Give Him Liberty, Or...

Monday  June 30, 2008


Give Him Liberty, Or...

Bob Barr, the former Republican turned Libertarian candidate for President, on the faux-conservatism of John McCain, the uselessness of the federal government, and why he's now in favor of gay marriage (we think)

by wil s. hylton


there was a time, not so long ago, when Bob Barr commanded the attention of millions. From his perch on the House Judiciary Committee, the Georgia congressman launched the impeachment of Bill Clinton and presided over its daily march, grilling witnesses, orchestrating events, and doing everything in his considerable power to bring down a sitting president.

There was time when it looked like Barr might succeed, when it looked like he might change American history.

That time has passed.

Today, standing in line at a Manhattan Starbucks in a wrinkled suit, his eyes puffy, the 59-year-old looks older and weary, just another corporate flunky waiting to wake up. He shuffles to the counter, gives the barista a pleading look. “Five shots of espresso,” he says. “In a cup. With milk.” Then, turning sheepishly: “I only do this three times a day.”

Since losing his reelection in 2002, Barr has lost not only his power but also many of his friends. It doesn’t help that after alienating nearly every Democrat with impeachment, he spent the next five years alienating his fellow Republicans —railing against the invasion of Iraq, the PATRIOT Act, and the Bush administration in general. If Barr were still in the Congress, it is safe to say he would be one of the few members willing to launch a second impeachment.

Instead, he’s taking the outside track—joining the Libertarian Party and, in May, becoming its nominee for president. With just 2 to 3 percent in the polls—mostly coming from disillusioned conservatives—he spends most of his time on the trail answering questions like “Why are you doing this to John McCain?” Yet Barr is more than a wannabe Nader; he’s a man of opinions and ideas—even if they do seem to change quite often. It seems only fair to hear him out, especially since, as a third-party candidate, he doesn’t give a rat’s ass whom he offends.

All right. We have seven hours and fifty-eight minutes left on the recorder.
Let’s get started, then! Not a moment to waste.

I don’t really have any campaign questions. I don’t care whether you’re a spoiler, and I know why you’re doing this: because you want to be president.
In a nutshell.

What I want to know is: What’s a Libertarian?
There are a lot of different ways to define it. In layman’s terms, it’s simply saying “leave us alone” to the government. We certainly need a government to protect everybody’s individual liberty, but it should be kept to an absolute minimum.

So you don’t want the government to help people? Just leave them alone to help themselves?
To keep impediments out of the way.

But some of your positions don’t fit that description. For example, you’re pro-life, even though the party is pro-choice.
It is. But there are, within the party, a number of pro-life Libertarians. It’s a big tent. Very similar to the way it was when the Republican Party cared about substance and you would have free-market Republicans, economic Republicans, those for whom foreign policy was their focus, education, religion, and so forth.

The party also supports legalization of drugs. And you were an anti-drug coordinator at the Justice Department, as well as holding other drug-war positions.
I’ve come a long way on the drug war. Having been involved in it, witnessing it, and after a great deal of study, I’ve come to the conclusion that it simply isn’t working and we ought to get the federal government out of it. There are some Libertarians who want to go much further than that, but they’re supporting me.

But that’s a big switch for you.
It’s obvious to me that the federal drug laws are being used as a club to deny the people of individual states the right to legalize, for example, medicinal marijuana. That, to me, flies in the face of a fundamental notion of fairness.

But for years, you were the one doing it. Ten years ago, the citizens of Washington, D.C., voted to legalize medical marijuana by a 70 percent majority, and you wrote a federal law called the Barr Amendment to prevent that from happening.
Well, I now believe there is so little personal freedom, so little privacy, and the government has become so oppressive, that we can no longer afford to let the government control these particular areas, such as the use of marijuana. Because there’s no freedom left. This administration has become so oppressive that it has caused me to go back and look at a number of areas where I was wrong to allow the government to involve itself in people’s lives.

So you want to revoke the Barr Amendment?
Yes, and I did some work with the Marijuana Policy Project.

Was that a paid position?
Yeah, I did consulting for about six months in the latter part of last year.

Didn’t the MPP campaign against you in 2002, when you lost your House seat?
There were ads against me on the drug issue, but I don’t know who ran them. The Libertarian Party also worked against me in 2002. In both cases, it caused me to take a close, hard look: Why would they work against me? The more I looked, the more I liked what I saw.

Are you worried about being accused of flip-flopping? One minute it’s the Barr Amendment, the next you’re on staff at the Marijuana Policy Project.
Well, it’s a fact: My views have changed. If you recognize that a policy is not working and is based on an erroneous presumption, you have to change. There is no use spending billions of dollars just because we have to stay the course. It’s the same situation in Iraq, only it’s hundreds of billions. Being a good leader is being willing to change. I was very disappointed in 2004 when John Kerry allowed the Bush campaign to browbeat him on the PATRIOT Act. Early in the campaign, he said, “Look, I voted for the PATRIOT Act, but it’s time for it to be changed.” The Bush people called him a flip-flopper, and the whole discussion didn’t come up again.

In fact, the act was renewed.
It was, and I spent a great deal of time working against it. There again: I had voted for the USA PATRIOT Act in 2001, but after seeing how it was used and abused and expanded by the administration, I think it was the worst vote I cast in the Congress. Because it undercuts the whole system of checks and balances in our criminal-justice system. It stands for the proposition that the government can gather evidence against someone without any evidence whatsoever of criminal behavior. The simplistic and very misleading explanation that Bush and Ashcroft and Gonzales—all the apologists for this administration—make is “Well, we can spy on American citizens, because if they’re talking to Al Qaeda, we want to know.”

The problem is, you don’t know whether they’re talking to Al Qaeda until after you start spying on them.
And the fact of the matter is that if the government has any evidence that somebody is in contact with a terrorist, they can get a warrant from a court. But they’re using this power to surveil people without any evidence.

But why is that surprising? This is exactly what the PATRIOT Act said, and you voted for it. Didn’t you read it?
I was probably one of the very few who did read it. I forget what it was called before some brainiac came up with the acronym USA PATRIOT Act—Uniting and Strengthening America, blah blah blah—but I read it very, very carefully. And I had tremendous doubts. I had worked on the 1996 antiterrorism bill that the Clinton administration proposed, and there were tremendous similarities between the two. In 1996, I had led an effort to remove several of the provisions that were way too broad, and we were successful. But many of those same provisions resurfaced in the PATRIOT Act. So all sorts of red lights went off.

Then why did you vote for it?
Well, I worked with the administration to remove some provisions and alter others, and I also received personal assurances from the administration that they would not seek to expand those powers further—that they would use them only for bona fide terrorism investigations, and they would report fully and accurately to Congress on how it was being used. And they went back on it all. I learned that you cannot take the word of this administration. In every one of those areas, they went back on it.

Do you feel like you were blinded by 9/11?
That certainly was a problem for the majority of the members of the House. Most of them never even looked at the bill. They just got caught up in the hysteria—this notion that the administration had come to us with a special request. Which was bogus, because most of the provisions in the PATRIOT Act, they had presented to us previously.

It’s funny you say, “they had presented to us previously,” when you’re talking about two different administrations. Do you see the White House as a single institution, regardless of who’s president?
It is. It’s the same establishment, the same power-hungry entity, whether it’s a Republican or a Democrat. And the PATRIOT Act is the perfect example. Every administration that comes in takes the powers that it inherits from its predecessor as a floor, not a ceiling. So whether it’s McCain or Obama, they’ll inherit the powers of the Bush administration. And what Bush has done is taken this debate to a whole new level, which is that the president, as commander in chief, is not bound by any restrictions whatsoever. This notion that the president can do whatever he wants, just because he’s commander in chief, means that neither the Congress nor the courts can interfere.

You have opposed the Bush administration on a number of issues, including the war, but what is your policy for Iraq going forward?
To me, it is utterly irresponsible to continue the course that we’ve embarked upon. If our goal was to get rid of Saddam Hussein, we liberated the people from Saddam Hussein. But now we’re five and a half years later, and we’re still over there, and it’s very costly to us. I don’t think the American taxpayers focus on how much the occupation is draining resources. Four-hundred-plus million dollars every single day. You talk to some Republicans and they say, “The Iraqis love us.” Well, maybe so. But who wouldn’t? We’re propping up their economy, we’re protecting their borders, we’re providing security. Of course they love us.

Is there any difference between your plan for Iraq and Obama’s?
It’s hard to say, because I don’t know that he’s laid out a plan with any great specificity. It’s my view that we need an immediate and very significant drawdown of our military and economic presence in Iraq. We are not going to assume responsibility for another country.

Do you think if McCain becomes president, we’ll be stuck in the same position for another four years?
Based on the statements he’s made, yes. I mean, McCain may think it’s fine to spend $400 million a day as far into the future as anyone can see, but that’s not his money. This is the problem. These folks in Washington might think it’s a great mission we’re serving over there, but is this the wisest use of taxpayer money? Is it more important to spend billions of dollars improving Iraq’s infrastructure or improving the infrastructure of our own country?

Does it make you question McCain’s conservative credentials to see him support such a costly war?
I’m not sure that anybody can legitimately say that McCain is conservative.

Talk to me about the Defense of Marriage Act. You were one of the authors in 1996, but your position has changed on that, too.
The changes are best understood when one recognizes that DOMA has two parts. The first part is the federalism part, and it essentially says that each state can decide, using the “full faith and credit” clause of the Constitution, to impose its own definition of marriage, free from the other states.

But that’s not what the “full faith and credit” clause says. It says the opposite: that each state has to recognize the laws of other states.
Well, the Defense of Marriage Act says that the “full faith and credit” clause cannot be used by one state to force its definition of marriage on another state.

Can you give me an example of any other time that the “full faith and credit” clause has been rescinded for a single issue?
Not as we sit here. But it did seem at the time, and I think still is, appropriate for the Congress to say we have an important social relationship and we want to make sure that each state is free to set its own definition. It’s federalism.

But the point of the “full faith and credit” clause is to limit federalism. It says, “Sure, you can have your own laws, but you have to respect the laws of other states, too.”
Yes, the “full faith and credit” clause says, “We don’t care what you in the state of Freedonia have decided, you have to adopt the definition of the citizens of the state of Acme.”

And your position involves ignoring that part of the Constitution.
Yes. It’s reaffirming the notion of federalism.

By waiving the Constitution.

And has that been done for anything else?
I don’t recall, to be honest with you. I think it has, but as we’re sitting here, I don’t recall.

But that was just the first clause, which I still think has validity and I still support. The second provision, I’ve come to view as both unnecessary and disruptive. It has the federal definition of marriage as being “a lawful union between one man and one woman only.”

Which is definitely not the Libertarian position.
Right, and I’ve committed to repeal that part of DOMA. Because as I’ve come to understand, that part of DOMA is being used as the tail wagging the dog. I don’t believe, for example, that the federal government should play a role in defining marriage. It has been, and should be, up to the states.

But how can you say it’s “being used” to define marriage? Wasn’t that the point of DOMA, to define marriage?
Well, yes, for federal-law purposes. But we now have states like Massachusetts and California that have changed their definition of marriage, and the federal government says, “Well, you still can’t do all sorts of things defined by federal law.” So you’re undercutting the decision by the people of that state to decide for themselves.

But wasn’t that the intention? It was always a question of whether the federal government would recognize a state marriage. DOMA was designed to make sure it didn’t.
The best way I can describe it is that it’s become the tail wagging the dog.

What do you mean by that?
That it provides a disincentive for the states to pass same-sex marriage laws, because they can’t guarantee protection under federal law.

