The Breakfast Table

Ode to Brian Lamb

Well, since we’re contributing these first items to the “Breakfast Table” sometime after 2 in the afternoon, we’ve avoided the toughest part of the C-SPAN experience. And really, ours was nowhere near as scary as it can get. I think the very worst befell our friend Jonathan Rauch. He was on Washington Journal to boost his book on the ossification of American government, Democracy’s End. It’s an important book about which Jonathan can speak eloquently–but not that morning. It was, you see, Vice Presidents’ Week on C-SPAN, and every time Jonathan worked up a good burst of speed on his book, the interviewer would stop him to flash onto the screen a photograph of a man in a beard and a frock coat. “Can you identify this one?” “Um no,” Jonathan would have to say. “It’s Garret A. Hobart, William McKinley’s first vice president. Can you tell us a little about him?” “Um no,” Jonathan would say again. Ninety more seconds on his book–this time with a noticeably frantic edge to his voice, as if he hoped that by speaking urgently enough he could thwart any further interruptions. Suddenly: “And who’s this?” “No idea,” Jonathan had to confess glumly. “It’s Daniel D. Tompkins, who served under President James Monroe. Let’s do one more before we take some calls …”

I have to register a protest, though, at your first posting. You are cunningly introducing yourself to the readers of Slate as a cheerful media amateur, when in fact you and I know that while all of my political predictions always turn out wrong (“Well, I think Phil Gramm is a very electable candidate …”), yours always turn out right to the percentage point. Which brings me to something that we probably should mention, which is that we’re filing these exchanges from opposite sides of the continent: I’m inside the Beltway (and therefore by definition out of touch with the real America), while you are in Los Angeles, keeping your fingers on the pulse of the country’s true capital: Hollywood.