I'd been in journalism about two weeks when I realized I would do just about anything to avoid writing, and over the years I have. One morning, with a 5,000-word profile due in two hours, I decided to wash every window in the basement. When the Windex ran out, I picked up half a grocery bag full of sunflower seed hulls from underneath the bird feeder, then did the dishes. I filed that piece late. Other times I've hidden from the blank screen by rearranging books (when I'm feeling really neurotic, alphabetically by author), paying bills, writing letters, returning calls from demented readers who've left complaints on my machine. I reached a new low this summer when I read every article in the New York Times' "Dining In" section before finally starting work on a piece about the Illinois Senate race.
Most of the time, though, I play with my dogs, especially the little one, a spaniel, who sleeps in front of my desk at home when I'm trying to write. We play a game called dog ball. The rules are simple: I bounce a tennis ball off at least one surface in the room, and she has to catch it. Last year we broke a picture and knocked a cup of cold coffee onto the carpet in a single morning. She loves it.
I'm sad to say we haven't played much dog ball recently, for the same reason most American families don't have conversations after dinner: television. I just got one in my office at home. For procrastination, there's nothing like it. I'll never wash a window again.
After lunch today, I sat down to begin a piece on Dottie Lamm, the longtime first lady of Colorado, who is running for the Senate against Ben Nighthorse Campbell. I marched in the Labor Day parade with Lamm last week in Denver and came home with a notebook full of relatively interesting quotes and vignettes. (Dottie's a talker.) I didn't even turn on my computer. Instead, I grabbed the remote and flipped to my soap opera. In today's episode, the president of the United States went to a press conference and tried to avoid explaining how he and Monica Lewinsky could have both told the truth to the grand jury even though each testified to wildly different versions of the same events. His answer seemed to be, "Well, the president of Brazil called me the other day and said I was doing a great job. Let's not get caught up in the details." An utterly compelling show. I can't wait to find out what happens tomorrow.
Went to CNN to contribute to the blather, then headed to work in the late afternoon. Arrived to find the latest offering from Salon sitting on my chair. Someone in the office had pulled it off the Web and printed a copy for me, apparently in an effort to ruin my day. It worked. Henry Hyde, home wrecker? Call me naive but I was shocked to learn he'd had an affair. I like Henry Hyde. What a crappy thing to do.
And what a crappy thing to print. I immediately called someone I know who works at Salon. I can't believe you guys would run something like that, I said. What could possibly be the justification? He didn't offer one. He sounded embarrassed. Unsatisfied--it's no fun being a hothead if the person you're barking at agrees with you--I resolved to call David Talbot, the editor of Salon, tomorrow. I don't know Talbot, but he's the one who wrote the piece, and I figured I might be able to make him uncomfortable, or at least feel better trying. Then I went home.
After dinner it was back to the computer and another attempt at the Lamm story. Naturally, I turned on the television. (My spaniel looked hurt.) There on the screen, coincidence of the week, was Talbot, doing his best to provide a justification for the Hyde story. It's not that we're in favor of exposing the seamy details of people's private lives, Talbot was saying. No, not at all. It's just that in Hyde's case it couldn't be helped. After all, Talbot explained, one must consider "the key position Mr. Hyde holds in the whole impeachment process." In other words, Hyde happened to run the wrong committee at the wrong time. So we crushed him.
Talk about a creepy explanation. Almost as creepy as Talbot himself. On television, he came off as exactly the kind of person who would make the argument he was making--whiny, pompous, thoroughly featherweight. It was a long four minutes. By the end, I didn't feel like calling him anymore. I turned off the tube and got to work on Lamm.
Tucker Carlson is a staff writer for the Weekly Standard.