The Breakfast Table

Idiot Boxing

How much? A lot, almost entirely in our professional lives. Who could have had a conversation with another journalist or politician the week your piece on Ken Starr came out? This is not a bad thing (good for you, certainly). It keeps the pot stirred up. (Was it Allan Bloom who wrote a book saying that if you don’t have a common canon, you can’t have a civilized conversation?) But it does foster a closed system, conventional wisdom congealing until we’re all knee deep in it. Certainly, on TV. Say something outside the box there and everyone looks at you like you’ve set off a stink bomb.

I read the nonfiction I have to, knife through others, ignore many others from a failure of will. In my spare time, I read novels and watch bad TV, so I would have to move out of Washington to find someone to talk to.

Tom Friedman’s new book has original thinking in it, that is, thinking that was original when it appeared in his column, like no two countries that each have a McDonald’s have gone to war with each other. This morning here we’re trying to sort out yesterday’s House vote. Our defense correspondent, Doug Waller, calls it “leading from the rear.” We’re now in a quagmire in the air.

There was some out-of-the-box activity here last night, the rock ’n’ roll night that the Elayne and Bill Bennett and Colin and Alma Powell give to raise money for Best Friends (it keeps young girls in school, pregnancy- and drug-free). My team won the Name That Tune competition (singing Yakety-Yak). (Tim Russert’s team lost.) A thousand people danced past 10 p.m. (that’s the wee hours, Washington Standard Time). I got Sen. Sam Brownback of Kansas to do the Twist. It was for a good cause, after all. I’m as stiff as Al Gore so I dreaded the evening. But the whole thing reminded me of how rarely we get to be silly, risk looking foolish. Pretending to be young once in a while, as long as you don’t shuck your spouse and children for a red sports car and a singles-only condo, isn’t such a bad thing.