Guests: Chip Carter, Eleanor Mondale, John Dukakis, Rebecca Lieberman, Steven Ford, Doug Wead
ANNOUNCER: DEBORAH NORVILLE TONIGHT.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
VANESSA KERRY, SENATOR JOHN KERRY‘S DAUGHTER: We are going to win.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
DEBORAH NORVILLE, HOST: On the campaign trail with dad. Whether they‘re pre-schoolers or college grads, the children of presidents and presidential candidates are always in the spotlight. The press...
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHRIS HEINZ, JOHN KERRY‘S STEPSON TODAY: Hi. I‘m Chris Heinz.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
NORVILLE: ... the attacks...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It shouldn‘t be me.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
NORVILLE: ... the Secret Service following you everywhere.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There are aspects of it that aren‘t so cool.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You may get more dates, but they‘re scared half out of their pants when they come to pick you up.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
NORVILLE: Tonight we‘ll talk exclusively with Steven Ford, Chip Carter, Eleanor Mondale, John Dukakis and Rebecca Lieberman on life in the political fishbowl, how to deal when dad‘s running for the White House, and what happens when he wins.
ANNOUNCER: From studio 3K in Rockefeller Center, Deborah Norville.
NORVILLE: And good evening. For three-and-a-half years, President and Mrs. Bush have tried to shield their twin daughters from the media spotlight. But now the girls have graduated from college, and with the reelection campaign heating up, they‘re starting to work at Bush-Cheney headquarters, and they are out with their father on the campaign trail. Yesterday Barbara Bush, seen here with her dad on the left, traveled with the president to some campaign stops in Michigan and Minnesota. Last week, Jenna, on the right, was with her father on a campaign bus trip in Pennsylvania.
It is also a family affair for the Democratic candidates. John Kerry‘s daughters Vanessa and Alexandra are stumping for their father across the country, making appearances and speeches. And while John Edwards‘s kids might be a little young for speeches, they‘re also out there with their father as he criss-crosses the nation.
My guests tonight know all too well what it‘s like as your father runs for the White House, and some of them have firsthand experience of what life is like inside the White House. Steven Ford is the son of former president Gerald Ford. And we should note that today is the president‘s birthday. He turns 91. We wish him a happy birthday. Steven, it‘s good to have you with us.
Also joining us tonight, Chip Carter. He‘s the son of former president Jimmy Carter. Eleanor Mondale joins us. She‘s the daughter of former vice president Walter Mondale, who also ran for president. John Dukakis, son of former presidential candidate Michael Dukakis, and Rebecca Lieberman, the daughter of former vice presidential candidate Joe Lieberman.
This is a very rare opportunity to have so much political experience together, so let‘s start things off first. Chip, I‘m going to start with you. What is the toughest part about watching your father go through the campaign process and being out there shoulder to shoulder with him on the trail?
CHIP CARTER, PRESIDENT JIMMY CARTER‘S SON: I think it‘s just learning what‘s expected of you. It‘s very, very difficult to go out and make speeches—I failed it three times in college—and to represent your father. You have to study a lot to know the issues. You have to just enjoy being with people. And you have to just expect and accept whatever comes along during the day and realize you can do anything for 10 minutes.
NORVILLE: Do people expect you to be a carbon copy of your dad?
CARTER: Yes, they do expect that, but I don‘t think any of these present campaigning kids could do it unless they tried to be themselves and not their parents. So they do expect it when they see you, but soon you can make them realize you‘re a human being also.
NORVILLE: Steven Ford, you had the unusual experience—unlike all the rest of the people on our panel tonight, your dad went into the White House without ever having gone through a general election campaign. When he then was running for reelection, how difficult was that for you and your siblings?
STEVEN FORD, PRESIDENT GERALD FORD‘S SON: Well, I actually think it was an advantage because we were catapulted into the White House overnight. You know, Dad was first man to become president of the United States without going through a general election, appointed vice president, became president when Nixon resigned. So I think for us, it was an advantage because you just got us the way we were. There was no time to kind of put on any false airs or worry about things. You know, we barely had time to comb our hair before we got to the White House.
As far as the campaigning part went, each one of us sort of went in our own direction. I was living out West, working on ranches and cowboying and rodeoing, and I loved the West, so I campaigned in the West. I went to small towns all over the country—Montana, Utah, California, Oregon, Washington, little towns, 5,000, 10,000 people, and campaigned there with the people that I was really familiar with.
NORVILLE: And what kind of issues were you expected to deal with?
Did they give you talking points when you were out there?
FORD: Well, they did, but you know, nobody—I was 20 years old at that time, and you know, I wasn‘t going to go talk about the M-1 tank or the defense budget. I was talking about maybe water issues, and that was important for farmers and ranchers in the West, things I was familiar with already because I‘d worked on ranches, I‘d been around those people, and that part of the country was in my heart already.
NORVILLE: If Steve Ford had the experience of having come from the White House, Eleanor Mondale, you were thrown out there. You were a 24-year-old kid out there on the stump with your dad. What was that like for you?
