on the guys who make this power happen. Who devote their lives to being number 2 or 4 on the staff. Whose lives are transformed by their failure to make their dreams for society come true.
I wish the article had offered a bit more about Connaughton’s emotional journey than “he was mad.” But I’m nitpicking. All girly of me, to want to know more about his feelings.
Still, this portrait of Washington power is worth your time and money.