Connie Schultz knows the drill. She's the author of And His Lovely Wife, a memoir of campaigning with her husband, Senator Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio). Though she may be a Pulitzer Prize-winning syndicated columnist, she's well acquainted with what's known as the "D.C. scalp stare" — the practice of looking over the head of the person with whom you're speaking, preparing to leap at first sight of someone more important entering your field of vision.

"People are always looking over your shoulder as you're talking to them to see who else is coming in," she says. "It's ambitious, and it can be so impersonal."

6. Wasn't I supposed to get 252 days off this year?

Technically, you were. The House is scheduled to meet only 113 days this year, making this the easiest job since the invention of trophy wives. But most members believe that if they're not in constant demand, "they're slipping into obscurity," says one staffer.

So they're off to the airport every Thursday night, flying home to a new schedule of parades, manufacturing tours, town hall events, and meetings. Always more meetings.

Fridays and Saturdays are spent touring the state, playing the resident dignitary at Eagle Scout ceremonies and business openings. It's a grueling schedule, especially if you represent a more populous state. Brown, for example, must answer to the needs of 11 million people. "You have a lot of people who want your time," Schultz says.

Nor does the work week finally end when the clock ticks five on Saturday evening. "It is a 24/7 job," says former senator Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas). "You're always on call for the emergencies that occur. There are people who are trapped on the top of mountains. There are people who are taken hostage. It could be Sunday. It could be Saturday at 2 a.m."

Someone, somewhere will want you to immediately mobilize the government.

And they'll still be calling you a lazy swine two weeks from now.

5. You will beg treasure from complete strangers.

This is what Washingtonians euphemistically call "strategic outreach."

A leaked PowerPoint presentation from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee shows the party urging incoming freshmen to spend at least four hours per day soliciting money. Since it's considered gauche — and likely illegal — to mooch contributors from the office, this means slipping away to party headquarters, where your dialing finger develops calluses worthy of an Indonesian call center.

Yet dial you must. This job is a purely capitalist pursuit. He who stockpiles the most loot wins 91 percent of the time. And raising money for the party directly correlates to the prestige of your committee assignments. Beg with insufficient zeal, and you'll find yourself chairing the Subcommittee on Gardening & Lawn Care Products.

Democratic senator Dennis DeConcini spent 18 years representing Arizona before becoming a lobbyist. Whenever election time neared, his treasurer would "give me a list of people to call, with the names of their wives and where their kids went to college. And that's what I did all weekend — call people."

"You're having to ask people all the time to fund your career," Schultz adds. "What other profession is like that?"

This may explain the devolving reputation of Congress, whose approval rating now flutters at just 13 percent. You have to be deeply committed to the cause — or equally willing to debase yourself – to even consider this job.

Asks Democrat Bob Graham, a former senator and governor from Florida: "How many people would feel comfortable being handed 100 telephone numbers of people you don't know and calling them up and asking them for $1,000?"

4. You probably suck at parenting.

The crushing schedule leaves you primed for charges of familial abandonment. Most legislators get just one day a week with the spouse and kids.

When people ask Tancredo whether they should run for office, he answers with a simple question: "I say, 'Well, do you like your family?'"

He relates the tale of a fellow congressman, a father of five whose work left little time for home. One day, the man's 5-year-old found a videotape of Dad speaking and plugged it into the VCR. The boy's younger brother had seen so little of his father that he tried to hug his image on TV.

Connie Morella had it easier than most — if it's possible to describe a mother of nine's life as "easy." When her sister died of cancer, the Republican congresswoman and her husband — who already had three children — adopted her sister's six kids. But at least she represented nearby Maryland.

She recalls hustling to PTA meetings and back-to-school nights, where her kids were forced to compete with constituents for her attention. It left her with a lingering sense of guilt. "Oh, yes," she says. "Children had to sacrifice to be in political families."

Much worse is the ache in parents who represent distant states. In the old days, legislators could keep their families intact by moving them to D.C. But as disgust for Congress grew, so began an arms race to demonstrate who could be less Washington than the next guy.

Think of it as a weird form of one-upmanship for people with deficit self-awareness. If you're a member of Congress, after all, you're the very embodiment of Washington.

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16 comments
ConcernedCitizenAZ
ConcernedCitizenAZ topcommenter

DeConcini - Mr. CCA -  mass incarcerating Arizona's people, with his private prison profiteer cronies. Shameful. Profiting off human misery is unethical and immoral. 

Doug Cleland
Doug Cleland

I thought Phoenix Arizona was ran by the Teabilly party.

ricksteinheiser
ricksteinheiser

Great article. It's a wonder we've made it nearly 250 years as a country

JoeArpaioFan
JoeArpaioFan

I can think of many reasons why Obama must be impeached for breaking the law.

fsmith3
fsmith3

Tancredo was one of the most notorious nutcases in Congress.  He ran for president for a few weeks where he was most noted for saying he didn't believe in evolution.  He was more anti-Hispanic than Sheriff Joe.


DiConcini until very recently was a board member for the corrupt for-profit prison operator Corrections Corporation of America, resigning only when he began to get picketed.

Cozz
Cozz topcommenter

Public F-ing leaches is all they are.

Cris Cross
Cris Cross

Poor little f-ing Crooks. They should all be fired

fishingblues
fishingblues topcommenter

It seems that much of the time wasted is on lobbyists.  Take the money out of politics and you immediately excise the lobbyists.  


Meetings are not evil and a waste in and of themselves.  People are the time wasters.  Short, efficient, concise and purposeful meetings require a no nonsense leader and a specified time limit.  


Washington can be fixed.  We need to stop electing lawyers and other bloviators and start electing business managers.  But we better do it soon.


Electing more inept and clueless obamas will lead us down the road to destruction.  I only hope the country and the world survives the next two years.      

Electrica
Electrica

@fishingblues "People are the time wasters." WELL! Don't waste your time talking to people you space alien fuck!

Electrica
Electrica

@fishingblues Go blow yourself up in a fake war you bastard. Go suck Rush Limbaugh's big fat cigar. You deserve it.

ConcernedCitizenAZ
ConcernedCitizenAZ topcommenter

@fishingblues No the "faux" Iraq war, we should never have been, with their Patriot Act taking away the peoples' right set up down the path of self-destruction and trillions of dollars, with no end in sight. Thank Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz and those who supported them. If they hadn't been such a devastating failure, Obama would never have won. Blame yourselves.

fsmith3
fsmith3

Simple solutions for simple minds.

fishingblues
fishingblues topcommenter

@ConcernedCitizenAZ


Just out of curiosity, do you ever post anything that is not bat-shit crazy?


Damn, no one I know liked the Iraq war.  Do you think you own that issue?


I've heard obama and the loony libs blame Bush for every failure, now you are saying it was Bush's fault that obama was elected?  


Jazus!  

 
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