Recovering from kidney stone surgery recently allowed me to retreat from the current political wrangling to the more distant politics of our Founding Fathers.
I've concluded that not much has changed in 200 years. American politics in the 1700s was just as polarizing and as grubby as today's politics. If the Founding Fathers seem 10 feet tall, it's only because we have been looking at their statues - not seeing them through the eyes of their contemporaries.
I finished the highly acclaimed new biography by Ron Chernow, "Washington." Like so many others, I have enjoyed reading biographies of Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams and James Madison.
While it is a remarkable group of men, they are just that - imperfect men.
Consider Washington's first successful political campaign, in which he was elected to Virginia's House of Burgesses. Like Madison and other politicians, he used the popular but illegal method of bribing voters at the polls with booze.
His campaign forwarded him with an expense account of 34 gallons of wine, three pints of brandy, 13 gallons of beer, eight quarts of cider, and 40 gallons of rum punch. When he received the bill, Washington replied: "My only fear is that you spent with too sparing a hand."
The Father of our Country was admired as a man of extraordinary integrity - but not one entirely beyond questioning. When Congress decided to place the new capital on the Potomac, they granted Washington the power to choose the site. Washington chose a site just north of his home at Mount Vernon.
Years after Washington's death, John Adams complained that Washington had profited "from the federal city, by which he raised the value of his property and that of his family a thousand percent at an expense to the public of more than his whole fortune."
The distrust between today's Democrats and Republicans is nothing compared to the poisonous atmosphere in the country's beginning.
The country was divided between the Jeffersonians and the Hamiltonians - the Republicans and the Federalists - and both sides had grave doubts about whether the other side even believed in the new American experiment.
Jefferson, Madison and the Republicans worried that Federalists - Alexander Hamilton, Washington, Adams - wanted a monarchy.
The Federalists feared that Jeffersonians were conspiring with French radicals to subvert the Constitution and convert America into "a province of France," as Hamilton put it.
As for the press, it was aligned with political parties, and filled with personal attacks that compete with anything in today's blogosphere.