The place: A church basement in Toledo.
The event: A 12-Step Program gathering.
The people: A small crowd milling around the coffee pot as a man walks to the front of the room to begin The Meeting.
"Hello, everyone," he says, "my name is Peter, and I'm a politician."
"Hi, Peter!" says the crowd in unison.
"Welcome to this gathering of Politicians Anonymous. This is a special meeting, as we come together to remember our fellow PA friend, 'Bob.' OK, who would like to start tonight?"
A brief silence, then, at the back of room, a tall man with an impossibly earnest face stands to address the group.
"My name is Wade "
"Hi, Wade!" says the crowd in unison.
" and I'm a politician."
The group nods in empathy.
"As most of you know, I've held elected office since I was 12 years old. Or maybe that's just since I looked 12. Frankly, I can't remember, and it doesn't matter," the boyish man says, stopping to draw a deep breath.
"The point is, I've known 'Bob' for years, before he 'hit bottom.' And I stand before you today a deeply embarrassed man, because the truth is this: Despite whatever see-no-evil, hear-no-evil statements I may have publicly made in the past, I had a pretty good idea about Bob's, uh, about his, um well, let's just say, I already knew all about his dedication to financial self-improvement."
In the front row, another man leaps to his feet to interrupt.
"Hi, everybody. My name is George, and I'm a politician "
"Hi, George!" says the crowd in unison.
" and I just wanted to say: I can't say anything. Legal issues, you know? I mean, yeah, I have personal knowledge about what I call Bob's 'Sealed Envelope Technique,' but beyond that, I cannot and will not say anything in public."
"Hi, everybody. My name is Louis, and I'm a recovering politician "
"Hi, Louis!" says the crowd in unison.
" and I'll be honest: I had a pretty good idea about Bob too. Unlike George, I'd have been glad to speak up, but nobody ever asked me, which is a little weird. But, yes, I've been aware of Bob's 'Sealed Envelope Technique.' But I'd like to say for the record I never actually touched any envelope," Louis tells the group before he sits down again.
Peter, the man who opened the meeting, addresses the group again.
"Well, I just want everyone to know that I really did try to help Bob. I even set up an Ethics Intervention for him, but I guess we all know how THAT turned out."
A brief lull overtakes the room, then the distinguished-looking man who earlier introduced himself as George rises one more time and says:
"Before our meeting ends, may I just add something to what I wouldn't say before? It's this: I'd like to remind everyone that Bob is a Democrat."