Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Upon Reflection

Upon reflection, Presidential politics is absurd. Actually, it is not only upon reflection—just look at the nightly news. It is too early to predict what’s ultimately going to happen, but it is not too early to predict what’s not going to happen. No one will take the high road. There will be lots of name calling and bloviating (is that the adverb for bloviators or is it just bloviate—what’s the difference, they are all full of hot air.) And eventually they will all cause division in whatever Party they represent. That’s the bad news. The good news is that there might be plenty of opportunity for the young political staff to have unique experiences—if they don’t take themselves too seriously. Yes I know, Presidential politics is big stake, and yes, it is serious stuff—but once you take yourself too seriously you will never act in any sophisticated competent manner because you will be too self-conscious to do anything but cover your ass. Does that make sense? (Why should I start now?)

So it is my belief, and I can't stress this enough, the key to success in a Presidential campaign is to take advantage of every opportunity that has even the remotest possibility of turning into something social. For example, during the Udall campaign (another instance of “when I fell off my dinosaur,”) politically things were looking bleak. While the Candidate and his traveling staff (there were five of us – seven with the candidate and his wife) were in “themiddleofnowhere”, Iowa some political big wig in Washington determined that there was no money left and the campaign couldn't afford a charter aircraft. This was a remarkable decision since the campaign never had any money and we paid for everything (including charter aircraft) on Mo Udall’s American Express card. (Had he won, it would have been a terrific “My Life… My Card” commericial.) The big wig instructed a small wig, to cancel the charter, which was the only mode of transportation the candidate and his entourage (doesn’t that sound so HBO), had to get out of Iowa.

There were no commercial flights leaving from anywhere near where they were physically. And of course there was no way to get to a commercial flight without spending hours and hours driving through a dangerous snow storm. And, as they say in all foreboding tales, to make matters even worse, there was only one hotel in the area and it was booked solid. After many hours of staff begging and pleading for accommodation, the hotel manager, suffering some pressure from the Secret Service, cleaned out what appeared to be an old utility closet. And there sat Cong. Udall, Mrs. Udall, the traveling party, staff assistants and the Secret Service. It took nearly two days to remedy the situation. Campaign credit being what it was (nonexistent) it took two days to convince the charter airlines, the hotel and the rental car and bus people to bill all the campaign expenses to (once again), Mo's Amex card. What has this got to do with romance.? Well after two days of sleepless, tension filled, short tempered, strained and nerve racking confinement, one of the staff aides and one of the Secret Service Agents were still speaking -- Clearly it was love! Did the romance last forever? No not ever, but they had a fabulous time finding their own habitable closets for the rest of the campaign. You see, you just never know when or where that magic moment will happen!

Given the distrust between staff, press and security, I’m not sure this can ever happen again. What a shame. There were oft times when a political staffer, who happened to be rooming with a political reporter, would get a call over some crisis in the middle of the night, and the staffer would swear the reporter to secrecy (‘off the record’--a concept long gone), the reporter would respect the confidentiality, the crisis would be resolved and the campaign would proceed without incident.

Oh, I yearn for days gone by. The days when people were not out to execute their counterparts in politics, the media or security. There was a time when we all worked together to move from point A to point Z. It did not mean you compromised your professional position or your soul. It just meant you respected, rather than feared, your colleagues in the other camp. Everyone has a job to do in a political campaign but it needn’t be adversarial- it can actually be collegial—and that makes it so much more amusing.

For example, when we arrived in Chicago, Mayor Richard Daley (the first Dick), met the campaign train. Tina and I noticed he was wandering aimlessly. Tina was not on the staff, she was my pal and she lived in Wisconsin so she came to the event—an arrival was an ‘event’ I those days. Anyway, when we saw the Mayor foundering we felt obligated to help him find his way—but we didn’t know the way because we weren’t from Chicago. So we made it up. Unbelievable as it might seem, there was no security and no staff to guide the Mayor of this large cumbersome city. This could not happen today. But we were so helpful to the Mayor that he invited us back to his house/mansion for a visit. Being always mindful of a social opportunity we declined but asked him for entrĂ©e to any number of fun places in his city—he was happy to oblige. And so I maintain that there may be too much press and too many security people as well as a plethora of staff, but there is never a dearth of opportunity if you take the time to look beyond the campaign and find a way to have a sense of humor and just some fun. We’re just sayin...Iris

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