My buddy Lou, a substance abuse specialist, called and woke me up last night close to midnight.
“What’s up, Lou?” I asked groggily.
“Look, Ace,” he said, “I know you were asleep, but I’ve been called out on an emergency, and I’ve got to catch a plane out of Pittsburgh at 6 a.m. I don’t know how long I’ll be gone, and I need somebody to feed my cats and water my plants while I’m away.”
“Sure, I’ll take care of your cats and plants,” I said. “Key still hidden under the doormat?”
“Nah, everybody looks there,” he said. “I keep it in the mailbox now.”
“Gotcha,” I said. Then the ace reporter in me snapped to attention. “What’s the big emergency?” I asked.
“I don’t know if I’m supposed to talk about it,” he said. “Addiction is generally a private matter. But in this case…,” his voice trailed off.
“You’re sitting on something big!” I yelled. “Out with it! Or the leaves on your geraniums can curl up and die!”
He hesitated. “It’s Congress,” he finally said. “They’ve got hundreds of Senators and Representatives looking at the prospect of having their soft money supply cut off, and they’re developing withdrawal symptoms. They’ve set up cots in the Congressional cloakrooms, but the numbers are overwhelming. They’ve got members just lying on the floor, shivering, sweating, and trembling uncontrollably.”
“But I heard Tom DeLay say last night on the news that not one member of the House or Senate, not one liberal or conservative, had been corrupted by soft money,” I protested.
Lou laughed. “You’ve got to understand that an addict will say or do anything to keep his fix coming,” he said. “He’ll lie, he’ll steal, he’ll hitch his mother to a dogsled if it will keep that supply coming in.”
“What about a wallet-exchange program, so the disease won’t spread?” I suggested. “They could turn in their dirty purses and billfolds and get clean ones.”
“It’s proven to be effective,” he admitted, “but conservatives won’t stand for it.”
“Have they tried methadone?”
“Not strong enough,” he said. “Money in politics gets you…,” he paused meaningfully, “incredibly high.”
“How high?” I demanded.
“To the top,” he said.
© Tony Russell, 2002