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July 31, 2013 10:22 AM Intern From Hell

By Ed Kilgore

By now you may well have read the epic, obscenity-laden rant that Anthony Weiner’s communications director, Barbara Morgan, unleashed on a former intern who got celebrity treatment from the New York Daily News for dishing on the campaign’s many problems.

You don’t have to be okay with Morgan’s flair for misogynist insults to understand why she’d be beside herself. I mean, here you are as the spokesperson for a campaign that is melting down before your eyes, soon to become an unforgettable, career-altering byword for political catastrophe, and the person you used to send out for coffee is mocking you personally—even dissing your resume—from the front page of a newspaper, while negotiating to appear on Piers Morgan.

All over Washington, and wherever political professionals meet, I betcha this incident unleashed a barrage of Intern From Hell stories (as common as the Boss From Hell stories that interns and other young professionals tell), which probably serve as an unconscious form of rationalization for the inherent exploitation involved in the whole internship racket. My own favorite involved an intern in the Georgia governor’s office who somehow managed to fax a highly confidential political memo I’d sent to the White House in 1993 (and which I’d shared with the intern to show what a cool, inclusive boss I was) to the entire Georgia Congressional Delegation, leading to a few hours of sweaty madness in which I called in every chit I owned to get the documents retrieved from the fax machines of Republican Members before anyone comprehended the content.

Such lore, unfortunately, probably contributes to the culture whereby interns are denied any assignments a five-year-old could not confidently execute, and to a perpetual cycle of abuse wherein yesterday’s intern becomes today’s back-stabbing leaker and tomorrow’s abusive, paranoid boss. But there’s nothing like a failing tabloid-magnet campaign in the world’s largest media fishbowl to make a bad situation infinitely worse.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.

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