Mike McCurry Knows Politics.
He learned at the knee of the Master, Bill Clinton, as his press secretary in the early 1990s. Last week, he told a rapt audience at a private dinner at the National Press Club he did not believe Hillary Clinton has made a decision to run for President. He also is in the minority. Maybe after graduating from Divinity School, McCurry knows something from a higher authority?
"I am (the guy) in the last 5 percent that doesn't think she will," he said to gasps. "She is having such a great time working with her daughter (and with the Clinton family initiative) and with the President. They have always worked better when they have concentric circles. It works for them."
He then commented on this quixotic and dynamic duo: "Who are we to judges?" No casting stones?
"If my theory is correct, then Gov. Martin O'Malley (MD) is attractive as is Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA). Andrew Cuomo is formidable," he mused. "Hickenloooper in Colorado is a pretty interesting guy. My first candidate ever (for whom McCurry campaigned) in 1976 was Jerry Brown." But he feels the country is not ready to elect and older guy, like Brown. McCurry, like so many commentators, he knows the U.S. is leaning further left and progressive. But Brown?
McCurry speaks from experience in politics and knowledge of the Clinton dynasty. He also remembered another Cuomo thought to be a front runner way back in 1992, Mario.
"In 1992 when President Clinton (ran) we were waiting for Mario. It was Hamlet on the Hudson," McCurry recalled. "There was a waiting jet for him to file in New Hampshire in October, 1991 and he didn't take that plane. Do we want to wait until the end of 2015? We probably will have wait" to know yet "that becomes a little untenable."
"Mrs. Clinton ought to get in early and be decisive and not let others build a head of steam," said quoting a guy at Brookings he worked with -- "that is a plausible strategy."
"I have tried to figure it out and there is not a wink and a nod going on -- nobody is certain she is running and this (campaign) is not developing an infrastructure. They have brought in great people who have brought along various parts (of a campaign apparatus). It will be a great machine for whoever we end-up nominating.
McCurry predicts: "Lots of people will jump in if she is not going to run. At some point does she let other people do their own thing. I don't know the answer. I think there is something in the chemistry that says you either gotta do it. Or you don't."
Interesting. Hillary Clinton has such a commanding lead for a non-candidate it is hard to imagine -- especially based on what we know about the Clinton Dynasty and her preparation on a global stage and knowledge of international affairs, she would let that voter equity pass by.
I last saw Hillary Clinton speak at HIMSS, the health insurance industry's information systems show. Last week, someone threw a shoe at her at the scrap metal recyclers conference in Vegas. She is clearly building a war chest with speaking fees.
McCurry's own narrative is fairly well-known. He worked for Daniel P. Moynihan, in the early days. He now works with Public Strategies. He reminded the Press Club veteran public affairs folks, including me, of his resume in wistful terms:
"I was at State in 1993-94 during Somalia and black hawk down. In 1995 it was the Gingrich era and that inexorable dance.1996 we had the re-election campaign. 1997 was l'affaire Monique"
"Democrats are fractured," he said, and moving toward "a more populist strain. What does that do to the political environment," he wondered. "We are all communicators and how we talk about things matter."
His main advice to the PR and government relations folks, including the President of Edelman PR Rob Rehg (my old boss when I was VP of Technology there) and the former doyenne of Powell Tate Kathy Gest (my fellow Northwestern Medill School of Journalism alum), is "you need very supportive bosses who will give you what you need to do your job." He felt he had that great mentor in President Clinton.
Today, McCurry is an alchemist trying to return the chemistry of civility and patriotism to Capitol Hill. He said: "Church should be more engaged. How do you make them more civil" to each other. "Get people to build relationships with each other. Elected leaders don't know each other (today) and are not socializing.
In thinking about the great era of Moynihan, he remembered that "Congress worked more effectively back then. They used to go to dinner and the spouses knew each other. There is no more fraternization. They would not demonize each other if they had kids going to school with each other."
That doesn't happen -- he says, in part because "Congress has to flee to go back to campaign. But even in town they are shaking down folks for money. Let's declare two days a month to be campaign or fundraising free zones. Nobody will sanction (fundraising) on those days."
God Bless America.
Mike Smith worked for Edelman's Washington practice reporting to Rehg and Mike Deaver in the late 1990s. He served on the Clinton Transition Team in 1992-93 in Communications.