Entries in politics (14)
One of the fun aspects of being a congressman is the different kinds of people that I meet. After we left Glover, Levi and I took a beautiful drive across the width of the state to Swanton, which is located in northwest Vermont, just south of the Canadian border. I often think how lucky I am not only to live in Vermont, but to campaign there. Driving along beautiful Vermont country roads in August, as the sun goes down, just ain't hard work. It's exactly the kind of thing I would do if I never ran for office. In the back of the car I always have a bathing suit, and it's not uncommon for us to stop midday on the campaign trail and jump into a nearby lake or river.
I don't know that I would do it for everybody, or even could, really, but I think it worked here, this profile of Donald Trump in the words of Donald Trump in 199 things the current Republican front-runner has said.
CLEARWATER, Fla. — Sitting recently on his brick back patio here, Michael Schiavo called Jeb Bush a vindictive, untrustworthy coward.
For years, the self-described “average Joe” felt harassed, targeted and tormented by the most important person in the state.
“It was a living hell,” he said, “and I blame him.”
Michael Schiavo was the husband of Terri Schiavo, the brain-dead woman from the Tampa Bay area who ended up at the center of one of the most contentious, drawn-out conflicts in the history of America’s culture wars. The fight over her death lasted almost a decade. It started as a private legal back-and-forth between her husband and her parents. Before it ended, it moved from circuit courts to district courts to state courts to federal courts, to the U.S. Supreme Court, from the state legislature in Tallahassee to Congress in Washington. The president got involved. So did the pope.
But it never would have become what it became if not for the dogged intervention of the governor of Florida at the time, the second son of the 41st president, the younger brother of the 43rd, the man who sits near the top of the extended early list of likely 2016 Republican presidential candidates. On sustained, concentrated display, seen in thousands of pages of court records and hundreds of emails he sent, was Jeb the converted Catholic, Jeb the pro-life conservative, Jeb the hands-on workaholic, Jeb the all-hours emailer—confident, competitive, powerful, obstinate Jeb. Longtime watchers of John Ellis Bush say what he did throughout the Terri Schiavo case demonstrates how he would operate in the Oval Office. They say it’s the Jebbest thing Jeb’s ever done.
2. From Silao, Mexico, Jeb Bush's forgotten father-in-law.
3. Jeb's Talk Radio Problem: As the country’s gotten more complicated, their public relationship has gotten more complicated, too. The crux of the split is a function of their fundamentally at-odds views about immigration—of the very notion, actually, of America’s changing demographics. They both think this country is “exceptional,” but for divergent reasons—Limbaugh extolling “a distinct, singular American culture,” Bush embracing its increasingly multiracial, multi-ethnic makeup. They both moved to South Florida, but to very different parts, and for very different reasons. Bush moved to Miami because he has a Mexican wife and three brown-skinned children. Limbaugh moved to Palm Beach because he’s rich.
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — Her husband, the governor, had made her the chair of a committee charged with the critical task of proposing more stringent standards for education in their state. “It is indeed an honor for me to have the opportunity to work with you,” she wrote in a letter to the 15 members of the group in late April 1983. She told them they had a chance “to make recommendations that will enable our public schools to offer improved educational opportunities for all our children.” Somebody had typed up a rough draft. The name at the bottom was Hillary Clinton — but she added a correction, in pen, inserting between the two names a third. Rodham.
If the interminable central question about the most-pulled-apart, most-argued-about, most-listened-to, most famous woman in the world has to do with who she actually, authentically is, and if her just-announced campaign needs to be the latest effort to “reintroduce” her, as insiders and advisers have said, it’s worth assessing the busy year here that in many ways introduced her in the first place.
For Hillary Rodham Clinton, the Arkansas education reform of 1983 was her first high-profile public policy initiative. It was a singular, pivotal window of time, too, between who she had been and who she hoped she would be. According to those who knew her and worked with her, it shows who she is because it shows who she was, before Whitewater, before Gennifer and Monica, before the health care crash-and-burn and the constant scandal smolder in Washington.
She was more open and more accessible. She was demanding, exacting and exhausting. And she was policy-first but politically astute, pragmatic, even calculating.
