Ed Koch: 'Being Abashed Is a Waste of Time'

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Ed Koch, the irascible, charismatic, patriotic, grandly flawed ex-mayor of New York, died this morning, at age 88. He brought New York City back to life, and he will be remembered forever for doing so. You can read Ben Smith's New York Sun obituary of Koch here. Smith wrote the obit when he was in the employ of Seth Lipsky, in whose employ you once could have found me. (Most people in journalism seem to have been employed by Seth at one point or another.)

It was courtesy of Seth that I had my longest conversation with Koch. I first interviewed him in 1985, as a reporter for The Daily Pennsylvanian. He was the first politician of stature I had ever interviewed, and I flubbed it. I wanted to ask him about the corruption cases that were just then being exposed, but he out-talked me, and I was too young to know that I should have simply forced my way back into the conversation.

Several years later, Seth hosted a dinner for Koch in Brooklyn, which was, of course, great fun -- Koch on any subject was a joy to listen to, even when he was full of it -- and he offered me a ride back into the city in his police-driven Town Car. I'll never forget one moment of the drive back -- we pulled up alongside a fire engine, and Koch rolled down his window to scream hello to the firefighters, who responded with pumped fists and sirens. They were so happy to see him, and he was so happy to be seen. His desire for attention could not be satiated.

As we were driving into town, I told him about our first encounter, several years earlier, and I said his filibustering kept me from asking what I wanted to ask. Why didn't I interrupt, he asked. I told him I was abashed. He responded: "Being abashed is a waste of time."

I'll never forget that line.

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Jeffrey Goldberg is a national correspondent for The Atlantic and a recipient of the National Magazine Award for Reporting. He is the author of Prisoners: A Story of Friendship and Terror. More

Before joining The Atlantic in 2007, Goldberg was a Middle East correspondent, and the Washington correspondent, for The New Yorker. He was previouslly a correspondent for The New York Times Magazine and New York magazine. He has also written for the Jewish Daily Forward and was a columnist for The Jerusalem Post.

Goldberg's book Prisoners was hailed as one of the best books of 2006 by the Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, The Washington Post, Slate, The Progressive, Washingtonian magazine, and Playboy. He received the 2003 National Magazine Award for Reporting for his coverage of Islamic terrorism and the 2005 Anti-Defamation League Daniel Pearl Prize. He is also the winner of the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists prize for best international investigative journalist; the Overseas Press Club award for best human-rights reporting; and the Abraham Cahan Prize in Journalism.

In 2001, Goldberg was appointed the Syrkin Fellow in Letters of the Jerusalem Foundation, and in 2002 he became a public-policy scholar at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, D.C.

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