Episode 72, with guests Bob Woodward, John Emerson and Eli Attie (Re-post)

Bob Woodward, John Emerson and Eli Attie are our guests this week.
Show produced by Katherine Caperton.
Original Air Date: September 22, 2012 on SiriusXM “POTUS” Channel 124.
Polioptics airs regularly on POTUS on Saturdays at 6 am, 12 noon and 6 pm.
Follow us on Twitter @Polioptics Listen to the show by clicking on the bar above.
Show also available for download on Apple iTunes by clicking here.

A few neat happenings in New York City this week.

First, thanks to the day job in corporate PR, I was among a lucky few (as a sponsor of the sliver of the stadium) to get a behind-the-scenes walk-through of the Barclays Center in Brooklyn.

It’s a gorgeous facility, inside and out. The carpets in our suite reeked of just-out-of-the-plastic newness. Every member of the staff, we were told, had just been through a crash course at the Disney Institute, and it showed — a bit of Magic Kingdom hospitality in New York. And the catering, which we all sampled heartily, was unlike anything you’re likely to find at another stadium. I particularly liked noshing on the Cubans and the fish tacos. The back-on-grey-on grey color scheme of the concourse and the bowl of the arena screamed Brooklyn hipster. I can’t wait for the Jay-Z concert to formally inaugurate the stadium next week.

Check out the New York Times’ glowing review here.

Memo to Debbie Wasserman Schultz and Reince Priebus: before your terms are up, get your site survey team to check out the Barclays Center for DNC or GOP Convention 2016 and put down a deposit. Killer venue. Groovy vibe. Great message (and not a bad setting for an Andrew Cuomo speech accepting the Democratic nomination…).

Second, with world leaders gathering here for the United Nations General Assembly next week it means that the annual Clinton Global Initiative is convening as well. How ’bout that Time Magazine cover this weekQuite a contrast from 19 years ago. Looks like Rick Stengel has has a different view of Clinton, and the world.

Lots of old friends coming into town. White House pal (and Polioptics guest) Craig Minassian is hard at work managing the event communications. Plans are afoot among White House alumni for a series of dinners at to keep the economy humming among Manhattan eating establishments. Should be fun.

* * *

As Bob Woodward, our first guest on Episode 72, reminds us, many of Clintonites who didn’t follow the the President out of the White House in 2001 were back there in 2011 staffing Barack Obama in the negotiations over entitlement and tax reform.

In his 17th book, The Price of Politics, Woodward (brother-in-law to Polioptics pal Redmond Walsh) shows Clintonites Jack Lew, Gene Sperling, Tim Geithner and Bill Daley going toe-to-toe, day after day, with their opposites from the staffs of John Boehner, Mitch McConnell and Eric Cantor.

A lot of the reviews of Woodward’s book have concluded that the fiscal negotiating process between early 2009 and early 2012 was depressing because so much was kicked down the road, and Woodward himself cast a dour tone in our conversation. But as Bob brought us into the Roosevelt and Cabinet rooms for so many of the meetings and gave us minute-by-minute play-by-play, I came away impressed, not so much by the result, but rather the sweat and toil that most of the players put into the effort.

Despite appearances, Washington isn’t all photo-ops and out-of-town hops on Air Force One. They’re working relentlessly, and I hold out hope that in a second Obama term, if there is one, the price of politics won’t be so high so that history can instead be made in the form of a Grand Bargain.

* * *

I know a lot of expert political fundraisers who watched the video of Mitt Romney playing pundit at Marc Leder’s house and must have thought ‘there but for the absence of a carefully stashed flip cam go I.’

The video story is a great get by David Corn and Mother Jones. The magazine has a unique niche among a certain type of reader, and the story this week exploded its reach beyond that readership. As my pal @MarkLeibovich tweeted: “Lots of angry Republicans might cancel their Mother Jones subscriptions over this…” Even my dad, who for years allowed New Republics to pile up unread on his nightstand, has probably never given a second thought to Mother Jones. He has now.

When stuff like this breaks, I’m always drawn to questions of process and motive. Why and how did a member of Marc Leder’s catering staff tape the Romney remarks? Who was making the calls to have a video that was shot in May held in abeyance until it could be unveiled in September, when its damage is exponentially more severe?

NBC’s Michael Isikoff was quick to the story how James Carter IV, President Jimmy Carter’s grandson, drew out the source of the recording via Twitter. Somehow…from there, the tape made its way to Mother Jones and, as so often happens, to the mainstream media echo chamber.

As tone deaf as Governor Romney’s remarks were, the story is that much worse for the Republican candidate as a result of the style of the video. If it was just a written transcript, or an audio recording, or even a head-on high-definition video, it wouldn’t recall the 1980 ABSCAM video implicating Rep. John Murtha or the infamous sting on Washington, D.C. Mayor Marion Barry. Romney isn’t taking a bribe or smoking crack at Marc Leder’s house, but cable television loves video, especially grainy video (message — we’re seeing something we’re not supposed to) and the essential surreptitiousness of the image quality helped to drive the story.

Everything about this episode was so dark and pessimistic that I had to take refuge with one of the sunniest and optimistic fundraiser’s I know: John Emerson, or “Emo” as we called him in the Clinton White House when we was political liaison to California and the nation’s governors.

Today, John is President of Captial Group Private Client Services and still very much a political macher on the West Coast as evidenced by his title of California Co-Chair of Obama for America. In our conversation, he updated us on why California could lead the way to diminishing polarization in politics in future campaign cycles.

The New York Times gave John some prominence last week a leading bundler for the Obama Campaign, but the Emersons, John and Kimberly, are getting more notoriety for the role of their daughter, Jacqueline, the this summer’s blockbuster, The Hunger Games.

Listen to our conversation with John, and see if you can’t pick up some helpful hints for how to avoid having your fundraiser turn into one like Marc Leder’s. Want more clues? Pour through this pool report of an Obama for America fundraiser held in Los Angeles in 2011. John plays a role as the president’s introducer at one of the events. Pool reports (which I wrote about long ago for Brill’s Content) are the first draft of the first draft of history, and this one is telling.

* * *

Who would have thought that one of the happiest moments to come out of Campaign 2012 would be thanks to the non-partisan candidacy of a woman seeking election to the Michigan Supreme Court?

But that’s precisely what Bridget Mary McCormack has done as a result of the tantalizingly brief reunion of the cast of THE WEST WING to tout her candidacy. The “walk and talk” is back, as is the bizarre over-the-head flip by which President Bartlett dons is suit coat. It’s been too long.

To get a much broader taste of how Washington meets Hollywood, Episode 72 features an extended conversation with speechwriter-turned-screenwriter Eli Attie, a friend of many years from our days working together in the Clinton White House.

Eli, who served as chief speechwriter for Vice President Al Gore right up to his final concession to George W. Bush in December, 2000, left behind the carnage of that campaign and arrived in Los Angeles where Aaron Sorkin took him in and made a screenwriter out of him.

Like the Gore campaign, Eli stayed at THE WEST WING until NBC shut the lights off after the 7th season. He then reunited with Sorkin for the short-lived STUDIO 60 ON THE SUNSET STRIP, but then settled in for an extended run on Fox’s HOUSE, which ended its eight-season run this spring. After a dozen years churning out and rewriting scripts on two of television’s most enduring series, Eli’s taking a well-deserved break from the writers’ room, but expect to see him attain showrunner status when he returns, tanned, rested and ready.

For now, enjoy the nostalgia of one last trip down the corridors of The West Wing:


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