My Dinner With Jack:

This is a few weeks old, but I found this article about Jack Abramoff so funny when I read it that I wanted to pass it along. The opening paragraphs:

JACK ABRAMOFF NEEDS MY HELP. Facing a March 29 sentencing deadline for fraud, tax evasion, and conspiring to bribe public officials, the disgraced lobbyist sent out a blast email, which says, "My attorneys have advised me to seek help from friends in the form of letters to the judge on my behalf." Abramoff says this will help counteract the "harsh media caricature" of him--he claims 2,100 negative articles have been written about him--and will encourage lenience from the judge presiding over his trial.

Jack probably doesn't remember me, but I met him three years ago. I'll try my best to help salvage his reputation, but even he must realize that's not an easy thing to do. Take this classic remark from Ed Rogers. The GOP lobbyist appeared on Hardball in January to defend his profession and downplay Abramoff's misdeeds, almost forgetting that one of Jack's business partners is connected to a mob hit down in the Sunshine State:

Look, this is going to come out. Nobody is going to keep it a secret. Jack Abramoff is so radioactive--I've got Jack Abramoff fatigue already. I mean, good grief, he didn't kill anybody. Maybe that one guy in Florida. [emphasis added]

Oops. Of course, thus far Abramoff doesn't appear to be directly linked to the murder, even if he's certainly guilty of being so drunk with greed that he wasn't at all discriminating about who he did business with. Unfortunately, the one image the public holds of Abramoff is the infamous photo of him leaving the federal courthouse--a shifty-eyed crook clad in trench coat and black hat, bridging the sartorial divide between Al Capone and Boss Tweed. But calling a smooth political operator such as Abramoff a gangster is just too easy.

Unlike the hordes of politicians rushing to disavow their relationship with him, I have no problem saying I knew Abramoff. For three glorious hours, I was his captive private audience at his now-defunct restaurant, Signatures. And I can tell you, he is handsome, hugely entertaining, and even self-deprecating at times. I'd wager Abramoff's success was largely the result of his charm (though as Saul Bellow warned, charm is always a bit of a racket). He's likable and inspires those around him, and given that, most everyone in Washington who denies their association with him was probably a willing accomplice.

I know because I was almost one of them.

Be sure to read the end.