On Monday, March 11, I was having lunch with one of my favorite people in Washington, Ruth Smith, whom I had hired as an intern right out of college back in the early 80s. She is now a senior person in GE's government affairs shop, but that's not the point.
The point is, in the "do you remember when?" phase of the luncheon conversation she asked offhandedly how long I had been writing Mullings.
"Since 1998," I said. "March, 1998," I said. "Damn, it was just about this point in March, 1998," I said because I think that kind of cascading sentence structure is an effective rhetorical tool.
Sure enough, the very first Mullings had been published on March 11, 1998 - exactly 15 years previous.
I headed back to the office determined to see just how much stuff I had written. I went to the archives, opened a spreadsheet, and began counting.
Here are the totals:
-- Including today 1,932 separate Mullings essays
-- Added to that are 47 Travelogues
-- None of that includes the 24 weekly essays from Iraq
Mullings began when I was hired by Newt Gingrich to run GOPAC which, readers of a certain age will remember, had a fairly rocky relationship with the Washington press corps.
I have had a good relationship with most of them, and I was looking for a way to get around their defenses by getting something into their hands that said "GOPAC" at the top but that didn't lead to reporters getting so worked up that they got those little white flecks in the corners of their mouths.
In its first year, email was not quite ubiquitous enough to be a reliable distribution method, so we sent it by way of what was called a "blast fax." Blast faxes have since gone the way of dial telephones, eight track tapes, and slide rules.
The last blast-faxed Mullings was sent out in December of 1998 and I informed everyone that rather than spending 25 cents per page, we would henceforth be sending it by email.
I got a phone call from a lovely woman who was Tim Russert's assistant at NBC asking that, as Mr. Russert didn't have email, could she put her email address on the list and she would print it for him?
I said, "Of course. And please tell Mr. Russert I still think he is one of the great reporters…of the 19th century."
When I left GOPAC about a year later, I was allowed to take Mullings with me - including the list of about 1,000 people. Over the ensuing years more than 40,000 people have signed up for Mullings and a similar number go to the web pages each week.
All that comes to about 1,605,400 words in the 15 years. In addition (although I'm not as confident in this number) there have been some 1,300 Mullfotos beginning in August 2002.
How much output is that? If the average novel is about 80,000 words, I have written the equivalent of 20 novels in those 15 years - 750 words at a time.
And that doesn't count the essays, op-eds, letters-to-the-editor, and blogs I have written for clients - both within government and without - in that span.
I believe the millionth word was typed on August 4, 2006 in an essay about yet another threat by Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. The word was "of."
For comparison sake, the entire Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling runs to 1,084,220 words which she produced between September 1998 and July 2007. Ms. Rowling has been slightly more successful from a financial standpoint, but hope springs eternal for "Mullings: The Movie" at some point.
The King James version of the Bible contains 788,280 words, but God has had a significantly longer run than Mullings, so…
The net of all this is: I'll keep writing Mullings as long as you want to read it.
Thank you for your loyalty and your friendship.