Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Once Upon a Time

Once Upon a Time there were two University Professors who had a daughter. They lived in NYC, in NYU professor housing. The daughter had a boyfriend who was abusive. Then he killed her. He said he tried to kill himself, but he failed -- what a shame. He’s alive, she’s dead, her parents will never recover, and no one lived happily ever after. The End. For them.

I didn’t mean to be morbid but sometimes terrible news just gets to me. Especially when it involves young men or women who might be my son or daughter.

Last night we watched the Democratic debate or as I think of it, “let’s get together and beat up Obama”. I guess all the candidates are hoping if they can’t be first, at the very least, they might be second. I think Obama and Edwards are still running for President but the others are hoping to get a job which allows them to live at the Naval Observatory. It’s a very nice house. We’ve been there for Halloween and Christmas parties with the Gores. I’m not sure it’s nice enough to play second fiddle to a President and have to suck up the humiliation that often comes with the job, but it’s probably better than being a Senator or even a Governor. You get a car and driver- lots of them actually - Secret Service, your own airplane, seats at the Kennedy Center, and always an invitation to a State dinner. Those other jobs may come with a car and driver but the benefits are nowhere in the same league. And besides, those other jobs require reelection. After this one finishes you can pretty much call you own shots. Go on the speakers’ circuit and maybe even position yourself for the big job.

In our soon to be published book “So You Think You Can Be President” we ask the following question, or maybe we don’t. But here it is:

As the Presidential Nominee, what do you look for in a Vice President? Choose the most important criteria from the following:
1. Someone who comes from a state with lots of electoral votes.
2. Someone who can deliver that state and lots of electoral votes.
3. A person who enjoys a good funeral.
4. Age, gender and issue balance. If you’re old you want someone young, girl boy, liberal conservative, good haircut bad haircut.

There are other qualities to consider. but those are a good start. I have only been privy to discussions about one Vice President. Not being a tell all kind of staffer I won’t tell you which one but it was quite an experience. First of all there is always a great deal of bad blood after the primaries because candidates say terrible things about one another and it’s hard to recover. For example, when Carter got the nomination there was no way they were going to consider Mo Udall as the Vice President. Here’s the interesting thing: Mo was from the West and Jimmy was from the South. Mo was a Mormon and Jimmy was a born again Christian. Mo had a wonderful sense of humor, Jimmy’s was hard to find. Mo was a liberal, no one knew what Jimmy was. The press adored Mo and they could never figure out exactly how they felt about Jimmy – but they did like his staff. Mo was tall and Jimmy was short. It would have been a perfect ticket except that they really didn’t like one another. Imagine what those Tuesday cottage cheese and ketchup lunches would have been like. Too many long silences? Probably.

During the primaries, as the candidates dropped out, their staff people joined other campaigns. But after the Convention, the Carter people refused to have anything to do with the some of the senior Udall staff. Mo was somewhat happy about this but ultimately had a conversation with the Carters, and they came to some kind of agreement about some of us. I worked for Mrs. Carter at Mo’s urging. He said it would totally piss Ella Udall off (I had worked with her during the Udall campaign) but he felt we were all Democrats and we needed to work to win. So I enlisted. I loved Mrs. Carter. I had been warned that she was a Steel Magnolia but after working with Ella, whose nickname she happily reported was ‘tiger’, Rosalynn was a joy. I actually didn’t have to go out hunting for her in the middle of the night and I didn’t have to stay up most nights till the wee hours of the morning (often closing the hotel bar) because she was an insomniac. That being said, Ella had a wonderful sense of humor. She was a truly funny, talented person who would do remarkable imitations of staff people and have us all howling about it. The media also loved her. They never reported all her antics, or her many marriages because, I think, they wanted Mo to have a chance. Rosalynn was much more well behaved, but much to everyone’s surprise, she liked my antics. We actually had a good time. For example, we were all told that we needed to stay in moderately priced hotels. That usually meant a crummy motel. I didn’t stay in those places but I did negotiate a moderate price in very fancy places. People were sure she was going to fire me, but to the contrary when I explained that Jews prefer to pay wholesale, she thought that was terrific and was happy about the occasional fancy place. Even when I had us staying at the Royal Orleans, where they put our names on the candy on our pillows, she was OK with it. Well, I did tell her that the Secret Service insisted, but she had no desire to check my story.

As much as I hated the Udall loss, I was happy for the Carter win. It was nice to be part of a White House Administration. The Carters were very generous about inviting their staff and their families to participate in White House events. Seth loved the Easter egg hunt and all the other activities – it was terrific for all of us. In addition, I met some of my closest friends and had fabulous jobs. I operated in senior circles and made contacts I couldn’t have imagined. And the Mondales (the VP selection) were always good to work with. You know, he was tall, liberal, from the midwest, funny and the press liked him. Further, there was no staff hostility and little competition – no bad blood. I guess the Carters made some very good decisions. Including me. We’re just sayin...Iris

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Never met Mr. Carter. Know people that have through Habitat For Humanity, they loved him,and felt loved.

As a Canadian, I miss him. Never felt more at ease as when he was in the Whitehouse. I never felt that something was being hidden (even during the hostage event). I think most people north of the border felt that way. - Far cry from Bush et al.