But that’s exactly what DOMA was supposed to do: prevent the federal government from recognizing gay marriage. Isn’t that why you supported it?
Yeah. Exactly. I’m not denying that. But it was not intended to be, at least in my mind, the tail wagging the dog.

Has joining the Libertarian Party allowed you to change your position on these issues, or did you change party after your positions changed?
It isn’t a function of which party I’m in—although in the case of the Defense of Marriage Act, it’s been the result of lengthy conversations with Libertarians who feel very passionately about it. There’s a group called Outright Libertarians who are passionate about that issue.

Had you ever met with the Log Cabin Republicans?
I don’t recall. But I came to the conclusion that the Republican Party had changed, from two perspectives. One, the Republican Party cares nothing about real substance anymore. I couldn’t tell you the last time, when I was a member of the Republican caucus on the Hill, that there was a discussion about the substance of government. It was all about getting elected and reelected. It was all about process. The Republican Party is no longer a party of any substance. It is simply a political machine, a mechanism for election. That’s all it is. And secondly, the Republican Party has bought into the notion that when the president decides what he wants to do, nobody can interfere. The courts can’t interfere, and the Congress can’t interfere.

Do you feel a sense of responsibility for your time as a Republican? It seems like this campaign is a kind of personal correction.
It doesn’t have anything to do with me. It has to do with the direction that the country is going.

Except that, in many cases, you promoted the policies you’re running against—DOMA, the Barr Amendment, the PATRIOT Act.
I think that’s given me a pretty strong and pretty credible perspective on some of these issues. But the problem is not just a handful of issues. It’s not just George W. Bush. It’s not just the Republican Party. It’s the institution of government as we’ve allowed it to develop. And I’ve come to the conclusion that the only way to change that is through a third party.

You started out as a Democrat, right?

You weren’t a member of the Young Democrats in college?
Well, yeah, I was briefly with the Young Democrats. I think the turning point was in my sophomore year, reading Atlas Shrugged. That really moved my thinking, philosophically—the fundamental role of individual rights.

And you don’t perceive the GOP as the party of individual rights anymore?
Well, it’s not just what I perceive. The Republican Party in 2008 is clearly not a party of individual liberty.

When did that happen?
I remember the precise moment. I was elected to Congress in 1994 with the Republican Revolution, and four years later we were in one of the House Republican caucuses, just before the ’98 election, and the leadership came in and said very clearly, “We’ve got an election coming up. Anybody here who has a problem in their district, sit down with Representative Kasich or Armey and tell them what you need to have in this year’s budget to win your election.” And they might as well have had a sign flashing in the background that said “business as usual.” We were no longer serious about reining in government. And now McCain goes out and talks about doing away with earmarks, and the public applauds. But in one year, you could simply freeze spending and save ten times as much. They want to give the appearance of tackling the issue, but not really. It’s part of the same shell game they use cycle after cycle.

Speaking of shell games, I noticed that the Libertarian Party supports “unrestricted competition among banks.” Doesn’t that seem naive, given the housing crisis the banks have created?
Well, one of the mistakes I think we’re on the verge of making yet again is to react to a problem in the economy by overlaying a whole new set of regulations. I think that would be a mistake. All we’re doing is providing more and more government interference in the free market.

Why shouldn’t the government interfere in the market and rein in corporations?
Is that the job of the federal government? I would say absolutely not. The government is not there to guarantee that the market is going to operate in a certain way.

Isn’t the government there to do whatever the people want? Isn’t that the whole idea of a democracy?
In a pure democracy, yes. But we don’t have a pure democracy. We have certain principles on which the nation is founded. The basic philosophy—the reason the government was set up the way it is—is to keep the government out of those areas. In our system, it’s not the job of the federal government to do those things. It is the job of the government to ensure free commerce.

Do you actually believe free commerce will cap pollution and keep the water pure and the air clean?
It may or may not.

Don’t you think the public has a right to keep its water clean?
I wouldn’t equate public concern with the appropriate role of government. The public, by and large, would like government to do all sorts of things.

And this is a democracy, and the government should do what they want.
It’s not a democracy. We have certain principles. The government exists to provide very limited functions—for example, free commerce.

The government exists to do whatever people want it to do.
Part of the problem is that we no longer have a truly educated public. The Founding Fathers lived in a very different world. They lived in a world where people understood and cared about the written word. They had a much more educated citizenry.

The reason the “citizenry” was more educated was because the “citizenry” excluded everybody who wasn’t a white male landowner.
Abigail Adams was one of the brightest people around back then.

But she couldn’t vote, and neither could slaves, or anybody who didn’t own land.
But Abigail Adams still influenced public policy through her interchanges with her husband. Part of the problem today is that we don’t have an educated citizenry like that. The citizenry may clamor for the government to do all sorts of things. That does not provide an appropriate basis for the government to do it.

Who else is going to decide what the government should do, if not the citizenry?
We don’t live in a democracy! This was not intended to be a country where the citizenry decides what they want government to do! We have a structure of government that is based on principles, independent of the vagaries of public opinion.

I’m not sure that’s true at all. The citizens can elect representatives to do whatever they want. If the citizens want to take away their own right to free speech, they can do it.
They could.

They can make government come to their doors every morning with a newspaper and donuts if they want.
Well, we’re almost at that point.

When we talk about the ignorant masses, I can’t help but wonder about your position on public education. Doesn’t the Libertarian Party want to eliminate public schools?
Ideally, yes. But if we say, “Okay, we’re going to immediately dismantle the whole structure of public education,” nobody’s going to buy into it. That is, I think, a very important goal and a very important principle.

So in your opinion, as a long-term goal, there should be no government involvement in education?
And in the short term, I believe there is no appropriate or legitimate role for the federal government.

How would you accomplish that?
By getting the federal government out of it. I forget what the budget of the Department of Education is, but those billions of dollars should not be vested in the federal government. That money should go back to the people. There’s no reason whatsoever for the federal government to be involved in education.

So you’d eliminate the Department of Education. Are there any other departments you would eliminate?
I find it very hard to understand why we have a Department of Commerce. There might need to be an office that carries out certain functions to ensure free commerce, but that could be handled by the Department of Justice. Also, the Department of Energy. What is federal energy policy? I’m not sure we have one.

Does it strike you as a contradiction to be a lifelong conservative who is promoting such radical change?
There certainly are unintended consequences that come with change. It is important, I think, that we recognize that we are not just Libertarians but responsible Libertarians. I’m not interested in disrupting the fabric of our country. It will take time. It will take a lot of time. We haven’t gotten here overnight. It started over one hundred years ago with trust-busting and accelerated with Wilson and FDR and Nixon and Johnson…

But those presidents also initiated government programs that were hugely successful. Think of the G.I. Bill.
The G.I. Bill, for those who participated, was great. But is that the criteria—that simply because massive government intervention benefits a certain number of people, it’s a good reason for doing it? No.

The G.I. Bill didn’t just help a few people. It did wonders for the country, increased home ownership, and allowed thousands of veterans to return to a normal life.
It may have worked from the standpoint of taking money from one group of people and putting it into the pockets of another group of people. But I’m talking about a fundamental philosophical issue here. At its core, whether you’re talking about the G.I. Bill or Medicare or Medicaid, it’s the government taking money from one person and using it for another, by threat of force. That may be beneficial to some, but that doesn’t make it an appropriate function of government.

Would you have opposed the New Deal and the Works Progress Administration?
That’s a hypothetical.

Everything I’m asking is a hypothetical.
Well, that’s a double hypothetical. That’s a hypothetical on top of a hypothetical.

Every time I ask what you’ll do as president, it’s a double hypothetical.
No, that’s just a hypothetical.

It’s two. The first hypothetical is if you’re president, the second is what you’ll do.
What can I say? I think we have a tremendous opportunity through the Libertarian Party and the libertarian philosophy to change the structure of the American government.

Well, good luck.

wil s. hylton is a GQ correspondent.

Photo:Molly Riley/Reuters/Landov

The Limey

Tuesday  June 24, 2008


Over his long and magnificent career, Michael Caine—er, SIR Michael Caine—has acted, we're pretty sure, in every movie ever made. The man who started as Alfie—and this month returns in 'The Dark Knight' as Alfred—has a story to tell about all of them

by marshall sella

photograph by nadav kander

michael caine doesn’t look at things; he regards them. With that trademark tilt of the head, he takes the measure. There’s recognition in his gaze; he knows something the viewer doesn’t. And that’s what propels the performance. He has acted in something like 115 movies, though he explains without a trace of irony that “only eighty-seven of those are leading roles.” There have been the great films and the dreadful ones. Yet he is one of a mere handful of actors to have been nominated for an Academy Award at least once in five consecutive decades—and took the prize twice, as best-supporting actor, for Hannah and Her Sisters and The Cider House Rules.

Caine also broke all manner of class barriers, not only in the movies but in the ingrained culture of England and, by extension, in America—though America somehow never seemed to notice. He is a brick in the bridge between William Holden and Al Pacino. In early-’60s England, a working-class actor was impossible. If actors had any grace, at least they could pretend to be of a higher station. That ended. Caine smashed glass all over the silk carpets and left it there. And now he is Sir Michael Caine, never mind that he was born in South London as Maurice Micklewhite and renamed himself after seeing the marquee of a cinema that was showing The Caine Mutiny.

How many performances did it take to make Caine indelible in our minds? Alfie was quite a start—as sly an expression of the sexual revolution as any film, but one with a dark side. The original Sleuth, in 1972, created a standard for the mystery genre that arguably has never been matched; improbably, it’s also an ugly though smartly dressed drama about class warfare. John Huston’s The Man Who Would Be King, a 1975 epic based on Rudyard Kipling’s tale, provided Caine and Sean Connery with what may be the greatest roles of their careers, as a pair of rogue soldiers who set out to conquer and rule the fictional Kafiristan, with exhilarating and horrific results. Then there’s Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, The Quiet American, A Shock to the System, Little Voice, The Ipcress File, Get Carter, and Battle of Britain and Zulu and Children of Men…and on July 18, Caine reprises his role as Alfred in the latest Batman film, The Dark Knight, currently most notorious for the performance of the late Heath Ledger.

In real life, despite his allergy to the press, Michael Caine seems an inordinately happy, even jolly, man. And his Saturday-night laugh came easy to him as he sat down to talk with GQ, just down the Thames from one of his homes.


You know, you’ve got a CV as long as my arm holding another arm.
Yeah. Well, bloody hell, I’m 75 next Friday! Me and Quincy Jones, we’re celestial twins. He did the music to The Italian Job.

And to Austin Powers in Goldmember.
Yes! But I met him on the original Italian Job. We found out we were the same age. Then we asked our mothers what time we were born and worked it out between Chicago and London—and it’s the same time. He knows everyone in the world, and he’s with great organizations. I know everyone in the world, but I live very quietly in the country. I live right near here in a pied-à-terre. My proper house is in the country.

Not to be a prying journalist, but the place near here—what’s that precise address?
[Caine actually answers.]

Everyone knows it, ’cause we overlook the Thames outside. And the boatmen all point up. I’ll go out sometimes, and they’ll say, “And there he is!”

So…you live in New York, do you? It’s a great city. If I didn’t live here, I’d live there.

But you were in L.A. for most of the ’80s.
Eight years. It was a time of massive taxes here.

Do I recall rightly? Sean Connery was in the same situation. The taxation rate was
90 percent?

Oh, only 82.
In certain circumstances, it could be 90. So I got out. I’m never giving any government more money than I take home. It’s now 40 here, so I live with that.

