Even before Luke Mullins finished conducting interviews for his profile on Kurt Bardella for the July edition of Washingtonian, there was a general fatigue amongst reporters and political aides who felt the story shouldn’t happen.
It was as if political Washington was disgusted with the new publicist for The Daily Caller, who had essentially switched places with former Daily Caller Spokeswoman Becca Glover, and in near unison was asking one question: Why?
When the nine-page profile emerged yesterday afternoon, naysayers were still doubting it with one potential reader saying, “Eh, I didn’t read it. For some reason the whole story bores me.” True, amongst some. But there appears to be an unstoppable wave of Washington profiling some of it’s highly detested self-promoting characters. The recent WaPo profile on Clinton aide Philippe Reines comes to mind. An administration aide remarked to me after, “Why would the Washington Post dedicate 3,000 words to this guy when there are plenty of bigger douchebags in town? There are plenty of people who have worked harder, are smarter, more self-promoting and less liked. But what it did accomplish is to solidify the view that Washington is full of self-publicizing, power-hungry, grade-A penis hammers who think people really care about them, or that they really matter, when they don’t.”
While you digest all that, here’s why you should read this profile:
10. As an infant, Bardella was left in a bundle by the door of a church. Who expected this heartbreaking detail?
9. Bardella has, knowingly or not, yearned for a father figure. The story explains how and why he found one in Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), the man who would one day fire him and the one who will one day likely rehire him.
8. The piece reveals a layer of Washington that some reporters and aides know rather intimately. Luke describes it vividly, the aides, the jealousy, particularly the cocktail receptions where some, like Bardella, are dying to see and be seen.
7. The whole methodical layout of Kurt’s plan, phase by phase, to reinstall himself in the Washington political scene is simultaneously fascinating and loathsome to read.
6. While the piece entails much on-the-record sourcing, including old teachers and friends from way back, it’s fun to try to figure out who the anonymous sources who trash him are, such as the GOP political operative. Hmmm…who could it be?
5. The bizarre hero worshiping that happens in Washington. Nothing against CNN’s Wolf Blitzer, we like his distinctive wild animal name and white beard too, but Bardella gets embarrassingly giddy to be in his presence. His adulation of ABC GMA’s George Stephanopoulos is also something of a car crash that needs a witness.
4. Anticipating. Much like Clark Rockefeller, the criminal character in the Lifetime movie who parades around the cocktail circuit, bathing in his own popularity and faux riches, we need to wonder where Bardella goes from here.
3. Understanding the complexities. He rubs GOP aides the wrong way for his self-promotion and aggressive ambition. His relatively new boss, Tucker Carlson, calls him an “animal.” He’s also someone who has lost two major father figures in his life — his first stepfather, then his second. This doesn’t excuse Bardella’s actions of sneaking reporters’ emails to NYT‘s Mark Leibovich, but it certainly helps add texture and likability to a person whom many reporters still don’t trust.
2. It’s a good read for those of us with attention spans of mosquitoes. There are reasons why Mullins has won writing awards and the piece exemplifies them.
1. Above all else, the writer takes a gentle but decisive and detached approach. A reader cannot come away guessing what the author thinks, or even if he likes Bardella. Rather, the attitude is like that of Survivor’s longtime host Jeff Probst. He’s friendly, but he’s not going to help you decide what to think. Here’s the beach. You’re on your own.