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Friday, May 04, 2012
Tully. Just Tully.
The other day when i was perusing Facebook, which I do to find out what’s happening with my kids and the world, I came across the Paul Tully page. No one ever called him Paul -- he was always Tully. He was a big presence, certainly in my life, but everywhere he went. Didn't matter if it was a room or a person, he didn’t exactly suck the air out of the room, there just wasn’t enough room for him and the air because he filled every space.
Tully was too young when he died during the Clinton campaign in1992, in Arkansas. It was hard to imagine Tully working for Clinton, but we all figured, having never had a winning Presidential candidate, he was ready for a victory. Tully was drinking coffee and smoking cigarettes -- his staples, and he was working on a memo. He had a heart attack and died alone in his hotel room. It took a while for anyone in the campaign to realize he was missing, because he was only available when he wanted to be. But when he didn't show for a strategy meeting, everyone knew there must be problem.
Tully was my political mentor and friend. He taught me how to organize a state, design a poll, be an expert Advance person, work with the media, identify voters, and basically he made sure I understood everything that needed to be done in a campaign. Best of all, he taught be to appreciate Joni Mitchell and Joan Baez. The thing I always found most fascinating about this political wizard was that he was great with a thousand people in the greater scheme of things, but he wasn't very good with one on one affection. The minute anyone got to close he moved on. We all watched as he yelled "next". He had been married and even had a beautiful daughter, but they were not part of his day to day when he was working on a campaign. He had hundreds of affairs-- as men always did in those days, especially on the campaign trail. But until right before he died, he preferred to remain without permanent commitment-- except to whatever candidate and whatever campaign, until it was over.
He was like a lovable teddy bear -- big and snuggly with amazing green eyes and dark hair, always messy, and clothes always severely rumpled. Once we went to a movie in Boston and as I led us into the theater, the usher stopped him from flowing because he thought Tully was a derelict. I laughed until I cried, and so did he.
When he died, we made buttons that said "92 for Tully". He loved campaign crap. Those of us who knew him and felt the absence of him, dedicated the work we did, to him... Our mentor, teacher, friend, lifeline so many times. But he's gone and finding a Tully page on Facebook, seems to minimize his immortality. At the very least, it gives me the willies. I assume someone close to him has orchestrated this introduction to Tully who was a private person. Maybe it's selfish, but it feels almost intrusive. Kind of like, "I paid my dues to be his friend, you can’t just sign up and expect the rest of us not to be upset.” If he chose you to be his friend you knew it. If you were not of his liking, you knew that too. With Facebook he has no option.
He was angry at me when I left Massachusetts to travel with the candidate and his wife, and for years, he never said anything to me but "Look at you. Look at you. Big shot!" He never finished the sentence but I knew the end was "thanks to me." He was right. I was a big shot. And I did owe it all to him... And excellent political genes. We’re just sayin’.... Iris