Why would anyone do anything if they had to give up 90 percent of what they make?
Hey, we’ve got a whole culture here of benefit. We’ve got 3 million people on benefit here. It’s not worth goin’ to work. I mean, don’t get me started on this shit. No. No, no.

The anomalies here are incredible. Two and a half million British people sitting on their arses, on benefits, and bringing foreign workers in to do the jobs they won’t do. How does that work out?

So… you’re that rarest of rare breeds—an actor who’s not a red-toothed lefty?
Yeah. I fell into the socialism thing a long time ago.

But you left it behind. You liked Thatcher!
I did like Maggie Thatcher. I liked Tony Blair.

Did you feel that Blair was too much Bush’s lapdog?
Oh yeah. But then he became all presidential. He got carried away. And now he wants to be the president of the European Union. Which I think would be a very good job for him, because he could help to keep us out of it! [laughs] Someone on the inside!

You’ve said that the art of stage acting is to expose the machinery, and the art of film acting is to conceal it. What did you mean by that?
The very thing that makes a great stage actor makes a poorer movie actor, in my opinion. ’Cause you’re sitting in the theater, and the leading man—Laurence Olivier or someone—is standing in a spotlight, in the middle of the stage, with everyone else standing in the shadow, declaiming in a very loud voice. And you go, “What a wonderful performance! He should get an award for this!

If someone’s sitting in a movie and thinks, What a performance, they then think, Wait a moment—I’m supposed to be watchin’ Charlie Smith. Not Michael Caine. Then you’ve screwed up. You’re supposed to become the person. That’s what I do, is to disappear. You know. And reappear as someone…more interesting. [laughs]

Funny thing—I always think of how difficult it actually must be when people see your work and think, Well, he’s playing himself.
[incredulously] That’s it! That’s the reviews you get! “It’s Michael Caine playing himself again!” I wouldn’t know how to play myself. You don’t really know who you are. I’ve never played a father, for instance—and I’m a very good father.

Another thing I don’t think people realize is that you served in Korea.
National service. I was 19 when I went to Korea. I was there for a year. I was an infantry soldier. Not a job I recommend! Disgusting. That was a weird war—because it was like trench warfare, like the First World War. And then you’d go out at night and do these very scary patrols in the paddy fields, lookin’ for Chinese.

Any war that’s called a “police action”…
Yeah! It’s a police action, my ass. “Police action”? Get a policeman!

I once read the most lavish praise of you—it was from Laurence Olivier, I think, in a foreword to a book he wrote.
Oh, really?

You never heard about this?

He was talking about the future of film acting and singled you out. It was wildly impressive praise.
He was very kind to me. We became quite good friends. Long after Sleuth, we’d have dinner. Every fortnight or so.

I didn’t see the remake. Maybe because I was so fond of the old version.
There’s no dialogue in it from the original. None. Harold Pinter just took the plot. It’s very funny. We got terrible reviews in the new version, but I think that’s because of what we did, not what it was. Know what I mean?

We got a seven-and-a-half-minute standing ovation in Venice, Jude Law and I. Then we got great reviews—until the British reviews. This was very personal. Our first bad review, which was British, was written by a man who hadn’t seen the fucking movie.

But that was a film I couldn’t turn down. It wasn’t a remake as much as a complete rewrite. I mean, it’s Harold Pinter.

Funny that Jude Law plays your character in two different remakes of your films [Alfie and Sleuth]. Do you see a generation of great actors coming up? Obviously Daniel Day-Lewis…
And Daniel Craig. Don’t mind about James Bond, he’s a bloody great actor. And Clive Owen. They keep coming out of the woodwork. And they make it. Day-Lewis made it. Jude made it.… Clive was great in the picture I made with him.

Children of Men. You must have loved that, playing a crazy longhair.
Yeah! I get a lot of respect from younger people now because I smoked pot in it. I never smoked dope. I was told it affected memory cells, and I’ve always had this thing about memorizing lines and being word-perfect.

Part of what was amazing in the original Sleuth was the class tension. This is something Americans don’t always get. The class problem is just as strong in the States—but it’s not codified in accent.

Americans don’t realize what a huge deal it was when you broke through that barrier. It’s one thing in Zulu [1964], when your character has a posh accent—but in Alfie and everything that came after, everything had changed. And I’d say the height of that is Sleuth.
Yes. Let me give you a for-instance about that. Larry Olivier, who was Lord Olivier, wrote me a letter before the picture started—we’d never met—saying, “It’s occurred to me that you may be wondering how to address me when we meet. Once we say hello, you must call me Larry forevermore.” Which I did. That was 1972.

And then, later, I’d just done Sleuth again, in 2007. I am now a knight. The idea that I would write a letter to Jude Law saying, “You may be wondering how to address me…” [laughs uproariously] It’s absolutely preposterous, and that’s how it’s changed in all those years.

But it’s still there, a little bit.

The class consciousness.
Yeah. Well. Not that much. It used to be a disadvantage, but it doesn’t matter anymore. I think because of people like me who retained their accents and said, “Screw you, this is how it’s gonna be.” And a lot of us did that.

But you were the first.
Yeah, I did it first When I first became an actor, it wasn’t just wealthier people saying “Give it up” or “Are you mad?” Working-class people said to me, “Who do you think you are? You’ve got ideas above your station—because you’re going into a business where you’re supposed to talk posh, and who do you think you are?”

And I always said to them, “I know exactly who I am and where I’m going. Whether I get there or not, I don’t know. But I am going.”

One of the great things for me when I first went to America was that the class thing lifted straight off my shoulders. I’ve always loved that in America. They judge you for who you are and what you can do. They don’t make any…

That’s what I hate about America! They judge you for what you do! It’s awful.
Yeah! But they don’t make any suppositions based purely on the way you speak.

Still, my voice has become my voice now. It’s not a Cockney accent. It’s just me. Now everybody impersonates me!

You know Cary Grant’s famous line: “Everyone wants to be Cary Grant—including me.” Is there any difference between Maurice Micklewhite and Michael Caine?
I’m aware of the luck I’ve had, though I’ve worked very hard. With the people around me—with relationships—everyone is equal. I don’t care who anyone is. Cleaners in hotels, because my mother was a cleaner, always get twenty bucks. So even on their day off, they come and see me!

But it’s all me now. Someone once asked me if my mother called me Maurice or Michael. I said Michael. They asked why, and I said, “Because Maurice never made any money.” [laughs]

What did your father do?
He was a porter in a fish market. A very tough manual job. I always thought to myself, Never do a job where you can be replaced by a machine.

And he did that all his life?
No, he was a soldier for years.

In India?
Yeah, he was in the Royal Horse Artillery. He was a great horseman. That skipped a generation in me. My eldest daughter is a great horsewoman. She’s ridden for England. I am absolutely useless. I mean, I act as though I can ride. In The Last Valley, I led a charge. If I’d have come off, they’d have all run over me.

But since Chris Reeve, I say, “If there’s a horse in the script, don’t even send it to me.” I’m never getting on a horse again.

Hearing you mention Christopher Reeve, it’s hard not to think of your make-out scene with him in Deathtrap.
Oh God. We drank a bottle of brandy between us before shooting the scene—then we were so pissed we couldn’t remember the fuckin’ lines!

You’ve been married to Shakira now for thirty-three, thirty-four years?
five years!

That’s amazing.
It is, but it doesn’t seem like that. That seems like a long time, you know? Look at what Groucho Marx said: “I’ve been married for thirty years. It seems like yesterday. And you know what a bloody awful day yesterday was!” But that doesn’t apply to me. You meet someone and you know she’s the one. It’s an extraordinary relationship.

She was great in The Man Who Would Be King.
In which she married Sean and not me!

I always think there’s a little extra edge in the conflict between you and Connery because of that.
[laughs] I was givin’ her little lessons before those scenes on how to act, and Huston said to me, “Get off the set, Michael. You don’t know what you’re talking about.”

He was a one-line director, John. I did a speech very early on in the movie, and he stopped it. He cut it. I was doin’ very well, I thought. And John said, “Speak faster, Michael; he’s an honest man.”

Are you knighted as Michael Caine or Maurice Micklewhite?
Now as Sir Michael Caine—but having had two names, I’ve gotten into so much trouble at airports thanks to the bloody terrorists. If it’s Maurice Micklewhite, they don’t know it’s me turnin’ up.

I was stopped in Texas once, and the security guy said, “I loved Cider House Rules.” I said, “Stop it. You’re searching me—and you know exactly who I am!”

He said, “I’ve got to. It’s the computer.” My wife had gone home the day before with all the luggage. I asked, “What profile do I have that makes me a terrorist?”

He said, “You have no luggage. You’re a foreigner. You’re in first class. And you’re the last to board. That is the profile of all the 9/11 fliers.”

You fit right into that list.
Yeah, number twenty.

Is it true that in the ’60s you used to drink two bottles of vodka a day? My God, that’s impossible.
I used to drink a lot. Yeah. Vodka’s very easy to drink and very nice. You can drink it with a lot of different stuff.

Yeah, but two bottles a day. How would you work or sleep? Or eat? When would you have time to do anything? Along with eighty cigarettes!
It’s a very long day. But I didn’t do that when I was working. And I don’t do that now. That was a long time ago. I don’t even smoke anymore. Gave it up ages ago.

You made it all those years in Hollywood and never did cocaine? It was all heroin?
Well, I did smoke marijuana once at a party, and I laughed for five hours. One o’clock in the morning, and I’m trying to hail a taxi, but I’m laughing my head off, so no one will stop for me. I had to walk all the way home from Mayfair to Notting Hill, which is about four miles, laughing all the way. I never did that again.

When you were a young rebel, did you ever think that if offered a knighthood, you’d refuse it?
No, I was never like that. I like the knighthood. I mean, I don’t push anything down anyone’s throat.

It’s impossible not to ask you about Heath Ledger, with whom you star in The Dark Knight.
Yeah. Heath. Well, I’d never met him before, but I was a great fan of his. I think I worked two nights with him, and I was so impressed. I said these things long before he died. He was very exhausted when he was doin’ that film I said, “Jesus Christ, I’m too old to have the energy to do parts like that anymore. As a matter of fact, Heath, I don’t think I had that much energy when I was your age!” He said, “I’m really fucked-up. I’m so fucking tired.” I was extraordinarily upset when he died. Such a useless death.

Do you watch your movies now?
If I played the lead, I’ll see it. If I played a guest part, maybe not.

I saw A Bridge Too Far. And that was one of the films I’ve done where I was playing a real guy, a man who was also the movie’s technical adviser. And he told me he was very glad I was playing him. I asked why, and he said, “Because you’re taller and funnier.” [laughs]

I think nearly every big actor alive then was in that film.
Sure! We were doing a military conference, and I’m looking around the room, and there’s Robert Redford, Gene Hackman, Sean Connery, Laurence Olivier, Trevor Howard, Richard Attenborough—shit! There was…everybody.

I always get sucked into that movie at three in the morning.
The only one of my movies I get sucked into is Dirty Rotten Scoundrels. If I start watching that, I can’t stop.

I’m always amazed that Steve Martin—and I’m not talking him down at all—gets all these showpieces in that movie. Ruprecht, the scene in jail where he tries to remember your name. Yet it’s your movie.
Because I’m absolutely straight. Doing comedy, you rely on each other. I never did anything funny because it would make him unfunny. It was the juxtaposition of him being Ruprecht with me being very nice and helpful.

Did you ever watch yourself in The Swarm? [laughing nervously]
Oh, I take complete responsibility for that. But my excuse, if anything, was I was very new in Hollywood—I’d just come to Hollywood—and Irwin Allen had just done Towering Inferno with Paul Newman and Steve McQueen. And they asked me if I wanted to do his next movie. I said, “Fuuuckin’ hell, of course I do!”

