The Magazine

AWW Shucks

The siren song of Washington, D.C.

Jan 23, 2012, Vol. 17, No. 18 • By ANDREW FERGUSON
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Including, of course, the people who want to drastically reduce the government’s size, indeed impoverish it, on the grounds of strongly held principle. Yet AWWs know too, somewhere in their roiling souls, that if they achieved their object the quality of life that they and their families enjoy would suffer beyond measure. With a limited, unbloated, cut-capped-and-balanced federal government, they might even be forced to move elsewhere.

But elsewhere is what they escaped to come here. Elsewhere, few people think about electoral politics unless they’re forced to, and even fewer bother themselves with public policy—the daily meat of the AWW. Here, by contrast, the AWW finds an entire subculture of like-minded friends and associates, all of them well-educated and most of them presentable.

Nowhere else on earth is there so high a concentration of self-conscious, ideologically committed conservatives and libertarians. Here, the AWW is among his own. Elsewhere, he’s a freak. Here the conversation flows like honey: “Did you see Ag’s new adjustments to the out-year recalibration formula for nonrecourse loans on consumable grain processing? It’s a total mindf—!” Elsewhere, in a place populated by real Americans—well, what on earth would he find to talk to all those people about?

So we all conspire to make work for one another, in an endless daisy chain of ineffable employment. Look again at that list of jobs that the Times found so newsworthy in Santorum’s disclosure statement. He describes the services he rendered to his employers like so:

“Advise company as member of board of directors”;

“policy analysis”;

“news contributor”;

“newspaper columnist”;

“talk show host”;

“consulting services”;

“energy policy consulting services”;

“legislative policy consulting services”;

“consulting in connection with insurance processing policy.”

Not an honest day’s dollar among them, yet somehow, through the mysterious workings of Washington alchemy, it’s all priced at $1.3 million. A friendly interpretation would be that Santorum has found his calling as a “knowledge worker” in the Globalized Information Age, selling his brainpower rather than the simple brawn necessary to do one of those manufacturing jobs he hopes, as president, to revive. A less friendly interpretation .  .  . would be less friendly, and would involve the phrase “hocus-pocus.” Whichever: A professional profile like Santorum’s could only exist in the gold-lined belly of Leviathan.

There’s an irony to Santorum’s status as an AWW. He became a Washingtonian by unseating an incumbent in 1990. The centerpiece of the campaign was a TV spot showing a pleasant suburban house. A voice said “there’s something strange about this house.” It was where the incumbent lived, yet it wasn’t in his home district. It was in “the wealthiest area of Virginia”! The incumbent had gone native!

It’s the same area of Virginia where Santorum has lived since his victory in 1990. Inevitably, in 2006, his opponent leveled the same charge when Santorum couldn’t clearly explain who lived in his legal residence, a house in Pennsylvania (answer: sometimes a niece and her husband, sometimes nobody). But he couldn’t rebut the charge that the Washington suburbs were now his home, for all practical purposes.

Is this evidence of hypocrisy? I don’t know. What I do know is, it was a tacit, and touching, acknowledgment that after 20 years as an AWW, he was no longer suited to life in the real America.

Andrew Ferguson is a senior editor at The Weekly Standard.

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