Eleanor and Kara -- We Knew You When

09/20/2011 12:59 pm ET | Updated Nov 20, 2011

Kara used to come to Mass at St. Luke's Church in McLean. Eleanor was a regular in Georgetown when the drinking age was 18 for beer and wine (she was 17 when her dad was elected VP). Kara was the loving daughter of Teddy and Joan -- likely raised like many of us in a power-based household with Catholic values, and families bonded by their secrets.

Eleanor was the quintessential 1980s girl -- the best hair ever! She was also smart, obviously media savvy, and she married a Chicago Bear, Keith Van Horne.

The girls were well-travelled, well-heeled, well-bred, well... they were Washington women!

Thus, my own course as a native of D.C., McLean and now Chantilly, VA, and as an Irish Catholic boy at St. Luke's (sorry for irreverence, but we all hated CCD there), traverses the lives of Kara Kennedy and Eleanor Mondale. In fact, they are my age and they both just died within hours of each other over the weekend. Both political offspring failed after tough fights with rapacious cancers.

But this is a story about Washington, D.C. In the end, when political sons and daughters come to Washington, they belong to US. They are our neighbors, our first dates, our co-conspirators and trouble-makers. One of the first girls I ever kissed was a Supreme Court Justice's daughter. One of the first gang of boys with whom I got in trouble was, oh what the hell, the Lugar boys. They moved to my town in 1976 and Senator Lugar has been a stalwart of the international foreign relations committee ever sense.

The Lugar boys included four in my age cohort and my job as a junior was to show them around Langley High. Well, we got in some trouble a few times as they brought their own ideas to town! Mostly, it was just racing cars out the Dulles Access Road. There was no toll road. Hell, they were from Indianapolis.

Eleanor stayed in touch with one friend from Langley High who moved to LA around the same time. They were on the party circuit but it's not really as media portray it. This is a girl from Minnesota, who loved her Dad Fritz, and Mom also named Joan, who worked in Minneapolis talk radio and not for long in glitzy Hollywood.

From a political perspective, my first campaign media credentials "on the bus" were covering the 1980 Democratic National Convention in New York. That's the year Teddy ran against Jimmy. In 1980, the Democrats had a tough primary and an even tougher Republican nominee to face. I just read in Sunday's Post that, at one juncture, President Jimmy Carter had a 30 percentage point lead over any Republican nominee -- and still lost to Ronald Reagan. So much for polls.

President Reagan then was faced by Vice President Walter Mondale and handily won 49 of the 50 states and more electoral votes than there were ever cast for one presidential candidate (525).

I went to college in Chicago and we were happy to have Eleanor there, too, in 1986 on WGN Radio and later in 1988-89 when Eleanor was married to a Bear.

But this is a quintessentially Washington story. Where young people are often protected (we'll talk about Susan and Jack Ford another time) both by Secret Service or by the local cops who sometimes just let it go.

Where secrets are kept.
When your high school runs next to the CIA, as at Langley, and the moms and dads have security clearances, we're all told to say they work for the State Dept. I won't give up any more secrets here except to say our classmates were deeply hurt as their dads also went down during Watergate.

Suffice it to say that children of politicians, political or judicial appointees -- whether born here or in Minnesota, or Indiana, belong to US. And we really miss them and think about them in church, or in Georgetown, or on the campaign trail, or producing for a great cause like Very Special Arts.