Funny thing, The Swarm. See, when bees are kept in captivity, they do not shit. The moment they’re released, they shit. What was happening was, they put all these bees on us. We were wearing these white smocks, which were immediately covered with a pale brown film We had all these bees shitting on us—which preempted the critics! We should’ve taken the sign and wrapped the movie right there.

Which means I have to bring up all the hell you caught for Jaws: The Revenge.
Yeah! Listen: I was on-screen in Batman Begins for twenty-eight minutes. If I said to people, “That picture was a great hit, you know—because of me!” they’d go, “What are you, fucking nuts?” Well, I’m in Jaws for twelve minutes! What the fuck’s it got to do with me? I’ll take the blame for The Swarm. I was in it all the time. Jaws! I was there a week and went home and never thought about it.

I always regretted that you and Olivier never made another film together, but then I realized that you were together in Jigsaw Man. Which was… Well, there was something with the script, I think.
And Terence Young directed it, who’d pretty much lost it by that time. And we knew it.

The original Sleuth has to be the only movie ever made where the entire cast was nominated in the best-actor category. Did you and Olivier figure that you’d split the vote?
That’s why we were quite sure neither of us would get it.

And O’Toole was in there for The Ruling Class. The whole category was stacked.
Yeah! Every time I get nominated, it’s in the greatest year ever. I never get nominated in an otherwise crap year.

Where do you keep your Oscars? I have to ask that by law.
There’s a big bookshelf in the office in my country house. I’ve got three Golden Globes and two Oscars. So I need another one to go in the middle.

If you were going to assess, what would you say?
I’ve achieved everything I set out to do, but I’m not quite there yet. I’ve still never won the leading Academy Award, and I’ve been nominated six times. I’ve never won it. And you always sit there with that smile on your face.…

Dying inside.
Yeah.… Well, you’re not really.

You said yes first! But eventually they have to give it to you.
I’d better get a movie where I can get up there on the stage. I’m going to do Driving Mr. Daisy.

Where an old black lady drives you around? Yeah. I think that’d be funny.

But the movies this year have been so bleak. I did like Atonement. I see everything, because I get the screeners. That’s what we do in the autumn, right up till Christmas. All my family comes out and says, “Let’s see the movies!”

Not everyone who works in the cinema is a fan, but I am a cinema fan. Good, bad, and indifferent—I’ve seen every fucking film ever made.

You’re in every film ever made! You’re in some of my family’s home movies.
Yeah! Just keep lookin’! I’ll get there.

marshall sella is a GQ correspondent.

Parlez-Vous Chester French?

Tuesday  June 24, 2008



Why Pharrell, Kanye, and Jermaine Dupri were fighting over two punks from Harvard

by will welch

When Pharrell Williams is pressed to explain why he loves Chester French—the Harvard-educated pop-rock duo he signed to his label, Star Trak—he can only gush, “They’re brilliant, man! Geniuses!”

Smart-asses is more like it. The band’s debut single, “She Loves Everybody,” is packaged to look like a supermagnum-condom wrapper. And “The Jimmy Choo’s” is about a loose girl in a French-maid outfit whom singer D. A. Wallach asks to “touch the floor.” The band gets away with all this spirited juvenilia by hanging it on a never-ending supply of catchy pop hooks: Pharrell says they sound like “Brian Wilson singing over Motown tracks with a rock edge.”

Wallach and multi-instrumentalist Maxwell Drummey started Chester French in their freshman year at Harvard. Senior year, they sent their music to everyone under the sun, and while rock labels ignored them, three of hip-hop’s great producers—Pharrell, Kanye West, and Jermaine Dupri—latched onto their cross-pollinated pop sound immediately. Each offered the band a deal, but only Pharrell insisted that they continue to produce themselves (“I’ve been in the good habit of signing acts who are self-sufficient,” he says). From there, Chester French’s decision was easy—and the next question is obvious. What’d Wallach and Drummey do with their advance? “I put it up my nose,” says Drummey. He’s kidding. “I bought my wet-dream wish list of musical equipment,” he continues, “and we gave our album a boob job.”

The (Very) Lost Boys

Monday  June 23, 2008



Corey Haim and Corey Feldman confront their darkest days—molestation, suicide attempts—for the cameras. And you get to watch. For better or worse

PLUS: Corey Haim fires back in an exclusive Q&A

by mickey rapkin


The Two Coreys is back on A&E. On the eve of the show’s return, Corey Feldman (right, currently not speaking to Haim) sat down with GQ.

How did Hollywood react to The Two Coreys?
Everybody in this town seems to have watched. It’s crazy. I ran into Elliott Gould, and he’s like, Hey, love the show!

Season two is different—less Odd Couple, more raw confrontation. I mean, the first episode has you two revealing you’d both been molested as teens. Why talk now?
That was one of those things that we’d discussed not bringing up. And then Haim brought it up anyway. You know how there’s one thing that your friend’s got against you that he could use as blackmail at any time? That was the one thing.

To be fair, you brought up Haim’s suicide attempt first, right?
Well, that was a bit of clever editing. The conversation lasted probably two hours. You have to encapsulate it in a twenty-two-minute episode.

It’s harrowing stuff. Can you grasp how the molestation affected your life?
Well, I certainly think it affected Haim’s. I think it’s stunted him. That’s the root of why he hasn’t had a solid relationship. I went through my own similar problems, and fortunately, I was able to [compartmentalize] it in my brain. Let’s not forget that I went through an intensive ten-month rehabilitation process [to get over a heroin addiction]. The only way I could overcome that addiction was to deal with my deep-rooted problems. I wanted to put it out there and give it back to God and all that healthy stuff you’re supposed to do.

You were friends, famously, with Michael Jackson. Are you worried that people will assume he did this to you?
People can say whatever they want, but it wasn’t Michael. He and I have our own issues, but that wasn’t one of them. The bottom line is, I know who it was. I didn’t know how to cut him off. Not only did I continue being friends with the guy, but he was working for me.

Working for you?
The guy that did this to me was my assistant. He would come in when I was sleeping. I would wake up and I would know what was going on, but I would just try to ignore it and hope that he would go away, which is how kids who aren’t ready to deal with something deal with it. I was still a virgin at the time. I hadn’t even had sex with a girl. So for me it was just kind of bewildering. Despite what people think, I was actually very innocent and very naive at the time. I was your typical American kid.

Have you ever confronted him?
No. I haven’t seen him since 1986.

You and Haim have had a rocky past. What’s your relationship like now?
We’re not on speaking terms at the moment. There’s always going to be some level of friendship. Blood is thicker than water. But I’ve officially drawn the line. If I’m helping to perpetuate a lie, I’m adding to the problem. Every person needs to hit their bottom.

You don’t think he’s hit rock bottom yet?
I think he’s hit several, but not the one that’s taken him to the curb. I know that he’s lost teeth. I know that he’s lost hair. He’s never been arrested. He’s never spent time in jail. He’s basically the Canadian Keith Richards.

He says he’s clean. But when he showed up to shoot a cameo in Lost Boys 2, he was slurring his speech. What happened there?
The bottom line is, he’s in the midst of a battle, and he’s gotta fight his own demons.

Are you talking about prescription drugs?
Well, I don’t want to go on the record as saying what his battle is.

Were you disappointed in him?
I was incredibly disappointed, and I think you can see it all over my face. There was no acting there. I worked very, very hard to get Corey into Lost Boys 2. And then he shows up in that condition, and I was like, After everything we’ve been through to put this together, why would you pick today of all days to be half-cocked?

Switching gears: You’ve been married for almost five years. What’s the secret?
Love, positivity, and fun. At the end of each day, I make sure that I put two hours aside to spend with my son. My wife and I take time out for ourselves, too, where we can go out with our friends or go up to the Playboy Mansion.

Do you hang out at the Mansion often?
Yeah, we do, actually. We go to most of the big parties. We even take Zen, our son, up there for Easter. They do this great big Easter-egg hunt. It’s a family affair. My wife is going to be on the cover of Playboy in August.

Nice. How do you feel about the spread?
I was nervous and skeptical at first. But I happen to be a bit of a hippie myself. I believe the human body is an art form and something to be appreciated. I just hope my family doesn’t look at the photos. Besides that, anybody else can enjoy them. They’re the most ridiculously hot pictures I’ve ever seen in Playboy.


In the July issue of GQ, Corey Feldman talked about his painful past, the troubled shooting of Lost Boys 2, and why he wasn't speaking to his old friend Corey Haim. Here, in a exclusive, Haim responds

You and Corey Feldman aren’t speaking. Why?
I’ve been in L.A. for, let’s say, four months. He’s out of town, and he doesn’t call, ever. But at the end of the day, there’s always love.

Why do a second season of The Two Coreys?
Besides signing contracts for three seasons?

Okay. The first season felt scripted. Why make this one so raw?
I’m a hockey player from Toronto, bro. If I’m going to make a reality show, let’s make it real. No script. No bullshit. Excuse my French.

You caught some flak for placing an ad in Variety that read, “I’m back.” Did you expect it to make so much noise?
No, man. That was just to say I’m sorry. Burning time, burning money, burning up people on the set, showing up late, everything I’ve done way back when. Harvey Bernhard—he was a producer with Richard Donner on The Lost Boys—he told me, “You can’t go to every agent or manager or publicist and knock on their door.” He says, “Go to Variety and it’ll be on every agent’s, manager’s, publicist’s desk by seven in the morning.” So I did.

Has it helped?
Am I getting work because I placed the ad? No. I’m getting work because I’m really on the ball right now. My head’s on straight.

I saw the footage from the set of Lost Boys 2. What happened that day? You were slurring your speech. You couldn’t remember your lines.
I had a hard day. I’m a human being, and I’m allowed to have a hard day. And this is my reality show.

Are you clean?
I took an eleven-year break back to Canada. I like long vacations. That’s what I say to people. They ask, “Where you been, Corey?” “Where you been, Haimster?” But I’m getting back into my zone on-set, and it is absolutely what I’ve been lacking for years.

You and Feldman discuss having been molested as teenagers. Why now?
That’s life in this world. There are people that take advantage of other people—in this case, young, young children.

How has this affected your adult life? Do you have enough distance to know?
It’s something that will be addressed in my inner soul for the rest of my life, and it’s something that truly affects me, and I opened up a can of worms, so to speak. Every day I opened up, like, a can of sardines. It’s something I’ve addressed. Psychiatrists can be helpful. They have the medications and blah-blah-blah. But I don’t want any of that, man. I’ve dealt with this, and I’m dealing with this—second by second, minute by minute, day by day. Everything’s cool. It’s just like, It happened, it’s over, and move on. Let’s move on to the next subject.

I hear you just shot a cameo in Crank 2: High Voltage with Jason Statham.
They wanted me for Crank 1, but I was actually doing another flicker. So they wrote a part for me in Crank 2. It’s the same writers, the same director. These guys are brilliant. My first day of filming, I went in my camper for a minute, and I just started crying, because I was, like, home. And I’m just so grateful. It’s a cameo. But, like, Ricky Schroder did a cameo in Crimson Tide, and then boom! He got NYPD Blue.

Are we going to see a third Lost Boys?
Yeah, man, It’s a trilogy! [singing] Trilogyyy.

The new season of The Two Coreys airs on A&E now.

