'I NEVER GET my name in the paper," the congressman said. "What can I do?"
"Take a female lobbyist to Florida for a few days," I said.
"Even if I did it," the congressman said, "it would be just my luck that nobody would ever find out."
"Well, one way to be pretty sure you'll be found out is to get involved with a female lobbyist who has posed for Playboy without her clothes on," I said.
"But she might turn out to be the soul of discretion in a private matter."
"You could come right out and ask her: Is she writing a book? Is she making tape recordings? You could encourage her."
"Let's be realistic: I'm a married man," the congressman said.
"Let's also try to be relevant," I said. "Do you want to get your name in the paper or not?"
"I do, but there is my wife to consider," he said.
"All right. She can pose for Playboy and write an article about what a shameless miscreant you are. That will get both your names in the paper a lot."
"And on television?"
"It's automatic, congressman. Playboy has a booking agent for all the talk shows. Your name will be a household word."
The congressman shook his head. He said, "I'm really bewildered about the whole matter of making news. I don't want to be just another dull, practically anonymous congressman. But I can't bring myself to depend on Playboy to attract the attention of the media to myself."
"So you want to play it conservatively," I said. "In that case, I'd suggest you issue a statement expressing outrage at shameless conduct by your fellow congressmen. Make it plenty self-righteous, much holier than thou. You can get at least a brief tumble in the news that way."
"I was hoping there was something constructive I could do."
"There is. Make an inspection trip to Europe, and uncover some fraud and waste at one of our installations over there."
"That will get me some attention from the media?"
"Oh, a little. But you can multiply it by staying at a fancy hotel in Paris and running up a few hundred dollars' worth of bills at night clubs."
"How can I be sure the news will get out?"
"You leak it. One leak is worth a dozen stuffy public reports."
"I have to tell you, I'm uncomfortable with all the ways you've suggested to make my mark in the news," the congressman said.
"So pick another way," I said. " Fix a traffic ticket for your son. Come up with a conflict of interest. Persuade your wife to wear something ridiculous to the White House. Persuade the Air Force to fly your whole hometown poker club to some ceremonial function in Alaska. Or here's one that's absolutely foolproof, and it's legitimate: Announce for higher office."
"But how can I do justice to the office I've got if I start running for another one this long before the election?"
"I thought you wanted some coverage in the media. Running for higher office guarantees it. Not just a couple of big stories and a few followups, either. I'm talking about continuing coverage: breakfast with the candidate, TV cameras at lunch, interviews in your office, reporters following you on trips. The media are inexhaustibly fascinated by candidates. It's office holders who are boring."
"But I'm sure I want to run for higher office," the congressman said. "Suppose I just want to keep doing what I'm doing: working long hours, trying to understand what's going on, trying to represent my constituents, staying out of trouble. How can I do that and also get my name in the paper?"
"You and 90 percent of the members of Congress are in that box. You're not leaders, not even committee chairmen. So nothing you do or say makes much of an impression on the media. Not on the national media, anyway, although you might get a few lines back home."
"That's precisely the situation I'm in. But I would like to feel that somebody besides my constituents knows I'm here," he said.
"Then you will have to denounce the leaders, be a rebel. Say something preposterous about the president, pro or con. Get yourself known for demagogic speeches," I said.
"That's not my style."
"Well, congressman, you drive me back to basics. If you could arrange to meet some Arabs in a motel room in New Jersey. . ."