“She can’t run for president because of what she did in Arkansas in 1983,” veteran Democratic strategist Bob Shrum said. “But what she did in Arkansas in 1983 has to be a kind of a template.”
MAUMEE, Ohio — The 25-year-old who cooked the chicken that went into the burrito bowl Hillary Clinton ordered at the Chipotle here on Monday makes $8.20 an hour and splits rent with two roommates.
The 29-year-old general manager used to work three jobs and now is thrilled to be able to have just this one.
The young woman who was at the cash register was the only employee on duty at the time who thought she recognized her. She considered asking if anybody had ever told her she “looked like Hillary Clinton.” But she didn’t. It was 1:20 p.m., at the tail end of “peak time,” lunch rush.
They were busy.
6. From Portsmouth, N.H., the woman who made Hillary Clinton cry.
9. On where Mike Huckabee made his announcement: A place where Caddo Indians once lived in small groups on the banks of the Red River before Manifest Destiny and epidemic disease; a place where titanic watermelons long have grown in the sandy soil with its shallow roots; a place where the largest source of jobs is a Tyson chicken plant; a place where some of the commerce sucked from downtown by the completion in the 1970s of Interstate 30 has returned in the form of Clinton baubles and novelties hawked and displayed at the house where he was born, and the house where he then moved, and the old train depot that’s been turned into a museum, all of them stops on what the state sells as a “Billgrimage.” Hope.
10. The Year That Changed Jeb Bush Forever: What if the headmaster hadn’t created a committee to rejigger the curriculum? What if Lyons and Frederick hadn’t created Man and Society? What if Bush hadn’t re-done the ninth grade, and he had graduated from Andover in 1970, not 1971? What would he have become?
He was born in Midland, Texas, and he spent a good bit of his boyhood in Houston, and he went to high school in Andover, Massachusetts, and to college in Austin, Texas, and he has lived for the last three and a half decades in Miami. But at the top of the list of the most important places in the world in the life of Jeb Bush is the central Mexican state of Guanajuato, and its conservative, old-world Catholic capital of León.
León is why he proposed marriage in Spanish, why his three children are Mexican-American, why his favorite foods are enchiladas and chilaquiles — why he is not a Protestant like the rest of his pedigreed New England family.
Jeb Bush’s degree in Latin American Studies from the University of Texas; his youthful tour as a banker in Venezuela; his decision to live in bilingual, bicultural South Florida; his lucrative business partnership with a Cuban-American real estate developer; his stubborn insistence on a doors-open immigration policy in a Republican Party that has moved away from it; even the portrait of the patron saint of Mexico that hung in the mansion in Tallahassee when he was the governor of Florida — so much of it can be traced back to León.
“My life really began in earnest when I was 17 years old in León, Mexico,” Bush, the third member of his family to seek the American presidency, said this week in a packed living room in Bedford, New Hampshire.
In 1971, he met Columba Garnica de Gallo, the petite local girl who would become his wife, in the city’s central plaza on a Sunday afternoon, toward the end of a two-month study-abroad program in the middle of his senior year at Phillips Academy, commonly referred to as Andover. He has described the moment as “knock-down,” “knocked me out” love at first sight; earlier this month in Dubuque, Iowa, he called it “a lightning strike.”
But like all creation myths, Bush’s Mexico love story is more complicated than his stump-speech account: What changed him forever was an Andover story, too, about a privileged, tradition-bound place upended by the tumult of the 1960s, leading to a course different from any other Andover had ever offered, an experiment that exposed Bush and a small group of carefully selected classmates to a set of ideas and experiences that were contemporary, progressive and even radical. This was no mere academic reading list; it was an exercise in remaking young men, forcing them to endure physical stunts that seem in retrospect shocking, almost negligent — so stressful and unsettling many in the group later would liken the ordeal to Lord of the Flies. The man who would go on to become the self-described “most conservative governor in Florida’s history” had his life transformed by an edgy, leftist class.
It was called Man and Society.
On the one hand, the iPhone concentrates all the possible accesses to the world and to others in a single object. It is the lamp and the camera, the mason's level and the musician's recording device, the TV and the compass, the tourist guide and the means of communication; on the other, it is the prosthesis that bars any openness to what is there and places me in a regime of constant, convenient semi-presence, retaining a part of my being-there in its grip.