Dark and Stormy, Nice and Easy

Thursday  June 19, 2008

Picture 2

Forget the muddling, the shaking, the stirring. A deeply satisfying summer cocktail can be as simple as two quality ingredients

By Andy Ward

When I got married, someone (of course) gave us the full-on Pottery Barn cocktail kit: ten-gallon martini glasses and a silver-plated shaker, stirrer, strainer, tongs, and serving tray. A decade later, it's still in the box. That's not because we don't drink; with a 4-year-old and a 6-year-old underfoot, there's nothing—and I know this sounds bad, but really: nothing—we like more than a little medicine at the end of the day. The truth is, we've never busted it out because we're not fans of the fussy drink. I don't believe in cocktail hardware, and I don't believe that having people over for dinner should include said people being forced to sit in your kitchen for twenty minutes, watching you craft a cocktail from fresh-squeezed guava juice, muddled mint leaves, and blood-orange zest. In our house, we tend to follow a pretty basic philosophy on food, a philosophy I will also apply now to cocktails: very few ingredients, very good ingredients, very simple preparation.

Which brings me to the Dark and Stormy.

Having not grown up with a yacht, a cottage on Nantucket, or a Roman numeral after my name, I had no idea this drink even existed for the first thirty-three years of my life. And can I tell you how I now weep for those years? The Dark and Stormy is everything a great cocktail should be: damned tasty, of course, but also fizzy, cold, summery, and very, very easy to make.

Here's how. Get a decent-size highball glass and pack it with ice. Now fill that glass halfway with some good dark rum. (I use fifteen-year-old El Dorado from Guyana or twelve-year-old Zaya from Guatemala. And there is always Gosling's.) Then—and this part is crucial—top it off with real ginger beer, as opposed to standard-issue ginger ale, which tends to be wan and sugary and overly carbonated. (I use Reed's Extra Ginger Brew, which is made with fresh ginger.) Finally, the lime. Use a lot of lime. I love the way it balances the sweetness and spice of the rum and the ginger beer. Squeeze two wedges into the glass and discard. Take your third wedge, squeeze it, run the fleshy part once around the rim of the glass, and drop it in. Give a quick stir with a knife. Now partake of the Dark and Stormy. Ahoy, matey!

Why She Lost

Thursday  June 12, 2008


Why She Lost

Hillary's message man, Mark Penn, gives us the exclusive postmortem…and still wonders where all the money went

By Lisa DePaulo


with the possible exception of Hillary Clinton, there was no one in the primary race with higher negatives, as they say, than Mark Penn, her beleaguered chief strategist. Polarizing doesn’t begin to describe him—based on the unrelenting shitstorm of criticism hurled his way. From the loaded (did he really not know that California wasn’t winner-take-all, and did his firm really get paid $13 million?) to the just plain schoolyard-bully mean (he’s socially inept, nobody likes him, he has no friends!), it was brutal. Through it all, Penn never once defended himself, even as the Blame Penn chorus grew louder. And when he did put himself out there, to spin for Hillary, it didn’t always go so well, as in the infamous (last) time he went on Hardball to promise America that the Clinton campaign would not be making an issue of Obama’s college drug use, vowing that they wouldn’t be talking about the cocaine. Or the cocaine. Causing Joe Trippi to jump down his throat, in a live and excruciating moment, and Terry McAuliffe to tell him to stop.

Oh, and he also got demoted. But not really.

It couldn’t have been easy to be Mark Penn.

A disclosure/caveat: I once profiled Penn’s wife, Nancy Jacobson, for another magazine and, in the years that followed, got to know her personally. My previous encounters with her husband were all of the cocktail-party variety, but I never found him to be the least bit socially inept. And I always found the backstory compelling: Raised by a single mother who made $10,000 a year as a schoolteacher after his father—a union organizer and kosher-poultry dealer—died when Mark was 10. So determined to go to Harvard that when he got wait-listed, he jumped on a train from New York and knocked on the door of the head of admissions to personally plead his case. (He got in.)

I met with Penn twice as the campaign was winding down. The first time, in his office in Manhattan, he was frazzled, juggling e-mails (he gets a thousand a day) and stepping outside repeatedly to take urgent calls from Bill. His suit jacket was rolled up in a ball on the conference table. He seemed both a little edgy and subdued, at war with himself or someone, the loyal guy who doesn’t name names but was clearly mourning the way things were playing out. The second time, in his gleaming white-and-glass offices in Washington, it was over but for the speech, and I hesitate to say he seemed relieved, but he seemed relieved. He was loose, laughed easily, gamely narrating the stories behind all the tchotchkes in his office—the framed photos of him and Nancy with Hillary and Bill, the photo of him deep in conversation with Bill in the Oval Office (when they were discussing one of the more, “uh, sensitive matters”), the acquitted front-page impeachment story from The Washington Post, signed by Bill with gratitude to Mark. His office is dominated by a huge fish tank. (At Harvard he used to “breed fish” in his dorm room; it’s safe to say he wasn’t the BMOC.) In person he is every bit the geeky guy who secretly loves to watch SpongeBob SquarePants. And every bit the guy who coulda, woulda, shoulda won this thing.


What does it feel like, now that it’s really over?
Well, you know, it’s obviously disappointing. I think that she had really found her stride. I mean, I’ve never seen anything like it—we were winning primaries, and the leadership was all against her. I think the voters were out there very strongly pulling for her. She got more votes than anyone ever running for this office. Ever. And yet the superdelegates just decided that it was time. I think the voters didn’t. [laughs]

But what kind of emotions were flying around the last couple of days?
Disappointment, frustration. I think that the senator herself looks back on this process as having been, you know…having had so many great moments in her campaign. It’s just such a disconnect to come outat the end of this campaign with the kind of supporters that she now has, with the women’s groups forming for her—and for it to be over. It’s just such a mixed signal.

So what happened?
[exhales] Well, first, a lot of good things happened.

I think that Hillary was a great candidate. We started out in Iowa tremendously well—

Did you just say “tremendously well”?
We had a great start in Iowa. The first town halls she gave, people were amazed. We opened up with that video on the Web—500,000 people came. She wound up raising what would have been a record amount of money. I think you look through this race in terms of, from when it began, the first phases of this—through October, I think—could not have gone better. What happened was that there was a second extremely well-funded media-beloved candidate who entered the race at about the same time, who then had equal resources and, you know, an attraction, and received unbridled glowing coverage.

How did you underestimate him?
I think I never underestimated it, that once you had that kind of candidate, that that kind of candidate could be real trouble. And that if that candidate… You know, if Obama won Iowa, it would really change, dramatically change, the situation going forward. And consequently, I really wanted to question Obama as early as possible.

You wanted to hit him harder?
Well, I wanted to question the basic underpinning of his campaign.

Which was?
His problems in his campaign were (1) that he didn’t have the usual experience of somebody running for president, and (2) that the positions he took on Iraq—you know, that were revered by the press—didn’t really hold up when you look through his record in the Senate.

Why didn’t you?
Well, I started down that road.… President Clinton took on the Iraq back-and-forth. But the rest of the campaign didn’t want to tackle Iraq. They always felt that that was a losing proposition for her, and they always pulled it back.

How much of the reluctance to go after him at the beginning was because he’s a black candidate?
[clears throat] You know, I can’t answer that.

But there had to have been some concern about attacking the first black man who was a serious candidate for the presidency.
Well, but the word attack is a harsh word. If you point out somebody’s voting records, his attendance records, you know, if you point out how they differ with you on an answer of meeting with dictators, you know, that was a prime concern of a lot of people. It appeared to be the prime concern of a lot of people in the news media. Because the normal stories that would have been written about someone just never appeared. The truth of the matter was, there seemed to be an unlimited market for anything on Hillary and very little market for writing a story on Barack Obama and say, for example, his attendance in the Senate. There has still been no story written about something like that—as basic as something like that.

Okay. But you had to have underestimated him at some point.
No. Internally, I spent a year and a half fixated on this issue—from the moment he preannounced, when you saw the kind of money, the kind of support, what could happen with the African-American vote—rest assured.

So who didn’t listen to you?
Well, look, it’s not that people didn’t listen. It’s that people had a different idea of how you win against him. I had the idea that the best way to win against him would have been to go against him like any normal candidate as early as possible, because, as I often say, once the cat’s out of the bag, you really can’t put the cat back. It becomes a ten-times-harder task. And so we fundamentally disagreed on whether to take him on, on Iraq, you know.…

When you say “we”—
[laughs] Well, me. And President Clinton sided with me throughout this. The rest of the campaign… Look, their views were honorable views. It’s what they felt. I just think—

So it was you and the president against the rest of the campaign?
Me and the president thought, Take him on, take him on early. You know, bring out the fact that he gave these interviews saying that his views now were about the same as Bush and that his votes were the same as Hillary’s. And you know, therefore, take away a lot of the myth that’s brought up about his Iraq position. If you were to go through all of the strategy memos and all the preparations, it was always about, “What’s the difference between us and Obama? How can we illustrate that? How can we make that clearer?”

Was there a moment when you realized this guy was a phenomenon?
After his 60 Minutes interview.

Tell me why. That was in—
That was in February! February 2007. That was early. And I watched it, and I was, you know, terrified that he would be ahead the next day in the polling, that we didn’t have a stopper for him, that he was running the table. He was becoming nationally known. His poll ratings were skyrocketing. People knew nothing else about him other than that he was, you know, a fresh face, an agent for change—

And hot shit.
[laughs] And the question was, how were you gonna stop somebody who was getting that kind of lift in the polls? Don’t underestimate the extent to which he was taken as the only real competition in this race, from the first day of this race. I mean, look, John Edwards, you know, had run before, was running a good campaign in Iowa, was a good candidate, but he didn’t have the money or the elites. He didn’t have the things that would be necessary to sustain a full presidential race. Barack Obama had, from day one, those things.

Why do you think the rest of the team was afraid to go after him?
I think they thought that her position on Iraq wasn’t strong enough to sustain a debate on Iraq.

Or popular enough.
Right. But her position, remember—we went through the early discussion of “Was it a mistake? Should she apologize?” Of course, the rest of the team wanted her to apologize. [laughs] And you know, she weathered that extremely well. She didn’t apologize, because she had given a speech outlining her position. On that day. And that speech held up. It actually explained why she voted for Iraq and why it was a sincere vote at the time.

You said there were two issues with him, though—one Iraq and the other his experience. Why didn’t she hammer him on experience?
Well, she did. I often say that first there was the experience primary, and then there was an ideas primary. And so it wasn’t so much that we meant to run an experience primary, but there was an early notion that someone running as the first woman candidate to be president, it was extremely important that people had confidence that she could do the job of president in a really strong way.

People who try to dissect your role say, “Everybody wanted to humanize her, and Mark Penn wanted to prove that she was capable of being commander in chief.” Do you regret that?
No. No. The basis of people being able to support her is the belief that she could be president of the United States.

Do you think we’d even be talking now if you hadn’t established her as capable of being commander in chief?
I think we wouldn’t have won any primaries anywhere if people didn’t feel comfortable with her being president.

And your polling showed that to be true?
Oh, absolutely. All polling showed that. All the exit polls. You look at the exit polls in New Hampshire, for example. The exit polls in New Hampshire showed that her readiness to be president, her ability to be commander in chief, were absolutely central to that vote. What I’ve always said was, it was about being strong and human. Right? People who wanted to emphasize the human qualities never had a strategy for her. They had a couple of random ideas.

Like put her mother on TV, okay? That’s not a strategy! [a little snort laugh] And I never opposed anything that would humanize her in addition. But to just run her as somebody—to say that the only thing that Hillary Clinton had to do to be president was to, you know, show some softness would have been a mistake. She would have gotten zero votes from men.

