(Illustration by Eric Shansby)

A wicked calumny against the Washington media is that we live and work in a liberal echo chamber, never interacting with persons of alternative political viewpoints. For that reason, it is said, we unfairly demonize conservatives.

No truth to either charge. I demonize no one. For years I myself frequently encountered conservatives because I lived on the same block as my friend Grover Norquist, the famous anti-tax agitator and political bully-boy goon.

Periodically, Grover would host cocktail parties for up-and-coming conservatives. These earnest young people, dressed like middle-schoolers on yearbook photo day, would spill out onto his front lawn in parties of one, talking on their cellphones with (a guess) their personal single-malt Scotch sommeliers. I am proud to say that I went out of my way to interact with them. I would sidle up, dressed as I usually am, which is like a middle-age middle-school-playground loiterer, and I’d whisper “Heroin? Quaaludes? Glue?” just to watch that comical look of horror as they backed away.

But Grover moved , so I have lost contact with conservatives, which is why I was delighted to get invited to a Christmas party thrown by the Heritage Foundation, Washington’s prominent conservative think tank. (I should note that the group didn’t invite me, exactly — it invited a friend of mine, and she invited me as her guest. Also a committed liberal, she figured she made the guest list because she is a registered Republican, part of a conspiracy to artificially swell the GOP voting rolls in the District enough so a Republican Congress might give us a voting representative, after all. My point is, I was there legitimately, but under a somewhat false flag.)

The only corporate parties I usually attend are hosted by print media, which means I am accustomed to cash bars, linoleum floors and bologna on saltines. This was not that kind of party. Within seconds of our entering the room, liveried waiters descended on us with trays of hors d’oeuvres that included steamed lobster in beurre blanc, canapes of boeuf Wellington, shot glasses of anise-infused sweet potato soup, and ramekins of pumpkin creme brulee. The bar was open and generous. And, all around us were middle-school-portrait people in earnest conversations that, according to my professional eavesdropping, were largely about the threat to Republicanism occasioned by people like me.

In truth, everyone was polite and welcoming and joyful, even after reading my name tag. Tragically, I had found nothing to make fun of until I met The Second Most Conservative Man in the World.

Ralph Benko, who happens to be a funny guy, is a senior economics adviser to a righty group called the American Principles Project. Ralph’s big issue turns out to be demanding that the United States return to ... the gold standard! Now I don’t want to be snarky, but I believe the most prominent American most recently defending the gold standard was Grover. No, not Norquist ... Cleveland. In 1896. It was such an archly conservative stance even back then that Cleveland was most famously opposed by none other than William Jennings Bryan, who went on to fulminate against teaching evolution in the schools.

Then Ralph gleefully informed me that he was only the second most conservative person in the world. As luck would have it, the most conservative person in the world also happened to be at the Heritage Foundation Christmas party, as Ralph’s guest! Benyamim Tsedaka, 71, is an Israeli scholar, who, Ralph said, “is so conservative, he is pre-modern! A stegosaurus.”

Tsedaka is a leader of the Israelite Samaritans, an 800-person pre-Judaic sect that lives by a strict 3,000-year-old code of conduct. How strict? At home, he eats beef, but when traveling, only fish and veggies because for every cow he eats, he must donate the beast’s foreleg to the holy men on Mount Gerizim, near Nablus, and this original body part is impossible to locate if you are dining at, say, McDonald’s.

So I left the party happy. I had two new conservative friends, and a whole new echo-chamber defense! This columnist has an answer for the calumnists.

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