Charlie Crist stood on one side of the pool, and almost all of the rest of the people stood on the other, the glittery Florida portrait between them. The former governor who wants to be governor again had spent the past hour or so at this house of a lawyer on a golf course in Bradenton. He gaped at family vacation photos on the walls, telling the host and his wife, "Show me all your pictures, please." He walked outside to the yard to toss a football with their 11-year-old son, taking off his jacket and handing it to an aide, loosening his pink tie but only slightly, lobbing reliable spirals in the early evening heat, showing no sign of sweat, his pressed blue shirt staying impeccably tucked into the slender waist of his charcoal slacks. One of the guests asked, "Governor, do you ever have bad days?" And he answered, "It hardly ever happens! How can you have bad days? We live in Florida!" He made his way back inside, gliding past an aquarium filled with pretty, flitting fish, past the bar stocked with Crown Royal and Michelob Ultra, past the trays of shrimp and cheese, popping into his mouth a niblet of tuna on a tiny piece of toast. He floated through the crowd, asking for their names, asking about their jobs, thanking them for coming in his pleasing, polished patter, but never lingering for long, before ending up on his side of the pool and calling this state "the prettiest place on the planet." The people had paid up to $500 a head to attend. Now Crist asked them for more.
"Whatever you gave," he said, "double it."
They laughed and clapped.
"I'm not kidding," he said.
They laughed and clapped some more.
"Please," he said, letting the stir subside, waiting for silence. "Because you're not giving it to me. You're giving it to your children. You're investing in their future. You're saving our Florida."
Imagine if Rick Scott got re-elected, Crist told them, "and you didn't give a little bit more … and it's Wednesday morning after the election day …" All of Scott's negative ads, Crist said, "I mean, I'm bleeding for you. You watch TV, they're hitting me, every day … and I'm taking it. And I'm honored to do it."
All politicians say stuff of this sort. Few say it as convincingly as Crist. If politics is a series of interactions that ultimately are transactions, means to an end — give me your money, give me your vote — then Crist, say people who like him, and also people who don't, has an undeniable gift. He can walk into a room filled with mostly strangers, and when he leaves, even if it's just an hour later, everybody feels as if they know him. Feels as if he knows them. Feels good. He makes politics look easy.
It's all the more remarkable because little else about Crist suggests a logical winner. He was divorced and single for most of his adulthood and has minimal private-sector experience. He has had to address rumors that he's gay. He has had to withstand questions over whether he's the father of a daughter from a one-night stand. He has had to listen to chatter that his wife did not speak to her own daughters for nearly three years. His pick for chairman of the Republican Party of Florida went to prison for theft and just published a book portraying Crist as a sociopathic, narcissistic backstabber. Half a dozen other Crist associates also have gone to prison.
And what the 58-year-old St. Petersburg resident is trying to do now should be impossible. It should be impossible to be governor as a Republican and then governor, again, just four years later, as a Democrat. Nobody has ever done that. Polls, though, say Crist has a chance, and a good chance.
He could win in November because he's one of Florida's most famous politicians. He could win because he's running against one of the country's most unpopular governors. He could win, too, he thinks, because people see him as affable and approachable. Because they like him. Because they know him.
But who is Charlie Crist?
Charming or scheming? Focused or distracted? Disciplined or reckless? A lover of people or a user of people? Uncommon empath or unrelenting opportunist?
The answer to all: Yes.
A "vessel," Crist called himself last month. It's unwittingly introspective, an apt description, more true than he even intends. A vessel is empty until it's not. Who do you want him to be? What do you want him to do? He's a devoted listener. Fill him up. Keep reading.
In the hardscrabble South Ward of Newark, New Jersey, in the dull early-morning sky looks like rain. Kids wait for school buses on a cracked asphalt street amid storefront churches and corner bodegas and buildings with windows covered by bars. Inside a rented brick-front townhouse, in a small second-floor room, Mayor Cory Booker, dressed in a Nike shirt and shorts, bench-presses 115 pounds, up and down, and then chest-presses a pair of 55-pound dumbbells, up and down. Then he returns to the barbell, and then back to the dumbbells, and repeats it all, over and over. "This," Booker says, "is really about going to failure."