Yesterday, the New York Times had a puff piece on the “exhausting” nature of White House work, pegged to the recent wave of administration departures. The list of grievances: the grueling 12-hour days, the burden of dealing with an inherited recession, two wars, etc. Of course, in the weeks after 9/11, administration employees had to develop an entire protocol to prevent serial terrorist assaults in the wake of the most successful attack on the continental United States in the nation’s history. I don’t recall profiles of Bush people who were “exhausted” dealing with the partisanship and pressures.
Bush aides left over policy disagreements and anger over wrong-headed policies; Obama aides leave due to burnout in service to the Great Cause. (Though I do remember President Bush looking a bit haggard in the dark days of Iraq and Katrina, as an Alfred Knopf novel and an award-winning docudrama imagining his assassination were winning applause.)
Does this serial complaining come from the top, or is it simply characteristic of the urban technocratic class? One protagonist of the Times piece complains about the incessant Blackberrying of the 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. grind, and the sheer exhaustion that required days of restorative long sleep — but landing a job as CEO of a multi-million-dollar publishing company must be some consolation.
The Times wants to draw a sympathetic portrait of the heroic Obama cadre that suffers so much on our behalf. These are six-figure jobs that wear out one’s hands on the Blackberry, true, but serve as valuable stepping-stones to even higher-paying corporate jobs. And this is still a recession. This raise-the-bar griping will not go down well with the coal worker in Montana, the welder on a 30-story scaffold, or the oil worker offshore (e.g., it is not as if a Blackberry is going to blow up in one’s hands, or an acoustical tile is going to fall and crush one in the West Wing). It is all too reminiscent of the various explanations we’ve heard for why Michelle’s Costa del Sol sojourn was an understandable and much-needed refresher before the more arduous odyssey ahead on Martha’s Vineyard.