Was the inevitability thing you?
No. Inevitability is a concept from the opponents, okay? We ran, though, as somebody who was the front-runner, as somebody who had the strength. She had the experience. She had, you know, then, the political establishment behind her. You know, front-runners typically win against challengers. That’s been the pattern. So it was never a notion that she was inevitable. It was a notion, though, that she was running as a big candidate, the kind of person you want to turn to as president and you say, “I really believe this is somebody who can do this job, and do this job the way the great presidents have done this job.” Right? And so to be that, I think Hillary Clinton fits that mold. And that just having her, you know, wander around to, you know, candy stores… But it’s very interesting when they talk about an “inevitable” campaign. We never used the word inevitable. Ever.

So who started it?
The opposition.

Who? Edwards?
No, I think the Obama campaign called us inevitable. And that stuck with the media. But that wasn’t something that we were actively selling. We were selling the idea that she was ready to be president, that she had broad support across the country, and that she was the candidate who could win.

How does it feel to know that you will probably be the fall guy?
Well, you know, I think when you lose, you’re just gonna take a pretty good dose of responsibility. I’ve won a lot of other elections, and when you win, maybe you get a little more credit. When you lose, people are gonna point at you. And that’s just the way it is.

But you’ve gotten the shit beat out of you.
[laughs] Well, you know, they’re running out of, uh… You know, if we had a campaign with no message, that thought it was inevitable, that didn’t think it was a change election, then how did we really manage to get 18 million supporters? The evidence just flies in the face.

But where do you say, “Here’s where I’m to blame”?
Well, look, I gotta take my share of the responsibility.

Okay, but specifically. What are the one or two or three things that you wish you’d done differently?
I wish in reality that I had a team of people, you know, who was with me, that I organized, as I had in ’96. Look, remember, a big difference between me and a lot of people is that I’ve been doing this for thirty years. I’ve run the successful strategy of a presidential campaign in ’96. I’ve run overseas campaigns like Tony Blair’s and, you know, been through this on the big scale. And in ’96, I had a close-knit team that really ran everything. And this was not organized that way.

Why couldn’t you bring your team this time?
I think this was organized in a way which, you know, some people think is a better organization—to have, instead of a team, almost a group of rivals. And you know, one would say, overall it worked pretty well. Till October.

What happened in October? How was that the turning point?
Well, October of ’07 we were forty points ahead. What happened in October, or really the beginning of November, was that Barack Obama personally attacked Hillary Clinton. Called her disingenuous. They attacked her in the debate on the driver’s licenses.

Ah, the driver’s licenses.
Right. And until then, basically, people were declaring the race over. The message strategy had been so successful that everybody was declaring it over. And they got so frustrated that what the Obama camp did was that they restrategized. And they concluded, obviously, the only thing they could do was attack her personally. It took us a while to kind of throw off those basic attacks. And I think that it was a tough organization to respond to that. You know, the response to a lot of those attacks became “Let’s do the soft, personal stuff.” And that didn’t work.

Go back to the licenses.
What happened was, Obama announced the day before [the debate] that he was gonna go after her personally. Called her disingenuous in The New York Times. Now, at that moment, and up until that moment, you know, we had won the experience primary; we won the new-ideas primary. A lot of the leads that we would rely upon in the big states were already built up. He was fading in the national polls, and he said, “Look, the strategy here isn’t working. I’ve gotta do something different.” And Obama did. He attacked her. And a lot of the press egged him on.

But he should have. You would have, right?
I would have, yeah! But… So that attack, on the driver’s licenses, was then played an absurd number of times by the media.

And you didn’t come back fast enough.
Well, we didn’t come back. We came back in the next debate, two weeks later.

That’s a long time.
She was strong. She pushed back. He got asked the very same question on driver’s licenses. He hesitated—he had to be asked, I think, two or three times by Wolf Blitzer—and then we thought, “Okay, we’re back. We’ve done it. We’ve shown that she can parry it back effectively and that he couldn’t answer this driver’s-license question either.” And you know what the media did with it? Nothing. The media played it not at all.

So you feel the media had a narrative and they were sticking to it, regardless of what happened, one way or another?
Especially at that time. At that time, they did not come back. At a certain point here, when Saturday Night Live goes on, everybody realizes what a joke this has been, right? That the media has not been fair to her compared to him. That if they were tough on both or easy on both, fair enough. But…

Besides hitting back quickly, what other things could have turned the ship around?
Well, I think you also have to realize that there are some other things here that people don’t talk about as much. And I think you have to realize that it was always anticipated that if things didn’t go well in Iowa—and Iowa was the toughest place—that there would be $25 million left in the kitty in order to go into the next round of states. Instead, the cupboard was bare.

That came as a surprise to you and the senator?
Well, it certainly came as a surprise to me, ’cause you know, the group that did the budget had set a goal of raising 75 million and keeping 25 million aside. In fact, over a hundred million was raised, and 25 million wasn’t there.

So they just pissed away way too much money on Iowa?
Well, I still don’t know what happened—whether it was Iowa. Because even Iowa was not that large a percentage of a hundred million.

Where did it go?
I think people are gonna spend some time looking at where the money went. Because it should have—you know, a substantial portion obviously should have gone to Iowa, and did. But the 25 million that was needed after Iowa didn’t go right. And so again, as you look at this thing, she wins nearly 18 million people. She wins fifty delegates ahead in the primary contests. Her losses are entirely in the caucus states—

Her losses weren’t entirely in caucus states.
Well, I ’m saying the net loss. She is net fifty delegates ahead from primaries. She is net 160 delegates, about, down in caucuses. And when you look back, the heaviest losses are in states where an organization wasn’t built, and there was no money, really, put into those states.

That’s a huge amount, 25 million. Do you think there’ll be some awful scandal about where it all went?

Was it just ineptitude?
I just think it will be very high. [He means the amount of money that was pissed away.]

But it didn’t go to you?
No. No. But you know, budgeting campaigns like this is a big management responsibility that required people with experience at doing budgets.

Who was in charge of the budget?
Again, you know, the manager—the adviser to the manager.

So, Patti Doyle.
She kept a very close hold on the budget—and the budget team, you know, met by themselves. And so they managed the budget. Now, again, there’s nothing inherently wrong with that structure. I asked to be part of that team and was told no. I personally manage a half a billion dollars in budgets [at Burson-Marsteller]. I understand what it is to manage budgets and to make the tough decisions in order to do what you need to do.

Can we go back to the campaign organization for a minute? What would you have changed specifically—
If I were to do things differently, it would be that the organizational and message teams would have been together, in tandem. And in this campaign, that wasn’t the case.

So were you not controlling the message?
I was head of a team of message people, but not of the political organization, the resource allocation. If I did something wrong, it was not having reset the organization in a way that could be functional, to deal with some of the problems that later occurred. And I would have had to say—and I came very close to this a number of times—that this organization, you know, doesn’t work.

One of the damning reports about you was that you thought the California primary was winner-take-all and not allotted proportionally. In an article in Time, Harold Ickes was quoted as having called you on that: “How can it possibly be that the much vaunted chief strategist doesn’t understand proportional allocation?” Is that true?
It is a false story, plain and simple. And it is being used to divert people from the real question of who, how, and when was the decision made not to build political organizations or spend money in a lot of the caucus states? I can assure you that was not the message team. And she did have, on the political team, some of the world’s greatest experts on the subject.

You’ve been portrayed as having no allies. And on the other hand, you have Bill and Hillary’s trust and respect to this day.
Well, you know, I’ve been through a lot with the Clintons. Remember—and I think most people don’t remember this—that after the ’94 congressional elections, the old consultants were shown the door and the new consultants came in. The president was at 30 percent favorable; 65 percent of the people said they’d never, ever vote for President Clinton again. Nobody wanted the job.

Is that why Paul Begala says things like “I have nothing but contempt for Mr. Penn”?
Well, I don’t know why he says that. But it would be true that he lost his job with the Clintons. Because remember, in those years, you know, President Clinton got elected with 43 percent. And then in those years between ’92 and the ’94 midterms, the president’s rating declined to the same kind of numbers that you see with George Bush. Both houses of Congress got lost. And you know, unfortunately, Paul lost his White House pass. [laughs]

Did your lack of allies hurt you?
Well, you know, obviously in ’96, I had a team of allies. We had a wonderful functioning team that made decisions in minutes. This was not… I didn’t have that kind of team.

But whose decision was it to not let you have your team?
Ultimately, I think this was set up in a way that Hillary wanted to set it up.

I think she believed that diffusing things was a better way.

Do you mean diffusing power?
Yeah, diffusing authority. Letting experts in, in different areas. You know, that’s why political was Harold Ickes, and you know, Patti was the manager, and Mandy was media. I’m just saying that this was set up as a diffuse organization. And I think, look, again, when you look at it under… Maybe a theory that this kind of creative tension would produce better advice—

What does that tell you about her ability to run the country?
I think she’d be great at running the country. I wouldn’t interpret how somebody organizes a campaign in terms of how they’re gonna run the country.

Why not? Because the average person might think, if she can’t run her campaign—
Because never confuse running for president with being president.

When you play the reel back in your head, what other things make you go, “Shit, why didn’t I do this? Why didn’t we do that?”
[laughs] Well, um, a lot of what I think we could have done differently in the first place is mostly either fired back or felt free to really have an engaged campaign with him—as opposed to just running a campaign which was, you know, “Is Hillary perfect or not?”

In retrospect, when you look at the Obama campaign, what were some of the other things that were really genius?
I think, at the end of the day, they really did what they had to when they had to. They didn’t think twice about taking her on when they had to. They did it. They just did it. And I think they were right to go after the progressive voters who were Democrats in Republican states that were ripe for a candidacy like his, and they did it very well. And I think that they sold him as a brand. It’s very funny: You know, they talk about my book Microtrends, and in reality their campaign was well microtargeted. They finely targeted several constituencies in order to put together their coalition and even to turn out unexpectedly large numbers of young people. They had a great organization.

Obama ran a great campaign, then.
Well, I think, look, he had tremendous help from the media. No one has gotten media coverage— If he had gotten fair media coverage…

So through this, how many times did Bill Clinton yell at you?
Uh… [laughs] I think that’s been overblown. Look, Bill Clinton and I had—and have—an excellent relationship. You know, the truth is, I have had campaigns where he’s the spouse and where she’s the spouse. And spouses always want to make sure that everything is okay for the other one. And I think that’s the way Bill Clinton has been through this race.

At the end of the day, Bill’s influence—did it hurt or help?
Definitely helped. He’s been a great fund-raiser, he’s been a great adviser, he’s been a great campaigner.

Okay, but when did you want to kick his butt? When did you say, “Arrrgh, I can’t believe he did that”?

There had to be a moment or two. South Carolina?
Look, there’s no question that the Obama campaign took comments that could not in any way, shape, or form in an objective reality be seen as racist, and they told surrogates to characterize them that way. And I think that was the… And not only that, but when you look at who was making the comments, people who devoted their lives, you know—President Clinton was there in Little Rock—who devoted their lives to kind of repairing the breach racially in this country, it was doubly, it was really doubly unfair and troubling.

What you’ve described sounds an awful lot more nasty and ruthless than—
Well, that’s why I tell you. Just because, you know, people think Hillary was more negative than he was doesn’t mean in fact that it was the case. Look, I just think, you know, President Clinton was extremely valuable. He was out there seeing people and putting the case for her, you know, day after day. And everyplace he went, she got more votes than she would have.

You’ve been accused of making obscene amounts of money from this campaign. Can you clear that up for us?
Well, people think, you know… The reality is, the way that money’s been reported, all the printing and the postage—you know, 85 percent of the work has been for direct mail, of which almost all that is postage and printing and all that

So when they come out with, like, “Mark Penn was paid $4 million,” 3.4 million of that was postage?
The actual consulting fee is, you know, we received $27,000 a month, which is split between me and Sid Blumenthal [a senior adviser]. So it makes the net around half that.

Wait, Sid makes as much as you?
You know, again, I don’t own these companies, so—

No, really, Sid Blumenthal makes as much as you?
His fee is about the same.

The liberal bloggers say you don’t have principles, you’re this mercenary, you’re a triangulating phony. Why do they hate you so much?
Well, first of all, they don’t know me. Probably a mistake in the campaign was not to get to know people like that early on.

But when they say you’re a mercenary—
I say, “Look, I’m a consultant. And consultants are obviously gonna be paid for their services.” But unlike the other consultants now, I don’t own the company anymore. I’m an employee. The other consultants are not employees.

Which company don’t you own anymore?
I don’t own any of Penn & Schoen. I don’t own the other companies I’m involved in. I don’t receive personally any money from the campaign. It goes to the companies that I don’t own. I’m an employee, and I’m really judged overall on how I manage about half a billion dollars of business. So personally, whether or not the firms did the Clinton campaign or didn’t do the Clinton campaign? It will not make a material difference, since I’m judged on how over $500 million of work happens. I’m not judged on the basis of any single account.

Why didn’t you step down as CEO of Burson-Marsteller?
Well, you know, when you talk about mistakes, I’d say that I didn’t anticipate the kind of cross fire that would come from a large number of clients that Burson has, and that it would put Burson in some cross fire, and me in some cross fire, and the campaign.

So if you were to do it again?
In retrospect, I definitely would not have done it the same way.

You would have taken a leave?
I would have taken a leave or taken a different position. I would definitely not have done it this way. Because in the end, it created something that opponents were able to exploit in ways that didn’t help anybody.

Did anything get to you? Did anything really piss you off? Like, in the et tu category? I mean, some of this stuff, I was pulling it together and it was painful to type it.
I think this stuff about my being, uh, personally harsh is really unfair. I don’t think that anybody… Number one, the stories have been either made up or, you know, grossly exaggerated or, uh, I think anybody who knows the personality involved understands that such stories could be told about everyone—

During a campaign.
During a campaign, which is a high-pressure—

And if you have to throw a few coffee cups…
[laughs] I haven’t thrown any coffee cups in this campaign, regardless of what’s been written. But you know… But the reason why somebody hired me, with a team as I had in ’96, is that I could squeeze out a kind of creativity from the team, driving towards something, you know, that looks impossible to do.

Who betrayed her the most?
I can’t answer that.

Well, which defection pissed you off the most?
You know, I just—I think the remarkable thing in this has been that there are a lot of people who owe their livelihood, their recognition, their jobs, their place in society, to the Clintons. And that many of those people didn’t support her, you know? A lot of them did. But I really—I can’t understand those people. Without the Clintons giving me the opportunity and recognizing it afterward, I’d just be another consultant.

What was the hardest night?
The night before New Hampshire. [laughs] That was the hardest night.

That was the night Sid got busted for DWI, right?
Well, you know.

You didn’t expect her to win in New Hampshire?
Nobody expected she’d win.

Your polling? Nothing told you?
You know, there was something going on with the polling—that there was so much wall-to-wall Barack Obama that every poll showed him favored in New Hampshire. But I also had a belief that, you know, these voters had been for her just a week before. I think she unlocked some of the keys to them, with the personal moment [he means the tears], and she had a good solid debate where she took him on—

The personal moment was fascinating. Because as a woman, and maybe not just as a woman, I was offended by anybody who thought that was fake.
Yeah, and women rallied to her side. I think it was, uh… I think to the extent that people said that they wanted—in order to get a personal connection, they would make her, you know, warmer or put her mother next to her? In reality, the personal connection really just came from connecting with her.

But there wasn’t anything calculated about that moment?
No. That was a moment on the campaign trail. Look, I think we were all feeling stress. I think at the moment that she had that incident, others in the campaign thought it was a disaster, that this could just end the campaign. They were completely beside themselves.

Over the tears?
Yeah, because she would appear to have broken down and lost her ability to lead.

Is it true that you, more than anyone, were pushing for her to still stay in last week?
No. I mean— [laughs] No. That’s something that people put out. I personally outlined a number of options. She really just wanted a little breathing room to think about it.

After Tuesday?
Yeah, after Tuesday.

That had to have been a rough night.
Look, it’s at the end of this several-year process that we’ve been through. And yet, you know, we still think that she’s the most electable candidate, that she’d be the strongest president. But it’s his turn now. To stand in the limelight, run for the party, and win.

What do you say to the critics who think she should have gotten out sooner?
No male candidate has ever been told to drop out. Ever.

Are you saying it was sexist that they wanted her out?
I just think that no woman has ever—I’m sorry, no candidate has ever been pressured like this, to drop out! Especially someone who’s within a couple…a percent. Who’s within, you know, a hundred-plus delegates. This is an incredible phenomenon. It’s an entirely new phenomenon.

Let’s talk about the whole vice president thing. Should she be talking about it? Do you think she wants it?
Look, I think that’s totally gonna be up to Barack Obama and what he wants. And I don’t think that she’s gonna have any other comment on it. I don’t think that it’s really appropriate for anybody to talk about. It’s Barack Obama’s choice. And he’s gonna make the choice that he thinks is best for his ticket, for the party, for the country.

When she said she was “open” to it, such a big deal made of her saying that. But really, what else could you say?
Part of being Hillary Clinton is that everybody makes a big deal out of everything that Hillary Clinton says—every nuance, every word. I think she was giving a commonsense answer to the question. But I don’t think it changes that it’s Barack Obama who’s gotta look at this, and he’ll make a decision.

But how do you feel about the idea?
I think that the two of them together would make an excellent ticket.

What was the most unfair rap about Hillary?
That she’s not authentic. She is authentic. She was out there in a very, very authentic way.

Umm, Bosnian snipers?
Bosnia hurt. I think that it was, again, just an example of the mistakes she made as a candidate. I think it eventually died. Remember, see, this is why, when you come back to moments—even New Hampshire—that made a difference for her, they’re not about weakness, they’re about inner strength. And so I think that, at the end of the campaign, she has broken through here on this question of inauthenticity, and they see her as a true champion for causes that she’s fought for. And it took them a long time to see that.

But how do you explain the snipers thing? And not just saying it once, but saying it a few more times?
I think she just made a mistake. Look, she clearly remembered something, right? She remembered that there had been a threat. And sometimes I’m astounded by the number of things that she has to remember right. She has to remember every policy, everything she’s ever done. I mean, look, it’s easy when you— When you don’t have a thirty-five-year record, you don’t have to remember much. When you’ve got a thirty-five-year record, you can be held accountable for every single second.

She didn’t put that to rest for a little while, like Obama didn’t put Wright to rest for quite a while.
Well, I think she pretty quickly just said it was wrong and a mistake. And I think that, uh, he gave a wide range of explanations for Wright. And I think it remains something that will come up again in the general-election campaign.

When you look at the highs and the lows, I assume the “3 a.m.” ad was a high point for you. How did it come about?
Um, had a long plane ride, and I’m sitting there looking at the polls coming back from Texas, and there’s a pretty good chance we’re gonna be out of the race in about two weeks, unless we come up with something different. So I spent the whole plane ride thinking to myself, We need to have a game changer. And so I wrote five game changers. Now, she had used a line that came from somewhere about “3 a.m.” in one of her speeches, and so I built one ad around that. I built another ad around a lot of the positions Barack Obama had in his 2004 primary.…

Of the five, how many ran?

What was the second-best one?
The second-best one, I think, was one about a picture of kind of independent Republican voters, and it said something along the lines of “Barack Obama says a lot of independent Republicans may vote for him, but what about when they find out his position on X or his position on Y and they disappear?” I think that was a tough—[laughs] That was a tough ad. But ultimately, the “3 a.m.” ad—I think the thinking behind it was to go back to the time when security was front and center and she was doing so well, when she was winning the election by thirty points. And so the intent of the ad was to bring us back to that moment in the campaign where security was important.

Now, how does that work? You write the ad, then call up Bill and Hillary and pitch it?
What I did was, I sent her the five game changers in an e-mail. And I said, “Look, I think we gotta do one of these, because the trends look like we’re gonna go down in Texas unless we do something out of the ordinary and out of the box.”

And she said?
She said, “I like this one. Give it a try.”

When you talk about the media and the treatment of her, you know, part of it—in the beginning of the campaign, back when it seemed like she was the inevitable nominee—she was really distant from the press. Don’t you think that had something to do with the fact that the press fell in love with Obama?
Well…no. [laughs] The press fell in love with him, period.

The press always falls in love with the new cool intellectual candidate. You know, he is their kind of candidate. Go back through history. They didn’t like Al Gore. They loved Gary Hart. They love those kinds of candidates, always have. But—but—but look, I think that he was the first African-American, you know, credible presidential candidate was a factor behind how much the press was enthusiastic about him. But she was also the first woman candidate. But the standard… You know, the microscope that they put her under, that they did not put her opponent and opponents under, was just incredible. I don’t think anybody has ever been put under this kind of microscope running for president. There were certain times early in the campaign where she would try to be…do what people tell her, and say, “Hey, I’ll be more relaxed, I’ll tell a little joke.” But every time she told the joke, it became a, you know, a federal case. Her words are parsed. Every single word is parsed. By the right, by the left, by the press. In a way that makes it kind of…difficult to just, quote, go out there and let it all hang out. And so she is naturally careful and precise in the things she goes on to say. But I think that during that same time, there were a lot of off-the-record sessions with the press, a lot of behind-the-scenes work she was doing. And over time she gave, you know, she did a lot more going back to the press, and she was great. See, if you go back to some of the myths of the campaign, I’m sure, if you check, that she has far more availabilities than Obama’s had. That she has been far more accessible to the press, overall. So the question is who had the impression of who’s accessible.

Where were you during the speeches on Tuesday? Were you with her?
[laughs] No, I was in a hotel room somewhere, but I was in constant contact.

Did it choke you up?
Well, you know, I knew it was coming.

But what were you thinking?
That she was the right candidate, the right person at the right time, and something completely unexpected happened.

Do you think Obama can win the states she won in November?
Sure, he can win. I don’t think there’s any question he can win. It’s a Democratic year, he’s coming out of these contests as a very strong nominee, there’s a tremendous amount of almost worldwide enthusiasm for him—so he definitely can win.

But he’s gotta show that he’s got the right experience to be president. He’s gotta forge a stronger connection with working-class voters. He’s gotta really introduce himself to those independent voters who are really gonna decide it for the first time.

Do you think his biggest mistake was the “bitter” comment?
Well, that’s his biggest mistake that we capitalized on. See, I think one of the bigger differences is that as the race got tight, you know, everybody agreed, “Okay, let’s go after him on this one.” Whereas in the past, he made a lot of remarks that I think could have gotten him into similar kinds of trouble—you know, all the way back to something like the price of arugula in Iowa. At Whole Foods! But when he said that in Iowa, we did not really seize comments and go after them, hold them up, the way we did with “bitter.” And the biggest difference in the later part of the campaign? In Texas, we had the “3 a.m.” ad that challenged him on experience. In Pennsylvania, we went after “bitter” and challenged his connection to working-class voters. And because we won those two dustups, I think it made a huge difference with the rest of the states going forward.

Did you underestimate the Internet? I want to read you something. It’s from Joe Trippi’s new book, that’s not out yet. Listen to this. He talks about being on a panel discussion with you in early 2007. Do you remember this?
I remember being on the panel with him.

And he writes: “We were asked what the impact of the Internet would be in 2008. Penn jumped to answer the question, saying that the Internet wouldn’t have any impact in 2008, because, I kid you not, ‘it was composed of too small a group of Americans who were doing nothing but talking to each other.’ ”
I never said that. This is exactly how campaign lore gets started. You know, at the end of the day, I have always been big on the role that the Internet would play. I was the one that insisted that we test out the advertising on the Internet. The Internet itself—and as I told everybody—the critical thing about the Internet during this period is, this was the first election at which time two-thirds of the population would have broadband and be able to access news and information on the Internet. You can read my own book on this very thing. This is a nonsensical quote that he is saying, compared to everything that I’ve ever written or said.

Is it possible that in some ways, that no matter what happened or what you did or didn’t do, this was a phenomenon, Obama was a phenomenon, and there was nothing that could have been done to stop him?
No, I don’t think that’s true. When a race is this close at the end, you could have done something.

That has to drive you crazy—looking back that way, on how it was so close, second-guessing how one small decision could have meant a big difference.
I think it wouldn’t have been one small decision but a couple of big decisions here and there.

Making sure we had the 25 million set aside that was supposed to be there. If it was there, I think, frankly, that would have made the biggest difference of all.

How much was the press to blame, in your opinion?
You know, I’m not gonna blame the press. The press should have been more evenhanded; I think it would have been serving the public better if they had been. I think they weren’t. But I think, despite all of these handicaps, the race was close enough that we could have won. And when you look at the number of handicaps that were thrown down against her, it’s astounding.

So let’s talk about sexism. Where did you see it?
Well [laughs], you know, I think what really did happen in New Hampshire was a moment that crystallized it for a lot of women. Because I do think they saw her honestly expressing how hard it had been to work in this campaign—and then following that, you know, the “Iron my shirt” people, following Edwards making a comment on it. Right?

Edwards’s comment was surprising, when he questioned what her tears said about her ability to lead.
Yeah. He shouldn’t have done it.

I remember thinking, Ewww. Like, I hope Elizabeth smacked him when he got home.
[laughs] And I think it crystallized for a lot of women, “I get it,” you know? There’s been a double standard on Hillary here.

It’s hard to put into words.
But it was clear. From the beginning, I thought she would get a tremendous amount of support from women. Women are 54 percent of the electorate. For all the talk about more young people coming out? More women came out. Millions more women came out than ever before. It was the largest increase. They’re really energized. But you know, at the time that Obama said, you know, “She’s playing the gender card,” the media played into that, you know? She wasn’t playing the gender card. If anything, there was a lot of other stuff going on here. Not from the Obama campaign, but just in society generally. And I think Chris Matthews owed her a major apology, and eventually delivered one. The media had been outrageous.

You mean Matthews’s comment about “The reason she may be a front-runner is her husband messed around”?
Right. And the kind of nutcracker dolls you could find at the airports. You know, the kind of stuff that would just never be allowed against anyone else was almost commonplace against Hillary. And I think, actually, after New Hampshire, women woke up to that. They supported her from that time on very solidly. And I think they saw her as both qualified for president and their champion, and I think that they became increasingly upset at the media over time. I think the media’s got a lot of damage to repair with the women in this country.

Looking at the big picture down the road, years from now, how do you think history will view this campaign?
Well, they’re always going to look at it and say, “Well, it was a surprise that she didn’t win.” And they’ll look at her and say, “She was the first woman that had a real opportunity.” Look, we never know what’s gonna happen later on. A lot of people have come back. It’s pretty unusual for somebody to win the nomination the first time out. History is really quite the opposite. The expected in politics is the unexpected.

I remember the moment that I said “Holy shit,” and that was the “Yes, We Can” song—you know, the Hollywood song, putting his speech to music, with the celebs. It had become a pop-culture thing. How do you fight that?
Well, again, this is why you will understand when you say did I underestimate him? No. The reason that I would have gone after him early was precisely because I didn’t underestimate the power of a Fresh New Candidate who also had appeal to the African-American vote and the latte voters. To put them together, into a very strong coalition supported by money and the press? Absolutely I saw all that. Absolutely. If you go through, you know, the memos I wrote early on, they’re completely about that. But: How do you stop something like that, right? You don’t stop something like that by being “warmer” [snorts]—by, you know, giving an interview on a personality show. You’re not gonna stop—

Or going to a candy store with your mother?
[laughs] You go to a candy store with your mother, you’re not gonna stop somebody like Barack Obama!

We talked about the biggest rap on Hillary. What do you think was the biggest rap on him?
Oh, the biggest rap on Obama is, does he have the experience to be president? I mean, that’s his biggest hurdle. He’s gotta overcome it. I think it remains. It really is the big question mark.

But you think that’s a fair rap. Was there an unfair rap on him?
I don’t know him well enough to say. And there just weren’t that many raps on him in this campaign. I mean, I think he’s got to come back and show that he’s got a connection to the working-class voter.

Do you think Obama’s an elitist?
I think that what you’ve seen is that he has not, so far, connected with the working class of America in a credible way. And he’s gonna have to overcome that.

What’s the one poll you should have done? That you didn’t do?
I just… I think we knew what was going on, each and every time. You know, it’s not the poll I should have done. It’s the audit that should have been done. [laughs]

Through all this, you were never quoted directly when a lot of people were taking shots at you. It sounds like you were maybe focusing on the campaign and not managing your own image.
That’s for sure. [laughs] You know, look, the critical imperative was to win. And so in many ways I’m somebody who pulls out all the stops. You know, the reason that clients hire me is because they know in the end I’m for them and I will try to find any way, anything, that it takes in order to get them to win. And I’ll drive an entire team of people right to the edge in order to get something that I think is gonna work. Or at least that’s what I’m used to doing.

So will you continue to work with the Clintons?
I hope so. I’ve come out of this thing with a very strong relationship with both of them.

What did you say to her, when it was clear that it was over?
You know, to have a conversation like that, I’ll wait a period of time. I’m not gonna have that conversation right now. There’s something about the way this race went on and the way she fought through it… Look, they wanted to get her out. Ever since Iowa! No, it’s something I’m gonna wait on a little bit and kinda go back emotionally on, you know? [laughs] I mean, this interview says about the maximum that I can say.

lisa depaulo is a GQ correspondent.

Photo: Bob Daemmrich/Polaris

Ginger Vodka Mojito

Tuesday  June 03, 2008

The perfect drink will make your summer bash—but you won't get anywhere without knowing how to muddle


On a warm summer Friday in Manhattan, it would be easier to build a bar than to find a seat at an outdoor one come 5 P.M. So instead of retreating to a dark, dank, cave-like hole where there are plenty of seats (for a reason) to drink a pint, I plan on heading home this summer to muddle. No, I'm not going to my apartment to mess up my sock drawer. I'm talking about crushing fresh berries, fruits, herbs, and all that is citrusy and sweet with a miniature baseball bat and then mixing it with liquor and ice. No blender. No syrupy daiquiri mixes. Really, it's impossible to go wrong here.

Muddling is the reason the most well-known muddled drink, the mojito, doesn't taste like lemon-lime Gatorade with some hooch thrown in. Pressing and twisting the ingredients with a muddler extracts the fresh juices and plant oils from the limes and the mint. Trust me, you'll know when the mint is sufficiently bruised—your entire kitchen will radiate the scent of really fresh mint. Same goes for lemons, oranges, ginger, even cucumbers. Mojitos are made with rum, but other cocktails also benefit from a good muddling. A margarita or a Tom Collins can be improved tenfold by simply muddling the limes and lemons instead of using a store-bought sour mix. Sangria is another way to go. Or be creative. Fidel Vasquez, the head bartender at New York City's Barrio Chino, substitutes vodka for rum in a ginger mojito for those customers who might have had a bad run-in with the Captain and an ice luge freshman year.

There are many ways to muddle. Most bartenders prefer wooden muddlers over the shiny metal versions, but each has his own style. I'm more of a twisting-with-the-wrist kind of girl, myself. I find that guys like to get more aggressive and go with the beat-the-hell-out-of-it method. That's the beauty of muddling. You don't have to be a mixologist-in-training to do it. But the icy-cold result will make your guests think you might be—or at the very least, that you spent a couple of college summers as a barback.

Vodka Ginger Mojito

Makes one drink

3 quarter-sized slices ginger
1/2 large lime, cut into four wedges
1 bushel mint (about six or seven leaves)
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 1/2 ounces good vodka
1 ounce fresh-squeezed lime juice
1 ounce simple syrup (don't be afraid of the term "simple syrup"; it's just a mixture of equal parts sugar and water boiled together)
Club soda


In a sturdy, thick-bottomed glass, muddle the ginger to loosen it and release the flavor. Then add the lime wedges, mint, and brown sugar, and muddle together. You'll know you've muddled enough when you start to smell the mint and ginger and the sugar dissolves. Pour the vodka, lime juice, and simple syrup into the mixture. Add ice, cap the glass with a cocktail shaker, and give it a good shake for about 10 seconds. Pour everything into the same glass you muddled in and top it off with a splash of club soda. Sip in your backyard, on your deck, or in your air-conditioned living room, and seriously contemplate holing up at home for the rest of the summer.—candice rainey

The Marinade

Monday  June 02, 2008

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Don't think you have to marinate food for days in advance before grilling. Even 20 minutes makes a huge difference if the marinade is prepared right—and next to boiling water, making it right is the easiest and most instinctual thing you can do in your kitchen. To illustrate, a mini-primer: Use fresh herbs, but less than a handful. Garlic or shallots, chopped fine, always add flavor and depth. Good olive oil helps. Don't go overboard on acids like vinegars; use only one-third as much as your oil (if it's balsamic, one-fourth). Administer citrus juices and salt conservatively. The first starts cooking meat on contact; the second draws out moisture. Don't be afraid to experiment. If you're looking to sweeten your mix, a dollop of honey goes a long way. Last, don't drown your meat in the marinade. A thin surface coating is all it needs.

Boneless Chicken Breasts

Enough for 8 fillets

8 tablespoons olive oil
A few sage leaves, torn
2 teaspoons fresh thyme, chopped fine
2 teaspoons fresh rosemary, chopped fine
4 cloves garlic, sliced thin
1 jalapeño pepper, seeded and minced

Skirt and Flank Steak
1/2 cup olive oil
1/3 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup lime juice
2 shallots, minced
1 teaspoon fresh ginger, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon Sriracha Hot Chili Sauce

The Slaw

Monday  June 02, 2008
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Every barbecue should include a bowl of homemade coleslaw—partially because it tastes so good (you'll get loads of compliments, trust us) and partially because it couldn't be easier to make.

1. If you own a mandoline, shred half a head of white cabbage and a few large carrots. Or go to your local grocery store and buy a bag of Dole's preshredded cabbage-and-carrot mixture. No, it's not cheating; it's just common sense.

2. To make the dressing, grab a mixing bowl and add a cup of Hellmann's (or Best Foods) mayonnaise, 2 tablespoons of some sort of white vinegar (try rice-wine vinegar), a dollop of Dijon mustard, a teaspoon of sugar, and salt and pepper to taste. And then, most of all, add a tablespoon of celery seed (not salt but seed). It'll set your slaw apart from everyone else's.

3. Add cabbage mixture to dressing, toss till evenly coated, and refrigerate for an hour or more until ready to eat.

4. Serve with—or on top of—everything that comes off your grill.

Dry Rub Recipe

Monday  June 02, 2008


1/2 cup black pepper
1/3 cup kosher salt
1/4 cup dark brown sugar
1 tablespoon Spanish paprika
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon cayenne