In 2003, I'd just finished my graduate degree in political affairs. Working on Capitol Hill had been a life-long dream of mine. Coincidentally it also happened to be a life-long dream for hundreds of other political junkies. I knew competition would be tough so when a friend said Representative Anthony Weiner was looking for a staffer, I immediately sent my resume.
At that time, I'd never heard of Representative Weiner, which wasn't a surprise. He blended in with the other 434 Members of Congress. To really stand out from that crowd, one has to be obnoxious, provocative, and confrontational. There really is no other way to make yourself known in that environment.
An aide called me soon after he saw my resume. I was taken aback by the rapid response, but I figured things on Capitol Hill worked just that fast. I agreed to come in the next day for an interview with Steve*.
When I met him, Steve looked like he hadn't slept in days, and he was constantly checking his watch.
"Okay, let's get this shit started," he said.
I was startled. I'd never heard a swear word in the first five minutes of a job interview before so I didn't know what to do. I just nodded, and he continued with the job description.
"We run a pretty tight fucking ship around here," Steve said. "My boss doesn't like to fuck around. So your shit needs to be in order. If it isn't, he's not shy about letting you know he's fucking pissed off."
I felt like I was interviewing for an organized crime boss. At that time, I'd been on several Capitol Hill interviews, but none of them were as profanity-laden, threatening, and intense as this one.
"Now, I think several people back in New York, quite frankly, fucking suck at their jobs," Steve stated emphatically. "One guy in particular can't write worth shit. We're going to need you to take care of some of that, and it better be fucking good."
I was aghast that he was openly disparaging another staffer in a complete stranger's presence. I could have been anyone, but Steve sounded so frustrated that he didn't seem to care.
"Now the boss also likes to approve every single piece of written correspondence that has his name on it — letters, press releases, op-eds, flyers, etc. You name it, it has to get in front of his face," Steve continued. "Yeah I know it's a pain in the fucking ass, and yeah we miss out on some shit. But that's the way he wants it so that's the way it is. Don't try to change that."
This detail was a red flag. In a Member of Congress' office, the volume of written correspondence can be overwhelming. A Member certainly could approve everything with his name on it, but that slows down work productivity tremendously. During an average day in session, the boss has: meetings with constituents, committee hearings (that can sometimes last all day), floor speeches, meetings with staff, frequent votes, caucus meetings with leaderhip, press events, and anything else that could occur last minute. Approving every single piece of written correspondence is extremely inconvenient for all staff, especially when most Members' positions on policy issues are fairly standard — abortion, equal pay, gun control, health care reform, immigration, etc. In those cases, rarely would there be a need for the boss to review such content.
In summary, Rep. Weiner's behavior was controlling.
By the time the 52 minute interview ended, Steve had said the word "fuck" 45 times — almost once a minute. He wanted me to meet the boss himself, which is a standard next step. Although I knew I didn't want the job, I wanted to interview with Representative Weiner just to see how he would conduct himself.
Steve scheduled my interview for the following week. His office would reschedule my interview with Representative Weiner seven more times until it was finally cancelled altogether that Thursday. Rather than interview me, Representative Weiner returned to New York on an earlier flight.
I never heard from his office again. I later learned this was a good thing.