In Washington, the paranoia factor is so strong that former Sen. Bob Kerry allowed recently that "in meetings, you'll have people staring at each other afraid to say anything for fear it'll end up in a book ... not writing things down for fear of having documents subpoenaed."
We are privy to the voting records of the congressional chosen, but also to salacious tidbits exposing their threadbare personas.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid caught flak recently when it was reported he, (as one of Barack Obama's earliest supporters,) believed "a light-skinned African-American with no Negro dialect" could win the presidency. The president was not offended, but Reid's gaffe, not meant for public consumption, found its way to print and was seen as condescending.
When John Heilemann and Mark Halperin, writers on politics and policy, penned a retrospective of the 2008 presidential race, they interviewed 200 people connected with the campaigns.
But there are no source notes in their book, "Game Change," a behind-the-scenes look at the campaign. The authors agreed not to attribute quotes to aides and political operatives to get first-hand accounts of candidates' cranky behavior and wifely animus let loose.
So, we now know Cindy McCain believed her husband, John McCain, when he told her he would never run for president again after his disastrous face-off with George W. Bush.
Mrs. McCain was a reluctant campaigner, standing by her man, dressed to the nines and forcing smiles despite migraine headaches.
Her husband's good friend, Sen. Joe Lieberman, was McCain's vice-presidential running mate choice. The offer was made to Lieberman and accepted, but Republican leaders were convinced Lieberman's pro-life stance would split the party and wreck the chance for unity at the Republican convention.
Enter Sarah Palin, vetted with less scrutiny than a minor Cabinet post candidate, Heilermann and Halperin learned. Gov. Palin was tutored night and day before the vice-presidential debate, memorizing domestic policy facts and names of foreign leaders.
The writers of "Game Change" interviewed former McCain staffers who said they agreed if McCain won, Palin "would be relegated to ceremonial roles that pre-modern vice presidents inhabited," because she had neither the knowledge nor experience to represent the U.S. abroad.
On the Democratic front, though The National Enquirer ran a front-page photo of John Edwards holding Rielle Hunter's baby and printed details of Edwards' and Hunter's affair, the former senator still believed he had a shot at being named attorney general and lobbied for the post.
"Game Change" sources told Heilemann and Halperin that Hillary Clinton continued her presidential bid, knowing she could not win the Democratic nomination, because she did not want to disappoint her supporters and she was concerned about her husband's reaction, fearing he would see her as a failure if she pulled out of the campaign.
Initially, Hillary turned down the Secretary of State job offered by President Obama because "she had worked for one man and did not want to work for another," but reconsidered the post as job losses worsened and the president convinced her he would be consumed with the state of the economy and needed her to be his eyes and ears around the world.
As a Washington observer surmised, the public is more interested in intimate details of public life than in its rigorous demands. "The coarsening of American culture" includes the magnifying glass of the media examining the lives of those with recognizable names.
Thus far, White House aides remain loyal and unmoved by efforts to snare them into backroom gossip, but the national appetite is geared toward juicy revelations.
I confess I read Jenny Sanford's book detailing her husband, Gov. Mark Sanford's, tight-wad, cheating ways. He was tough on "pork" projects, but when South Carolinians elected him, they got a pig in a poke.
Judy Elliott is an award-winning columnist from Marietta.