Monday, August 21, 2000. A week after the convention, and finally caught up on sleep. Spent a weekend playing golf - and asking people who had kind words for PJB`s speech ("I agreed with every word" my friend Carol, a beauty with a considerable Southampton social presence told me) to show their gratitude with a $1000 dollar check.
I hear grumbling among "white nationalists" about Pat`s choice of Ezola Foster as running mate. The wisdom of the choice is something I feel passionate about: I had suggested her as a good selection months ago, and urged Bay last fall to make her a campaign co-chair. I didn`t then know her - except I remembered a sighting on McNeil-Lehrer years ago, arguing for immigration reform. She was forceful and eloquent, approached the issue with perfect pitch. It didn`t hurt that she is a visible riposte to the neo-con canard that immigration reform is motivated by "racism." She understood first-hand what a seemingly endless flow of illegal, low-wage workers were doing to employment possibilities for the LA black community.
Like several others on PJB`s staff, I had assumed he had a secret wild-card selection in mind for veep. But, Pat told me several weeks ago, this wasn`t so. There was a short list - Ezola was always high on it, but other possibilities kept surfacing: a respected Congressman: an author and brilliant member of Reagan`s sub-cabinet; a university president with a national reputation. I wasn`t involved in the follow-up talks for any of these choices - except that I understand that one was actually lobbying for the job, until the last moment he notified us that his key fund-raisers raised objections. A lesson there, I suppose.
A good friend of mine, a Democratic political consultant, kept telling me simply to make sure the person could talk well to the press, handle the media. The things to avoid: Dan Quayle, Curtis LeMay, Stockdale - all choices who added nothing.
So as the hours approached, our best choice was a media-savvy LA woman with a reputation as a family values activist and immigration reformer. She is black - is that good, bad, or neutral? Good certainly in that she has a compelling life story of real upward mobility. A possible negative: we will lose a couple of the rally-round-the-Confederate-flag type voters. Weighing positives and negatives, I think it`s not even close.
On Convention Monday, I tell Kara where we`re heading, and she does a second Lexis-Nexis search of Ezola quotes and stories. She is skeptical initially, then, after two hours on the computer, enthusiastic. We have stumbled on to a diamond in the rough.
Monday evening, Ezola arrives in Long Beach with her husband Chuck. She is chair of our California delegation, already the most important delegate on the convention floor. Bay and I wait in the lobby. A CNN reporter is waiting in the check-in line - if he paid close attention to the warmth of our greeting, he might have had a scoop. The Fosters check their bags, and a few minutes later join Bay and I for dinner.
Yes of course, she`d be delighted to do it. Of course, she`d have to cancel the book tour. Did we know that she did a fall book tour for the John Birch Society?
Bay and I listen, not looking at one another. A few sentences later, it comes out: she and Chuck have been JBS members since 1997. Bay and I ask some questions, still not looking at each other.
I remember talking about the JBS with D, a California immigration reformer, three years ago. She praised the organization - I gave the normal riposte - that a group that called Eisenhower a dupe of the communists wasn`t ready for prime time.
But that was 42 years ago - perhaps one should take a closer look. Ezola says she will of course resign while she is veep candidate. She and Chuck are otherwise great - funny, perceptive, and Buchananite to the core. Bay asks if they have any other memberships we should know about. They don`t. We discuss the Council of Conservative Citizens a bit, I offer the opinion that basically they`re folks who liked the South the way it was forty years ago, that they`re right on some issues, wrong on others, but in the main, not virulent racists. "No more than the NAACP" Ezola adds.
Bay goes upstairs, and I remain a few more minutes with the Fosters. After I bid them good night, I have a martini in the bar - then go up to the room and hit the laptop.
The JBS website http://www.jbs.org/ is a relief: solid nationalist opinions on trade and immigration, a superb section on our illegal war against Serbia, nothing that seems kooky. Perhaps, I think, my friend D. was right about them.
The next morning, Bay is on the phone with Pat, and hands it to me. I tell him Ezola will be a huge asset - we set up a dinner for Wednesday night.
The next three days, one of my jobs (besides setting up, with Kara, our tiny segment of the convention speakers program: The Reform Party had, in its infinite wisdom, scheduled "Granny D" for about an hour and a half, leaving about half an hour for Buchanan supporters) - is to help prep Ezola and prepare a press handout for the Friday announcement. But most importantly, not to let anything leak.
Wednesday and Thursday, I am walking around with a copy of Ezola`s book and a pamphlet of some of her newspaper opinion pieces - to prepare a press release for the announcement on Friday. When talking to the press, I keep the Ezola stuff carefully wrapped in newspapers, as if it were a couple of girlie magazines. All day Wednesday I`m terrified that Ron Fournier or some reporter hunting for the veep scoop will pop by my desk at our offices and ask "who`s Ezola Foster and why are you preparing a document with her quotes." But I`m unknown to most of the press, thankfully.
Friday, announcement day comes, and still no leaks. K.B. Forbes has prepared the press conference with the harbor as a backdrop - forty cameras and sixty reporters forming an amphitheater. No one in the press has a clue. Pat and Chuck, Shelly and Ezola arrive in a van, walk the hundred yards in the brilliant sunshine to the microphones. Kara overhears The New York Times` Michael Janofsky say "He`s with some black guy." Ezola is resplendent in a red dress. As they hit the podium, we hand out a two-page bio - mostly Ezola quotes.
No time for cynicism as fifty reporters on cell phones call their editors, reading from the sheet. "She says `Illegal immigration hurts blacks the most,`" says one reporter, reading from the handout. Not a bad message to be sending out this campaign season.
Friday night after the announcement, we have a party for Buchanan delegates on the Queen Mary, now turned into a hotel in dry dock in Long Beach harbor. The delegates can`t get enough of Chuck and Ezola, treating them like visiting royalty.
This bonding is a rather deep phenomenon. Our delegates, every single one of them, oppose affirmative action: I would bet that most of them are not crazy about the pressures for multiculturalism, textbooks that denigrate the white heroes of American history, attacks on the police, the whole multiculturalist agenda. For holding these attitudes, they are commonly denigrated as "racist" by the mainstream liberal press. And now even the GOP - which puts front and center J.C. Watts but runs from Ward Connerly - has left them out to dry. (This last one of Ezola`s lines, and a good one.)
But our delegates are good Christians, most of them. They know in their hearts that their attitudes are not "racist." They are perfectly willing to grant blacks equal rights and recognize that they are an elemental part of the American story, with us from the beginning. If the nation is under assault by the globalists, blacks clearly fall on the American side. And in embracing Chuck and Ezola, the delegates get to show how much they understand that.
In a deep way, Ezola validates them and all their complicated, not-politically-correct feelings. Watching all the emotion wash over the boat as Buchananites crowd around the Fosters, I wonder if any VP selection has ever meant more to a political convention.