On the evening of Monday, January 19th, the publisher David Bradley, stood in the opulent living room of his Georgian mansion off of Embassy Row in Washington D.C., across the road from the Naval Observatory, and spoke of existential angst.
“All of us have those middle of the night sentiments of, ‘Does any of what I’m doing matter?’” said the publisher of The Atlantic and The National Journal. “‘Will anyone ever remember? How much am I actually beloved?'”
He turned slightly to his left and gazed directly at the journalist Gwen Ifill, who was standing a few feet away. The next time you get that feeling, Mr. Bradley suggested to her, think of this night. “I want you to have in mind, this cold evening in January, when 300 people came out with exactly the same message,” said Mr. Bradley.
“Gwen Ifill you are truly beloved.”
The crowd of cocktail sipping onlookers, packed into the living room, broke into applause. They had gathered at the Bradley residence to celebrate Ms. Ifill’s newly published book, The Breakthrough: Politics and Race in the Age of Obama.
For the past hour, the guests had wandered around the house, chatting about the Inauguration and the economy and the Obamas. There was a buffet set up in the dining room, and a bar on the patio out back. The beef was rare, the quiche was succulent, and the gin was flowing freely.
Here and there, PBS producers mingled with beltway party hoppers. PBS’ Jim Lehrer shuffled by CBS News’ Bill Plante. Todd Purdum, of Vanity Fair, talked about his penchant for bow ties. David Brooks sat at the top of a staircase, talking on a cell phone and nursing a drink.
By the end of the night, just about everyone got to shake hands with one Beltway luminary or another—Tom Brokaw, Maureen Dowd, Andrea Mitchell, Judy Woodruff among others were present—and engage in some pre-inauguration chit chat.
Just after 7:45 p.m., Mr. Bradley ceded the floor to Ms. Ifill. The longtime correspondent for PBS’ NewsHour and host of Washington Week looked over the familiar faces in the living room and frowned. “Don’t break anything, people,” she said sternly. “I know who you are.”
Ms. Ifill thanked the Bradleys. She gave a shout out to her brother, who was standing in the back of the room and to her pastor and his wife, who were also in the house. And she gave a nod to her colleagues at Washington Week and the News Hour. “I work with these amazing people, who spend a lot of time for very little money doing really hard work, every single day,” said Ms. Ifill.
She said that writing the book had been challenging. “It’s been a really expanding experience for me, a terrifying experience writing long form,” she said.
There had been some controversy along the way, she acknowledged. Back in September on the eve of the Vice Presidential debate, conservative bloggers had attacked her impartiality as a moderator, alleging that her book about Mr. Obama would bias her in the Democrats’ favor.
“Of course, there was the moment when everyone decided they knew what the book was about before I had even finished writing it,” said Ms. Ifill on Monday night.
“I thought, ‘Well that’s fine. Truth will out. I will just survive it.’ And I did.”