Fixing Congress and Finding Peace: An Interview with Jack Abramoff

Matt Bieber in The Wheat and the Chaff:

ScreenHunter_08 Jan. 04 13.52I met Abramoff three weeks ago at an event at Harvard Law School. (He was there to discuss his experience in Washington with Lawrence Lessig in a cool new forum called “In the Dock.”). As he entered the room, a funny silence overcame the room. It was as if the entire audience was simultaneously answering the question we’d all been chewing over: how to demonstrate our distance and disapproval while maintaining the decorum appropriate to the setting? Sure, we’ve filled a large auditorium on a weeknight to hear what this guy has to say, but he’s not getting any damn applause.

But over the next hour and a half, the strangest thing happened – Abramoff won over the crowd. He didn’t try to defend himself at all. Instead, he was almost preternaturally humble, telling in-your-face stories about the naked corruption he’d been a part of. It was all very matter-of-fact: I was able to do these things because I wanted to win, and because everyone did it, and because I didn’t recognize some basic ethical rules. And then I went to prison and had some insights that all of you probably take for granted.

As the event went along, the handful of stone-throwers in the audience seemed more and more out of place. Someone would ask a barbed question – basically, How can you be such a giant asshole? – and you could feel the crowd sigh. He knows, buddy.

By the end, I liked him.

More here.