“I think that’s accurate,” she said. “And I think my own children have that toward me. And I feel endless guilt about it. And it’s not anything I will ever be able to reconcile in my soul.”
I understood. I still asked her to try to square these two things.
“I love being a journalist. I do. There are things that I haven’t done. I didn’t move my children to D.C. I haven’t taken assignments in foreign countries, right? What I do is not the same as what my father did. But have I missed more time than I wish I had? Yeah. That’s 100-percent true. And I make it up by trying to be much more present now. And I am. But this is also my job,” she said. “Whatever beat I’m covering I will do with an intensity.”
She got her first pager in 1996. She got her first cell phone in 1998. She could be reached. Always. In 2001, she told me, when she was covering Bloomberg, one of her colleagues had gotten ahold of a piece of direct mail that made an exaggerated claim about some hospital of which he had been chair, and it was 8 at night, and her editor called. “I’ll start in the morning,” she said, “and he said, ‘No. Now.’” And so she did. In 2007, she said, she and her husband had tickets to a play that his mother had gotten them for a gift the year before, and they were on 47th Street, about to walk into the theater. “And my editor called me and said, ‘I need you to come back.’ Because he needed me to write about a part of this story about how Rudy Giuliani’s wife, Judith Nathan, had a third husband, and the Daily News was about to break it,” she said. “And so I went back to the newsroom. And that was my night. And that wasn’t great.” But that’s what she did. And then when she started at POLITICO, she had a blog, and then there was no end of the day. It was all just one long day. And then Trump took that and torqued it, to no end, with no discernible end.
Haberman has joked with Eli Stokols about a book they both like. It’s called The Iowa Baseball Confederacy, a lesser-known work by W.P. Kinsella, who also wrote the book that became the movie “Field of Dreams.” The Iowa Baseball Confederacy is about a game that never ends.
Over the course of these last couple of years, she’s posted on her Instagram old pictures of her children, now 11 to 17, pictures of her holding them and kissing them and looking at them when they were little the way only a parent does. She’s posted a video of them playing in the snow. “This is joy,” she wrote. She’s posted a picture somebody took of her pitching a Wiffle ball to her youngest son. She’s posted pictures of Cookie Monster cupcakes she’s baked. She’s posted a screenshot with closed captions from “Minority Report.” (“You can choose, you can choose, you can choose …”) She’s posted a screen shot with closed captions from the Marvel movie “Doctor Strange.” (“There was no other way …”) And she’s posted a passage from The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter: “What good was it? That was the question she would like to know. What the hell good was it. All the plans she had made, and the music. When all that came of it was this trap — the store, then home to sleep, and back at the store again. … And she was just getting off. Whenever there was overtime the manager always told her to stay. Because she could stand longer on her feet and work harder before giving out than any other girl.”
“This is just how I am,” she said to me now.
Now, here in the run-up to the release of Confidence Man, she walked out of Gargiulo’s and into the onset of the evening light. We walked back across the lot. We got into her periwinkle Honda CRV with an empty seltzer bottle and a Wiffle ball and Andrew Kirtzman’s new book about Giuliani at my feet in the front passenger seat. She pulled out of Coney Island and onto the Belt Parkway. The dashboard screen pinged consistently with calls and texts from Trump world and beyond. She called a colleague who was down in Washington writing the article to match the piece in the Post. “I’ll hop in at some point. I just need to get to a stationary place,” she told him. To me she kept fretting about how the Post had had it first. “I apologized to my editor,” she said.
At some point she looked up at the exit signs she was passing and not taking.
“Am I going the right way?” she said.
She was not. She was headed east, toward the deeper reaches of Long Island, when she needed to be going west, toward home.
“I’m so sorry,” she said.
Now we were going the right way. “I’ve done a lot of work that I’m really, really, really proud of,” she said. “We’ve had reporting that would not have become public — ever, I think — had we not had it. And so that’s what we do. That is the nature of what we do. It’s not an addiction to who’s up, who’s down. This stuff matters.”
The word addiction made me ask something I had wanted to ask.
“Are you addicted to this work?”
“Yes. One hundred percent,” she said. “I think you knew the answer to your question. It’s my curse and my salvation.”
Her phone kept buzzing. And now it was a source from a different story. I could hear only her end of the conversation, but it was obvious that the source was not at all pleased, and it was equally obvious Maggie Haberman was not having it. “It’s not a cheap shot,” she said. “You think facts you don’t like are cheap shots, and they’re not,” she said. “Don’t talk to me this way!”
She hung up. And we finally were back in Brooklyn, in her neighborhood, which she called her “happy place.” She pulled into her driveway, and she opened her door. On the floor in the room in the front of her house was a box of an early batch of her books. She said hello to her husband, and she said hello to her daughter, and her sons were upstairs. The dining room table was covered with clutter. She sat down and opened her laptop and started typing.