David Margolick’s forthcoming Vanity Fair piece has a number of choice nuggets in addition to those quoted below. Pull up a chair.
It’s true that Sen. Conrad Burns (R-MT) gets a drubbing. But Rep. Bob Ney (R-OH) comes out looking even worse.
Margolick writes: “In their heydey, he and Abramoff played golf together, traveled together, philosophized together. Ney was one of the few elected officials Abramoff invited to the Bar Mitzvah of one of his three sons.” Like Burns, Ney frequented Signatures – “Ney was a ‘sushiholic,’ one eyewitness recalls.”
And here’s where it gets sad. Monty Warner, a Republican media strategist says, “I can remember Ney coming up and groveling [at Abramoff’s table at Signatures], saying how much he enjoyed a golf outing or skybox or ball game, and really appreciated Jack’s support.”In addition to his time “philosophizing” with Ney, Abramoff passed some similarly ruminative time with Rep. Tom DeLay (R-OH). Says Abramoff:
“We would sit and talk about opera. We would sit and talk about golf. I mean, we talked about philosophy and politics…. I didn’t spend a lot of time lobbying Tom for things, because the things I worked on were usually consistent with the conservative philosophy, and I knew Tom would be supportive.”
Not much of an exoneration for DeLay, I’d say. You might read it as saying that DeLay was so deep in his pocket that Abramoff didn’t even need to lobby him.
The piece also has more on Abramoff’s connection to Karl Rove, his line to the White House:
“An eyewitness … recalls seeing Abramoff emerge from a car near the White House and have what looked like a pre-arranged, street-corner meeting with Rove; Abramoff says he can’t recall that.”
“Rove dined several times at Signatures and was Abramoff’s guest in the owner’s box at the N.C.A.A. basketball playoffs a few years ago, sitting for much of the game by Abramoff’s side.”
And there’s an irresistible nugget on Burns, in addition to the “cafeteria” crack that’s been going around. In response to Burns’ statement that he wished Abramoff had never been born, Abramoff says, “That’s quite a statement coming from a pro-life Republican.”
Of Abramoff’s now deteriorated relationship with Reed, Margolick writes, “The two are now estranged; when [Grover] Norquist got married last year, Reed steered clumsily clear of Abramoff’s table.”
And I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that an unnamed “someone” in the piece refers to Abramoff’s business partner and former DeLay aide Michael Scanlon as “Abramoff’s evil elf.”
But the article is most valuable for the window it provides into Abramoff’s mind. Wonder what all that philosophizing was about with Ney and DeLay? Here’s a glimpse into Jack’s personal philosophy: “If it’s worth doing, it’s worth overdoing.” Abramophiles ought to also know that the depth of Abramoff’s religious conversion to Orthodoxy springs from seeing the 1971 Fiddler on the Roof as a young lad, upon which he was spurred to “reclaim his Jewish heritage.”
Abramoff is nothing if not candid about the mass Republican amnesia that’s struck D.C.: “Any important Republican who comes out and says they didn’t know me is almost certainly lying.” He adds:
“For a guy who did all these evil things that have been so widely reported, it’s pretty amazing, considering I didn’t know anyone… You’re really no one in this town unless you haven’t met me.”
One staggering detail: When Susan Schmidt first reported in the Washington Post on the enormous fees Abramoff was getting from Indian tribes, the story that triggered his downfall, Abramoff was sanguine: “the Post was really accusing him of no more than making lots of money. He even weighed posting the piece on his Web site.”
As for his punishment, Abramoff just doesn’t see the point in prison: “I can’t perpetrate anything, so what does putting me in prison do?… Put me to work as a teacher in an inner-city school. Let me teach English, history, music. Or let me sweep floors at the reservation. Instead you’ll be paying to feed me to sit in a jail. It’s stupid.”
But apparently Abramoff already thinks of himself as fulfilling some kind of public service: “The exposure of my lobbying practice, the absurd amount of media coverage, and the focus – for the first time – on this sausage-making factory that we call Washington will ultimately help reform the system, or at least so I hope.”