Now, listen: We’re about to tell you a juicy little story, but whatever you do, don’t try to guess the names of the people involved, okay?
The anecdote comes up deep in Michael Grunwald’s new wonk epic, “The New New Deal,” an account of President Obama’s $800 billion stimulus bill to be published next month. In it, Grunwald analyzes evidence that Republicans lawmakers plotted to block the White House on all major votes. He quotes Joe Biden saying that GOP senators specifically warned him that Minority Leader Mitch McConnell had “demanded unified resistance”; former Sens. Bob Bennett and Arlen Specter both confirmed for the author that they had talks like that with Biden.
But that’s not the juicy part. It’s the next paragraph:
One Obama aide says he received a similar warning from a Republican Senate staffer he was seeing at the time. He remembers asking her one morning in bed: How do we get a stimulus deal? She replied: Baby, there’s no deal.
“This is how we get whole,” she said with a laugh. “We’re going to do to you what you did to us in 2006.”
Wait, what? Elephants and donkeys sleeping together!!! But, dang, why no names?
Blind items — “which B-list actor is cheating on his pop-star girlfriend?” and so forth — are the bane of the gossip world, forcing readers into guessing games that end up maligning the innocent, if you assume the stories are even true. But no one’s getting maligned by this tidbit; in fact, we think it’s wonderful that an Obama aide was hooking up with a Republican Senate staffer.
So, Grunwald — why can’t you tell us who they are?
“Obviously,” said the author, “this was told under the condition that I do not.”
Grunwald — a former Washington Post reporter now at Time magazine — assures us that the “Obama aide” is a genuine player. “It’s not some random intern. It’s somebody who I interviewed for the book.”
Oh yeah? Will we find him elsewhere in the book?
“I don’t want to play a narrowing-it game,” Grunwald sighed. “I’m too stupid, and I’ll fall into your wily trap.” He added that he interviewed more than 400 people for the book.
What about the Senate staffer? Interview her?
Long pause. “I think I shouldn’t go beyond what’s in the book.”
Well, are they still dating? To this, Grunwald responded with a long, agonized pause that basically never ended.
Why include this titillating little story? The author noted that while he had plenty of reporting about secret Republican strategy sessions, the Senate staffer’s pillow talk expressed the same message in more “funny, flip” style, “that these guys were not going to play.”
Yes. But that’s not why we’re talking about it now, is it? So, was he surprised that in this time of partisan rancor, a Democrat was sleeping with a Republican? This time, Grunwald laughed through his long pause.
“Not really,” he said.
Also in The Reliable Source: