At the time, I had just published my book Do Deficits Matter?, and the publisher was seeking to help me get publicity to boost sales. So I got a call from a booker from Good Morning America, asking me if I wanted to appear on the show and apparently get a chance to discuss deficit issues briefly.
I said yes, even though I had to get there, pre-show, at something like 5:30 in the morning, which was no fun. I also had an Income Tax class to teach that morning, but say it was at 10, so I knew I’d get to it on time.
When I arrived at the show, I found out that I had been misled by the booker, who just wanted to have warm bodies in the room. They were going to be discussing deficit issues with a visiting celebrity, none other than John McCain, and they invited all members of the audience to submit proposed questions on index cards. 2 or 3 would then be pre-chosen to ask their questions live on the show. I didn’t bother to submit, but I also, out of curiosity, didn’t leave. I was feeling a bit grumpy by this point, however (despite scoring loot in the form of a free Good Morning America t-shirt).
They also had another guest on the show who had become a celebrity. She had actually worked in the same law firm as me, and indeed in the office next to mine, and we had been on friendly terms. I remember thinking that it would have been nice to go over and say hello to her, off-camera, except that security would have hustled me out pronto, long before I could get within eyeball range. The consequent feeling of relegation to plebe status added, I suppose, to my resentment about being there.
When the show was over, McCain, being a professional politician, came over to shake hands with all the plebes in the studio audience. I shook his hand but didn’t leave right away, because I was hoping to talk to someone who worked for the show about the dragooning that I by now so resented. Then I said to myself, the hell with it, and decided to file out. This brought me within a few feet of McCain, who was still lingering and talking to people. We made eye contact, and he growled at me, kind of angrily, “I already shook your hand!”
My thought at the time was: With all due respect, it’s not as if shaking your hand is such a great thrill that I’d be angling for an encore. So get over yourself, if you don’t mind. Once was quite enough for me, just as it understandably was for you.
This then lingered as the event’s final indignity, although the whole thing had turned comic in my mind by the time I got to my tax class.