A few days ago, Rolling Stone Magazine published an article entitled “How Lindsey Graham Lost His Way.” In it, Steve Schmidt – former campaign manager for John McCain – offered his assessment of the type of person Senator Graham is. I thought I would memorialize his words on my blog in the hope others will see it digested from the original article, which is located here. What follows are two statements from Schmidt, both of which are acerbic and revealing.
“We see more examples of this in film and literature, but there are instances of principled men and women laying down their careers in service of what is right. Clearly, that person will never be Lindsey Graham. With regard to the cruelty and abuse that was directed at John McCain by Trump, I think Lindsey’s flaccidity in defending him says a lot about his character. Nobody wants to be in a bar fight when they go out on Friday night. But when someone walks up and punches your best friend in the face, you’ve got to do something. Lindsey has demonstrated he’s the guy who runs out the door.”
“People try to analyze Lindsey through the prism of the manifest inconsistencies that exist between things that he used to believe and what he’s doing now,” Schmidt says. “The way to understand him is to look at what’s consistent. And essentially what he is in American politics is what, in the aquatic world, would be a pilot fish: a smaller fish that hovers about a larger predator, like a shark, living off of its detritus. That’s Lindsey. And when he swam around the McCain shark, broadly viewed as a virtuous and good shark, Lindsey took on the patina of virtue. But wherever the apex shark is, you find the Lindsey fish hovering about, and Trump’s the newest shark in the sea. Lindsey has a real draw to power — but he’s found it unattainable on his own merits.”
A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away I spent a few years in the business of helping others, shall we say, adjust their perspective. In the late seventies and early eighties I lived in Playa del Rey, California, a small town with an inordinate number of bars squeezed into a couple of blocks less than a quarter mile from the beach.
I frequented one of them more than the others, as it was almost literally across the street from my front door and, in the business I was in, I only needed to be able to get home quickly once in a while. The bar is still there and, if you watch TV, you may have seen it in a few shows. It’s called “The Prince O’ Whales.” I practically owned a stool there and had asked them to carry The Glenlivet when I first started frequenting the place. They were kind enough to oblige me and I have no idea how many cases I personally went through in the few years I spent much of time there.
However, this post has precious little to do with where I lived, how I survived, and how much Scotch I drank in my thirties. It’s actually about an article that was printed in the November 12, 1981 edition of Rolling Stone. It was written by P.J. O’Rourke. If you were an adult around that time, and you’ve not encountered this before, you may really enjoy it; it’s quite funny . . . and mostly (reasonably close to) the truth.
I have searched high and low for a reprint or a .pdf or URL where I could find the article in its entirety, but it doesn’t seem to exist online. Fortunately, I had made a copy of the pages and recently I took the time to re-type the entire article. I thought it was excerpted from his book “Modern Manners: An Etiquette Book for Rude People,” but it appears the first edition of that book was in the late eighties. Regardless, I have always found O’Rourke’s sense of humor—at least on this subject—pretty damn entertaining. Enjoy!
Beyond cocktail coquetry.
Cocaine and etiquette are inseparable; they go together like
cocaine and, well, more cocaine. But why should courtesy be so important when “Sinus
highballs” are passed around? Why shouldn’t we behave the way we behave with
stupidly in the refrigerator as though we’d smoked marijuana or run naked
through the streets killing policemen as though we’d taken PCP? There’s no firm
answer: In fact, cocaine would make killing a policeman easier, since he’d be
much less likely to turn into a 9-eyed moon demon while we’re trying to wrest
the gun from his holster. Yet such behavior could not be less appropriate to
the ingestion of “Alkaloid Chitchat Flakes.
Cocaine demands gentility from its partakers, perhaps
because it’s such a sociable drug. MDA is a sociable drug, but it makes people
so sociable they’ll screw a coffee-table leg. That’s not good manners if the
table has an expensive lacquered finish. Or it may be the price of “Talk
Talcum” that inclines us to courtliness, though heroin, too, is costly, and
repeated use of that turns people into Negroes (Reagan administration
statistics clearly show.) Most likely it’s the special magic cocaine performs upon
us all that ignites our civility and refinement. Cocaine makes us so
intelligent, so quick, witty, charming, alert, well-dressed, good-looking and
sexually attractive that it would be unthinkable to be rude under its
influence. True, there are exceptions. Cocaine doesn’t always do that to you.
But it always does it to me. And that’s plenty of reason for people to behave.
