The Washington Post

Gene Weingarten: Putting the ‘me’ in retirement


T o: The Boss
Re: My retirement


Gene Weingarten is a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and writes "Below the Beltway," a weekly humor column that is nationally syndicated. View Archive

Here’s my proposal: I stop working immediately. You pay me $400,000 a year for the next 20 years. That’s it.

I know these terms might seem a little generous, but it’s no more or less than the deal recently worked out between former House majority leader Dick Armey (R-Tex.) and the tea party organization FreedomWorks, which he helped found and with which he was feuding. Sure, as severance packages go, this one seems Bobbitt-like in its overkill. It may even sound suspicious, but as Armey earnestly explained, he “couldn’t leave with empty pockets.” And: “I’ll never have to work again forever.” These are humble goals I share.

The details of his case are slightly different from mine, but the principles are the same. Armey apparently had begun to become an embarrassment to the organization, and vice versa. The former congressman had been rumbling about misuse of funds; insurrections were discussed; lawsuits were feared; armed guards were allegedly used to provide muscle for interoffice confrontations, etc. In short, things had gotten messy all around. Finally, the disagreement was resolved with what some cynics might term “hush money” or, even worse, “extortion payoffs,” but I would not. Inasmuch as I am proposing a similar arrangement, I prefer to call this sort of deal an “adorable bunny rabbit nose.”    



In return for the bucks, I will agree to cease writing altogether. Thus, The Washington Post will no longer endure the ongoing embarrassment that I have proven to be; to wit, we will end the weekly threat to the paper’s venerable reputation brought on by my irredeemably vulgar and immature column and my wildly intemperate online political ravings, which have gotten fairly extreme and might get even more unwise and indefensible real soon, if you get my drift. Further, the risk would be entirely eliminated that, at some point in the future, I might begin to indiscriminately libel libel lawyers. And most to the point, I would agree to remain silent about those tawdry, dishonest and loathsome corporate practices that in my 20 years at this newspaper I have witnessed or learned about or completely invented out of whole cloth.

You have my address. As soon as the first check clears, you have my silence.  

Now, I know what you are thinking. You are thinking that giving in to such a shameless threat, and dispensing such vast amounts of money in return for no work, would not just be unethical but also a deep betrayal of The Post’s shareholders.  

Nonsense. That’s as ridiculous a notion as suggesting that the deal between Armey and FreedomWorks — financed by a member of the group’s board of directors — would be a betrayal of the tens of thousands of grass-roots tea party enthusiasts, men and women largely of limited means whose overriding political passion is reining in spending and waste, and fighting what they see as the corruption of business-as-usual politicians.

Call it what you will. In my own view, it is not remotely a “betrayal.” As I see it, it is more  “a sweet burst of juicy caramel goodness.”

E-mail Gene at



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