Book Excerpt: 'Sammy's House'

I knew that my own party was perfectly capable of similar pettiness, because the previous administration had complained instantly to the press when they'd moved into the White House eight years earlier to find tuna sandwiches locked in all their file cabinets and their computers rigged to print the chorus of Bob Dylan's "Ballad of a Thin Man" no matter what the command. Some in the press had privately enjoyed the specter of then President Pile's political guru Carl Jones battling rebellious office machinery that taunted him with the words "Because something is happening here but you don't know what it is. Do you, Mister Jones?" printed over and over again, but the majority of columns and articles had chastised the outgoing administration for such childishness.

Had we been as eager to whine to the press, we might have garnered comparable support, but we weren't the same breed of tattletales. And even taking pride in that was immature. The whole embarrassing rivalry gave me flashbacks to junior high. Which, frankly, didn't seem all that long ago. I was twenty-eight now and working as a health care advisor to the White House, but I still often felt as awkward and unsure of myself as I had during those halcyon days of orthodontic headgear and New Kids on the Block fan clubs. Though I'd spent a few fascinating years as a Capitol Hill staffer to then Senator Robert Gary (RG to his staff), the White House was an entirely different universe. The stakes, the pressure, the perpetual potential for both extraordinary progress and crippling failure?everything was ratcheted up to a spectacular intensity now that I worked for the president and vice president of the United States. More than ever before, I felt like I needed to constantly prove myself in a new world full of gossip and cliques and all sorts of social politics. So in some ways, the junior high flashbacks were apropos. Though perhaps I had slightly more of a shot at a date with New Kid heartthrob Jordan Knight now. Slightly. Amid the fear and anxiety, I also felt a certain wide-eyed wonder at everything I was witnessing. At the inauguration of Wye and RG, I'd been awed by the sight of democracy in action. After a hard-fought, nasty election cycle, it had been thrilling and refreshing to observe the peaceful transfer of power. I'd watched everything from the sidelines, humbled by the remarkable nature of such an event, and grateful to be on the happier end of it. Granted, a week later I'd felt considerably less idealistic about the whole thing when I'd had to wear a surgical mask at my desk to filter the rancid fumes of decomposing mice.

And now those same clever saboteurs had disrupted our year-and-a half-late victory cruise by paying a woman to take her clothes off. They were classy, classy folks. "Everyone resume having fun," Harry Danson barked threateningly at the crowd. We instantly pretended to obey. I watched several people punching buttons on their cell phones and could practically feel the camera-phone photos whisking away to the world beyond White House control.

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