Issue 4 Contents


Conventional Colors

Conventional Colors

Not Anonymous

"Hi. A friend recently told me about your publication Whatever. I have an ongoing bad job story for you. Because of economic realities and the fear of my dismissal, I cannot give you my name. Would you print my bad job story anonymously (I will tell you that my real name is not Joe Kline)? Coincidentally, though, I am a paid staffer in the Dole campaign."

"I spent the first several months since graduating from Yale trying to find a posting with a newspaper to no avail. Like many generation Xers, I found that the world offered less promise than it had my parents. After a while, as it became difficult to provide for my share of the household responsibilities, one of my roommates suggested that I register with a temp agency, "But Mom," I said,"I have bigger dreams. I don't want to be sidetracked just for the sake of a regular paycheck." Unfortunately, mom prevailed, especially when she sought the oppinion of my other roommate, Dad."

"I may be well educated, but I didn't seem to possess a lot of the ablities easily marketed by for temporary work. According to the manager of the agency with which I registered, a former football cheerleader whom I'd tutored in math until she dropped out of high school, I would probably have to accept custodial work until I could improve my typing skills. "I guess I'm kind of a dilettante," I said. "Oh really," she said, "When's your coming out party?"

"I was at home working on my typing skills when my first custodial assignment came."

"I got to be pretty good at my job, and was offered a full time position at the end of three weeks, but explained that I was hoping to put my degree in history to greater use. "History?" said the manager. I felt really awkward, first because I didn't want to seem like I was flaunting my degree in his face and second because I was embarrassed that I was only doing custodial work and on a temporary basis. He gave me ample time to feel awkward while he silently considered my degree. "Well, maybe you'll have better luck than I did with my philosophy degree."

"Tension in the household rose as I refused repeated custodial opportunities, hoping for something better. I thought about writing a book, but soon found myself cataloging episode's of Gilligan's Island and rationalizing it as "research." That's when the big call came. It was Lizzy, the manager from the temp agency, and I let her talk to the answering machine in the likelyhood that she was offering another custodial job. "Hi Dave, it's Lizzy. I have something a little different for you."

"Hi Liz."

"Oh good, you're home. Listen, remember when you were in the office the other day and we were talking about how politically active you were?"

"I remember telling you that I voted..."

"Right. Well, I got a call from the regional office of Dole '96. They're looking for someone to do online research."

That's how it all started...


Update #1 August 19

Hi, it's me again, the temp in the Dole campaign. I came across an interesting statistic in my research. Over 10% of the American workforce are temps. In fact, at least one temp agency, which I cannot name, has eclipsed General Motors as the largest private employer in our nation.

Since it's become such a significant event in the presidential campaign, I thought it would be worthwhile to describe my role in the selection of Jack Kemp as Bob Dole's runningmate:

I arrived early at the satellite campaign headquarters in Russell, Kansas, trying as always to make a good impression and hoping for a plum assignment. As usual, I was ignored. Tasks of real responsibility were handed to young, aryan men as they walked through the doors 45 minutes late, but crisply professional in their blue suits. One such soon-to-be-generational-leader passed-off a thankless yet impossible chore to me - you know, a typically temp task. I was asked to reconcile the massive speed-dial matrix with a list of names on a legal pad that appeared to have been scrawled with a dull lumber pencil. I shamelessly affected can-do earnestness and sat down at a terminal befitting my station in the campaign hierarchy_a mechanical typewriter.

Actually, it wasn't so bad, because I didn't have to worry about standing in line with all the Young Republicans at the printer waiting for the first of them to discover that he had sent his document on the "manual feed" setting, and was holding up the entire group.

The only hard part of the job was the duplicate names. Republicans are not a particularly diverse group, much as the upcoming convention will attempt to suggest the contrary, nor are they particularly creative in naming their kids, so you get a lot of J. Bakers, and Jack Ks. I worked that out as best as I could and then cut out all the names and taped them beside the appropriate button on the speed dial table.

