Sam Youngman splashed down for a few months in Nashville in 2003 as a state government and politics reporter for the Commercial Appeal, then went off to become a big-time political reporter in Washington. In a Politico article, Youngman doesn’t mention his Nashville sojourn, but he harshly critiques the Washington political and media scene – and himself – while hailing the virtues of his new job as a state government and politics reporter in his home state of Kentucky.
The article is entitled “Take This Town and Shove It; a White House reporter’s tale of sex, booze and the briefing room.” An excerpt:
It must be said: Much of my time in Washington was one hell of a party, an endless and decadent blowout bash more suited to VH1’s Behind the Music than working in the nation’s capital.
The first couple years, I spent almost every night downing bourbon—and sometimes indulging in harder substances—at Capitol Lounge before walking back to my studio apartment in Eastern Market, occasionally with some female congressional staffer whose name I was almost always too drunk to remember. (I later sought out and apologized to as many of those women as I could. To the ones I missed: I’m profoundly sorry for my behavior.)
As my self-importance grew, I needed a more pretentious watering hole to match. The bar Off the Record at the Hay-Adams became my second home, and for a long time I couldn’t imagine ever getting tired of seeing former Sen. Gary Hart and Ron Kirk, Obama’s first U.S. trade representative, in the same bar—my bar. Hard as it is to believe, even that thrill eventually wore off.
I suppose part of my disillusionment had to do with my breakup with bourbon, after a real-life, devastating romantic breakup that was followed by a downward spiral. When I returned from my 28 days in rehab, in January 2010, it was harder to ignore the near criminal disconnect between Washington and the rest of the country, especially in an industry that has turned neighbors against each other while its instigators clock out and meet for a beer together, skilled actors who in many cases spend the day feigning hatred for each other on camera but are actually bound by their shared nihilism and reckless self-absorption. In Washington, a divided America is good for business.