THE FUNDAMENTAL NEED
FOR SELF-SACRIFICE . . . AND HOW TO DEAL WITH IMPORTANT PEOPLE
The most important thing to understand about cocaine is, no
matter how wonderful it makes us feel or how interesting it makes us act, it is
bad for our bodies. This is the basis for all etiquette surrounding cocaine
use. And this is why it’s never bad manners to go off alone and fire some “Nose
Nikes” and not share them. To risk your own health while protecting the
well-being of others is the only honorable thing to do. For the same reason,
when offered someone else’s cocaine, you should Electro-Lux as much as possible
for their sake. If there isn’t any left to take, they will be less inclined to
destroy their mucous membranes, become psychotic, suffer heart palpitations or
die from an overdose.
However, for reasons unknown to medical science, there are
people cocaine does not harm. Important people who might be able to help
someone’s career are never injured by cocaine, no matter how much they’re
given. Neither are famous writers or actors or other personalities with whom
many people would like to be friends. Also unaffected are extraordinarily
good-looking, sexy people. In other words, the type of person reading this
article seems to be immune to cocaine’s deadly consequences.
The detrimental effect of a “Cerebellum Blizzard” on others,
though, cannot be overstated. There was a washed-up musician who hung around a
well-known New York nightspot mooching drugs. He turned into a dangerous
psychopath and tried to bore several people to death. My own younger brother
took too much of my cocaine, and the result was a painful bloody nose. Another
unfortunate case involved a vendor of the item itself. He had, no doubt,
sampled too much of his own wares and began to threaten people with violence
just because they owned him small sums of money . . . well, relatively small. A
mysterious informant—who, honest, felt really bad about it—was
compelled to turn him in to the police. (Jail is a famously discourteous
PROBLEMS OF ETIQUETTE EXAMINED
1 – How to Serve
Nothing is more awkward than taking out a vial of
“Granulated Money” in a bar or restaurant and having everyone you know expect
to get some. If you try to pass the “Powdered Trapeze Act” to some people and
not to others, you may get hit over the head with a bottle. And that’s bad
manners. Instead, excuse yourself inconspicuously, saying something like,
“Well, I sure have to go to the bathroom, and so do Robert and Susan and Alice,
but Jim and Fred and Bob don’t have to go.”
Parties present the same problem. In the past, such secluded
spots as coat closets and dark corners of the butler’s pantry were used for
spontaneous lovemaking. Nowadays, these nooks and crannies are crowded with
people taking drugs. But there is still charm in an old-fashioned excuse. If
you would like to give a “Peruvian Speed Bump” to Eileen, an attractive woman
who’s a power in the entertainment industry, but not to her unemployed
boyfriend, Mark, you can always say: “Excuse me, Mark, I thought Eileen might
like to blow me in the laundry room.”
2 – When to Serve
One of the delights of an “Adenoid Snack” is that it’s appropriate
at any time of night or day, often for several days and nights in a row, though
perhaps everyone’s favorite moment to take cocaine is right after a great deal
of it has been taken already.
An increasingly popular time to make your snout play “Selsun
Blue” with the “Dandruff of the Gods” is before an elaborate dinner. This
brightens table talk, lets guests enjoy staring at the food and arranging
little lumps of it in patterns on their plates, and gives the hostess many
valuable leftovers. (An oyster souffle, for instance, can be reheated and fed
to the pets.)
Another favorite moment for an “Inca Pep Rally” is the
second the dealer arrives with the gram. However, some people find it difficult
to figure out when that will be. This is because cocaine dealers operate on
Dope Dealer Savings Time, which is similar to Daylight Savings Time. Just as
Daylight Savings Time is one hour later than Standard Time, Dope Dealer Savings
Time is one hour later than you could possibly imagine anyone being.
3 – What Implements Should Be Used?
There are any number of devices on the market for taking
cocaine. Some are amusing or even useful in carefully measuring portions to
make sure everyone gets too much. But most sophisticated drug users still
prefer the rolled-up $100 bill. Better yet is a $100 bill folded over and
placed inside a wallet. If you have a great, great many of these, people will
find a way to get cocaine up your nose.
4 – What Else Should Be Served?4 –
Most people enjoy a couple of thousand cigarettes with their
“Face Drano.” Other mix “Indoor Aspen Lift Lines” with multiple sedatives to
achieve that marvelous feeling so similar to not having taken drugs at all. But
everyone, whether he wants to or not, should drink plenty of whiskey or gin. If
you smell strongly of alcohol, people may think you are dunk instead of stupid.
(Whatever you serve, overflowing ashtrays, wads of bloody Kleenex and empty
Valium bottles can be arranged to make an attractive centerpiece.)
5 – Who Pays?