Well, it was no secret that the candidate was in the Dole-drums prior to the convention. Trailing Clinton by as many as 30 points in one poll, at this late date in the campaign, the proud Republican standard bearer had little hope of closing the gap and yet, he could not step aside. The prospect of an impending defeat of such magnitude could doom Republican hopes for several election cycles. There was only one honorable way out for the war hero, and he and his staff knew it. If he failed to close to within 20 points of Clinton in the weekend prior to the convention, it was decided that Dole would call the Suicide Doctor and allow the convention delegates to pick a new candidate, hoping that the scandal and convention would generate the publicity, energy and excitement he had failed to create for the party.

On Saturday, sitting in his favorite chair in his home town, Dole placed a call to Jack Kevorkian. Fortunately, or unfortunately according to your political leanings, I had reversed the Jack Ks on the speed-dial table and the despondent Dole mistakenly placed the call to Jack Kemp. Of course when Kemp heard Dole voice on the other end, he immediately assumed that Dole had selected him as his runningmate and began talking about how well balanced a ticket they would be and how he thought he could really turn things around. Poor Dole, couldn't get a word in edgewise as the ebullient presumptive vice-presidential candidate rattled-on, and at some point along the way, Dole fell asleep.

When aides entered the room some two hours later, they found Dole slumped in his chair. As they bent over him to check his pulse, thinking that the sleeping candidate may have already done the noble deed, they heard Kemp still going on. When an aid managed to break in, Kemp introduced himself, explaining that as the vice-presidential selection, he was looking forward to working with all the folks in the Dole campaign.

The media who had been looking desperately for the faintest spark of energy from which to make some news seized on the Kemp selection an example of Doles' bold decision-making. The rest is history. Only the higher-ups in the campaign came to understand how a temps error had reversed their political fortunes and saved the life of the candidate. I received a raise. Of course, the temp agency gets 30 percent of it.


Update #2 August 25

My temp assignment with the Dole campaign hasn't been all bad. I was offered the chance to travel to San Diego for the convention. The campaign has paid for my transportation, I receive a few dollars a day for food which I have been trying to save by eating from unattended hors d'euvre trays at various functions (the deviled-eggs at the pro-life tent are excellent, but I must share a room with seven Dole True Believers. It's not so bad because we haven't really had a chance to sleep anyway. Mostly, we just use the room for its shower.

I have risen in the campaign hierarchy because my suggestion and securing of Kemp as the Vice Presidential candidate, detailed in my prior e-mail to Whatever, has been so warmly received. Still, I take a backseat to my roommates, seven, Black, Republican speechwriters who also happen to be collegiate basketball players. The other campaign teams call us Snow White & the Seven Dwarfs, but no one seems as interested in getting on camera with "Snow Write" as they are in my roomies....


Update #3 September 9

Hi, it's me again. The temp from the Dole campaign. Actually, I am not the only temp on the campaign. I have discovered that there are a lot of us doing the grunt work for the Republicans. Funny, you'd think they'd balk at the percentage the placement agency gets, but it turns out to be far more cost-effective than actually hiring people for whom you'd have to provide at least minimal benefits.

Anyway, a fellow temp in the Dole office got a real job through some Clinton initiative, so I was asked to fill a spot in O.R. through the end of August. "O.R." in this case stands for Opposition Research, although it might as well stand for operating room when you consider how thoroughly we dissect the lives of the rival candidate. Now, don't get the wrong impression, I'm just a temp, so I was only directing calls from the hotline. Still, I have become something of a celebrity in the small world of the campaign because even when I mess-up, good things happen for the Dole Campaign, and let's face it, there haven't been many positive moments in this effort. So people were half expecting me to turn up some damaging bit of dirt on Clinton to turn the tide.

No such luck. I mean, there were plenty of calls; folks saying they saw Clinton burn the American flag, or talking to an alien, there was even one guy suggesting that Clinton had fathered an illegitimate child with the 15 year old daughter of a Black barbaque proprietor, but what we really need is hard evidence, you know receipts for amniocentisis or hotel rooms or even better...photographs. Usually, the people were very nice and anxious to help our effort, so I gave each one a list of media outlets they might talk to, explaining that the campaign lacked the resources to investigate their stories, but that we really appreciated their vigilance.

