Jeff Sharlet has not only done us a great service by documenting the history, ideology and actions of the Family, he has also left us with some delightful descriptions of our legislative leaders. In his book The Family: The Secret Fundamentalism at the Heart of American Power, he offers this description of Republican Congressman Todd Tiahrt:
Tiahrt is a short shot glass of a man, two parts flawless hair and one part teeth.
That’s just great writing. And in a new article at Salon.com he quotes and updates his own description of Sen. John Ensign:
When I met Ensign, he was just back from a run, sweaty and bouncing in place, boasting about the time he’d clocked and teasing a young woman from his office. She seemed annoyed that the senator wouldn’t get himself into a shower and back on the job. When I wrote about Sen. Ensign in my book about the evangelical political organization that runs the C Street House, “The Family: The Secret Fundamentalism at the Heart of American Power,” I described him as a “conservative casino heir elected to the Senate from Nevada, a brightly tanned, hapless figure who uses his Family connections to graft holiness to his gambling-fortune name.”
Now, of course, I know I was wrong: John Ensign is a brightly tanned, hapless figure who used his Family connections to cover up the fruits of his flirtations, to make moral decisions for him, and to do his dirty work when his secret romance sputtered.
Good stuff. And by the way, journalists are not the only ones who describe politicians in such a manner – often, their own staff does. You’d be surprised what staffers will tell you when you’re just making conversation, especially if they’re out of earshot of the boss.
I had a staffer for one very prominent Republican congressman who has been all over the news lately tell me a few months ago when we were sitting in a green room together that his boss was not terribly bright and was easily captivated by empty and often absurd rhetorical phrases. He was rolling his eyes at his boss through most of the interview.