There’s considerable debate about this. Some say the guest
should pay for cocaine as a way of saying thank you to the host. Others say the
host should pay for cocaine as part of the entertainment. Most people, however,
believe society should pay for cocaine by having to watch maniacally
self-indulgent movies, fragmented TV sitcom plots and fractured and pathetic
live performances by brain-broiled comedians and pop musicians wound up tighter
than a Hong Kong wristwatch.
6 – Topics of Conversation
. . . one of the things you’re really getting into is cable
TV which is going to be like the rock & roll of the Eighties because everybody’s
going to be hard-wired into 240 channels and there’s this huge market for
software already which is why you’ve got this programming development deal
together that right right now is a class at the New School but is almost sold
to Home Box and is going to be an hour a day that’s part news but like part
entertainment too like this New Wave group that you’ve already done three
minutes on with mini-cam on quarter-inch but you might turn that into a
documentary plus maybe a docudrama for PBS because it’s this sound that’s sort
of Western Swing but punk but ska which is all in the interview you got with
the bass player that you’re going to publish in this magazine you’re starting
which will be all the complete cable listings for all of New Jersey with public
access stuff that isn’t listed anywhere plus like interviews too and . . .
Just because your mouth is moving much faster than your
brain is no reason not to carry on an engaging conversation.
7 – Romance
If you have taken too much cocaine and are unable to become
aroused, try talking into your partner’s genitals. This gives a fair imitation
of oral sex. However, if you have taken even more cocaine, try not to rape
anyone you know.
8 – An Important Question
If a man gives cocaine to a woman, is she then obligated to go to bed with him?
9 – Another Important Question
If a woman gives cocaine to a man, is he then obligated to
go to bed with her?
Jeeze, I didn’t realize it was this late! I’ve gotta run—gotta
get up and go to work in the morning. Plus I feel like I’m coming down with
something. Mind if I do another line before I go?
10 – How is a Dealer Introduced?
It can be a problem knowing how to introduce your dealer. Is
he a friend? Is he an employee? Or is he a dead pumpkin if he sells you another
load of Dexamyl cut with Portland cement? In fact, there’s no proper way to
introduce your dealer socially, because no one ever deals cocaine. They just have a little extra. You see, a very
special friend of theirs—who was in Peru on different business entirely—brought
back, as a personal favor, some incredible rocks, which are also pure flake and
happen to be crystals, too (unless this gram-ette of alleged narcotics is so
hopelessly filled with muck that it’s indistinguishable from Nepalese temple
which case it will be given an exotic name like “Mudlark of the Andes” and a
spurious history having to do with Spanish conquistadors and Indian
headhunters). So no one ever deals cocaine, but they’ll give you this little
extra they’ve got, for you know, what they paid for it, which is unfortunately
$150 a gram, but really, man, this is special stuff, like the Indians used to
get by rubbing a coca bush between two Spanish conquistadors’ heads.
11 – Is It Polite to Refuse?
It’s probably not bad manners to refuse cocaine. It might
even be very gallant to turn down a spoonful of “Platinum Maxwell House,” but
it’s hard to be sure, because, so far, it’s never been done.
12 – What to Wear
Many people believe it doesn’t matter what they wear while
taking a dose of “Brain Tabasco.” Some people even take it in the nude (not
counting a gold Rolex). But, as in every other social situation, clothes do
matter. Richard Pryor is an example of inappropriate cocaine dress. If he had
been wearing a nice, conservative Brooks Brothers suit and an oxford-cloth
shirt, he would have escaped most injuries. Unfortunately—as
is so often the case in today’s increasingly informal world—Mr.
Pryor was wearing a polyester sport shirt decorated with Jamaican bongo
drummers and dyed in colors visible only to bees. This went up like a torch.
Wool, long-staple cotton and other natural fibers have superior flame-retardant
I retired nearly 13 years ago, though I've continued to work during most of the time since then. I'm hoping to return to work on the RS-25 rocket engine program (formerly the SSME) which will power our return to the moon. Mostly I'm just cruising, making the most of what time I have remaining.
Although my time is nearly up, I still care deeply about the kind of world I'll be leaving to those who follow me and, to that end, I am devoted to seeing the forces of repression and authoritarianism are at least held at bay, if not crushed out of existence.
I write about things that interest me and, as an eclectic soul, my interests run the gamut from science to spirituality, governance to economics, art and engineering. I'm hopeful one day my children will read what I've left behind.
The views expressed herein are those of the author. Any opinions regarding the value or worth of particular business processes, tools, or procedures, whether at his former place of employment, at a current client's enterprise, or in general, are his responsibility alone.