The silliest call I got was from a woman named Sherry Rowlands, a $200 an hour prostitute who claimed that she had an ongoing relationship with Clinton campaign guru Dick Morris and that Morris had disclosed campaign secrets to her. It was a titilating story, full of late night hotel rendez-vous and foot fetishes, but you have to consider the source. I mean, is a self-proclaimed call girl a reliable source, especially when she claims that Morris, a Republican and architect of Clinton's "Family Values" campaign was one of her regular Johns? As a matter of principal, Republicans will not pay more than $150 an hour.

Still, I had to take her somewhat seriously because it wasn't like she was claiming to have had this relationship with a major player. That alone suggested some plausibility. I put her on hold and gave a superior the Reader's Digest version.

"Dick Morris," my supervisor began to scold, "he only likes little boys! Hang up."

I hated to do something so rude, so I suggested that while the Dole campaign wasn't interested in her story, she might try the fourth estate and I gave her numbers for the Star and the Enquirer.

Sure enough, she did call the Star which paid her for the story. Then the New York Post, which like the Star is owned by media-mogul and Gingrich supporter Ruppert Murdoch, printed a synopsis on the day Clinton accepted the nomination of the Democratic Party. I don't like to blow my own horn, but the campaign was so pleased with my unattributable directing of the story, that they gave me another raise. Of course, the Temp Agency took 30%.


Update #4 September 23

Hi, it's me again. The temp from the Dole campaign. The mood here soured after our so-called "Convention Boost" turned out to be more of a "Wedgie," but the doomed candidate carrying the Republican mantle refused relent. At first, I thought maybe Dole knew something we all didn't. Maybe there was a fix in the works, like in 1980 when Reagan aides stole Carter's debate notes prior to their second encounter; Carter had humiliated Reagan in their first meeting. Or in 1980, when Admiral Poindexter and Oliver North, who later served in the Reagan White House, were planning Jimmy Carter's failed hostage rescue mission in Iran called "Desert One." (The funny thing about "Desert One" was that the only two helicopters in the entire Iranian desert crashed into each other while on the ground, and yet thousands of the very same vintage U.S. choppers crowded the Iraqi desert without incident. Also amusing was the fact that Reagan's people knew about the disaster before President Carter did.) And what about in 1980, when the American hostages were released during Reagan's inaugural. Had a deal been worked out, or did the arms-for-hostage arrangement just occur to Ollie spontaneously in 1982?

For now at least there is no whispering of an October Surprise.

Some of the young Turks were sitting around the copy/fax room late the other night, trying to think of ways to draw attention to the candidate, you know give him some energy, create the impression of a surge for Dole. I happened to be there making copies and I mentioned that the Kennedys used to put up flimsy barricades around the staging where they spoke, in fact at some distance from the staging (and this was long before any of them got shot, mind you). The theory was that once the candidate began speaking, and all the cameras were there, the crowd would push the barriers over and have running room to surge toward the stage. This made for some impressive pictures on the evening news and in local papers. I suggested we might try the same thing in the Dole campaign.

No one seemed impressed with the idea. In fact, they really didn't even acknowledge that I was there, but the next day all I heard about was how some middle echelon guy named Gary Eudick was going places because of his great idea about putting up short sculpted Styrofoam columns that would at once make Dole's appearances look more presidential and, when easily toppled, would make the crowd look as though they were rioting for Dole. He called it: "Operation Stonehendge."

I was pretty steamed. Actually, I was more mad at myself than anyone else. I should have known better than to expect any shared credit from a room full of Republicans, let alone a room full of opportunistic, middle tier party climbers.

Unfortunately, Eudick was listening to me only about as closely as he had appeared that night, because he got the story a little mixed up. I arrived at the event a before most of the news crews and found supporters milling about, unimpeded and very near the staging. Instead of being on the ground holding the Dole supporters back, Eudick placed the flimsy barricades on the stage in front of the candidate and other speakers. I tried to move the crowd back while I searched for Eudick. Suddenly we came face-to face. Our eyes met just for that moment of recognition, "uh-oh the guy from the fax room," and then he moved on.

