By the end of his reporting, Packer was something of the beat-down Baghdad correspondent, mixing optimism with grim reality. “I was sympathetic to the freshmen,” he says, “because I was kind of a freshman there myself. But I saw through their eyes how little gets done and how unnecessarily sunk the Senate is in its own arcana. I met some very bright and high-minded freshman senators who in a few years are either going to quit or become creatures of the habitat.”

Joel Meares is a former CJR assistant editor.