"Eudick! Eudick!" I screamed, "The colonnade is in the wrong place," I called to him a couple of times, but he was busy posturing. The entire event had become his baby and he wanted everyone to know it. Higher-ups received earnest consideration, those below him, disdain, lest it appear that the event was not precisely planned and the troops well trained. Those at his level, at least those who began the day at his level, stayed back. He would share no glory and they could not bear his shadow.

The band began to play. "Fuck Eudick, then," I was thinking as I watched Dole climb the stairs to the podium, the crowd and photographers already up to the stage except for a narrow channel. From that moment, everything moved in slow motion. I knew what was about to happen and it played in my mind as it unfolded in real life. As Dole took his first step onto the stage, I spun and began to push my way through through the crowd from the candidate's right. He waved and walked forward and I thought of the Zapruder film. "He's totally oblivious," my thoughts raced, "my progress is too slow, he'll beat me to the edge of the stage, go to the podium you old bastard, these fat, white people and their low centers of gravity, they couldn't give way even if they wanted to, even if they knew what I know, almost there, never make it, almost there, no, no, Dole lowering his hips, I see press credentials, so close, Dole's wave turns to a reaching hand, I shout something, too much noise, Dole braces himself against the Styrofoam colonnade, hold baby, no, it offers no resistance, it's tipping, push!" With a last desperate lunge I shoved the figure in front of me forward as hard as I could. He dropped his camera, surprised by the hit. I would learn later that it was none other than the photographer from Agence France-Presse, and a former European team handball star, who caught Bob Dole's head. He prevented Dole's head from snapping to the ground unsupported when the candidate's shoulder landed on the fallen colonnade. "It wasn't a tough catch," he would later remark, "all that hair spray." Unfortunately, he was the only one not to get a picture. As Dole struggled on his war-injured right side, no lie, he actually said, "I've fallen and I can't get up!" Unfortunately you can't hear it on the C-SPAN tape because the band increases its intensity as a reflex to the panic.

"Operation Stonehenge" had turned into "Operation Triptik." But Bob Dole would be the first to say, "Bob Dole has always been one to turn adversity to opportunity." Consider his references to his war injuries during the campaign. He made an effort to show how well he had survived the fall, making way too many joke about it. I'm not sure the much younger Clinton would have handled it any better, though. It would have taken at least two guys to catch Bill's big cranium, and I think the campaign would have gone into defensive mode and wisked Clinton away from the event. Later a press release would deny that the President had, in fact fallen, or, at least, that there were conflicting reports.

The stink of death preceded Eudick's arrival in the office the next morning. We could smell him from the parking lot, but somehow during his sleepless night, he decided that he could still wipe it off on me. Under normal circumstances I would have been gone, but after basking in the glory of "his" the well conceived but poorly executed barricade idea, I knew I could put my fate in the hands of even a Republican jury. He headed straight for me, but as the eyes of his colleagues turned downward at his glance and then followed behind him, he realized the game was over. "Do you think I can fix this," he whispered?

"Maybe. But you're gonna have to take the hit or it will be an albatross around your neck. You don't want people telling the story behind your back forever. You've got to laugh at all the jokes at your expense, show good humor and sincere penance. You should also do something proactive. Forestall the falling axe. Buy Dole a gift, get him a card, something that acknowledges the event but something practical, something he can use. We both know he's a little bruised from this, politically and otherwise, maybe something for his convalescence."

"Yeah," he said, turning without thanking me.

Things seemed to level out for Eudick in the following days. He even winked at me once, which I suppose was all the thanks he could offer. Then suddenly he was gone. He had taken my advice, sort of. He ordered Dole something for his convalescence. Unfortunately it was "The Clapper."

What came next?

"When I returned to my room that night, The Candidate was already there. He loosened his tie and sat down on my bed. When he suggestively removed the pen from the perpetually tight grip of his frozen right hand, I realized I had a decision to make. 'Dave,' he said, 'would you rub my back?'"


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