ELEANOR MONDALE, V.P. WALTER MONDALE‘S DAUGHTER: Well, we‘d had a couple—we had the ‘76 campaign when I was a child, and then the ‘80 campaign we lost. And so in ‘84, I‘d had some experience, but not much. But I decided to go be a surrogate, like what these guys are talking about.
When they want the candidate and they get us, they‘re—they tolerate it.
But I think that I got—I did a lot of campaigning in schools and things. My first experience, I tried to answer the hard questions, and I didn‘t have the right answer. I‘d kind of painted myself in a corner. And I think I was in a really, you know, very strong Republican town, and I was at a press conference and I just—I couldn‘t—you know, I couldn‘t answer the questions. So I finally learned the important lesson of “I don‘t know.” But I would talk about things that were important to me at the time, like, you know, equal rights for women and money for education and nuclear disarmament, that meant a lot to me. And it was an amazing experience. But like those guys said, I mean, you go to sometimes six cities a day, so you‘d better like people.
NORVILLE: And John Dukakis, when you were out on the campaign trail, as Eleanor said, oftentimes, you were there as a surrogate for your dad, the candidate. Did you ever have a sense that they were, like, Oh, we didn‘t get Governor Dukakis, we got his kid?
JOHN DUKAKIS, MICHAEL DUKAKIS‘S SON: Yes, you sense a little bit of a disappointment in people‘s faces. You know, we—I think all of us spent quite a bit of time in the hinterlands of America, and then we‘d go to big cities, as well. And they may not have been expecting, certainly, the candidate or his spouse, and in many cases, they were very happy to have us.
NORVILLE: And what was your role, to just make sure that you could get on TV and get on the local media, because it costs the campaign nothing, and get the message out there that way?
DUKAKIS: Yes. Well, that was certainly the major goal. There are times when we were out there when it was just really going door to door, particularly in the early going, before the primaries started, where Dukakis was just kind of a difficult name to pronounce. It took a while, and it took a lot to kind of get that name out there.
NORVILLE: And Dukakis may not be such a difficult name to pronounce, and neither is Lieberman, but Rebecca Lieberman, you‘ve probably got the most recent experience of anybody with us tonight, your dad having made a second attempt this time around and on the vice presidential ticket four years ago. What‘s the difference between then and now?
REBECCA LIEBERMAN, SENATOR JOE LIEBERMAN‘S DAUGHTER: Well, in 2000, it was a much more highly developed campaign machine that we walked into. This time around, it was, you know, down there in the dirt, going door to door in New Hampshire, traveling to the hinterlands, as other people have said, not big crowds, much smaller crowds, much more of the grass-roots volunteer recruitment. And it was every bit as satisfying.
NORVILLE: And what did your dad tell you he wanted you to do when you went to the hinterlands and knocked door to door?
LIEBERMAN: You know, it was really about carrying his message, about talking to people about what his plans were for America and finding out from them what their concerns were. And it‘s an amazing way to get to know the country.
NORVILLE: And Steven Ford, how would you report back to your dad? You‘re way out West. Your dad would be in bigger cities doing the campaign stops. How would you get the message back to your dad that, You know, the farmers are really talking about this? Did they really listen to you?
FORD: Well, I would usually talk to Dad at least every other night, and whether it was water issues or land management, BLM land, or what that part of the country was interested in—and just, one, I‘d call home and talk to Dad, just find out how he was doing, but he‘d always ask me, you know, What kind of response are you getting in Montana or Utah or Arizona or New Mexico. And I really personalized my campaign by driving a motor home and covered about 13,000 miles in a motor home and about 10 states and took about three months, and it was a great experience.
NORVILLE: I‘m sure it was an interesting experience and probably
there were times when it was great, but I‘m wondering if there were times -
· and I‘d like each of you to answer—when you felt like, Why does dad love the country more than he loves us? Because there‘s such a separation between the family. Eleanor, you want to take that one first?
MONDALE: Oh, I never—I didn‘t—I never thought that. I mean, I guess it was—Dad had been in public office since I was a baby, so maybe the—his schedule and the relationship he had with the public was—I was so used to it. It wasn‘t like a big jolt.
NORVILLE: Chip Carter, what about you? Your dad had been governor of Georgia, and then wowed everybody by emerging on the national scene, and you had to share with the whole country.
CARTER: Yes, it was great, actually. I lived in New Hampshire for nine months, and then in 1980, I made 13 speeches a day, 24 days a month for 20 consecutive months. And I think the whole process brought our family much closer together.
NORVILLE: Really? How so?
CARTER: Once you get into the White House, you‘re like in a bubble, as you know, but you‘re also—there‘s an inside of that bubble, and you don‘t really know when you get there, all your best new friends, if there‘s a reason for being your friend that you don‘t know about. So you end up talking to your parents and your brothers and sisters a lot and really getting a lot closer because you can say anything to them and you won‘t read it in the press the next day. So I think it brought us really much closer together, and Dad really tried to do that.
NORVILLE: John Dukakis, did you find that, as well?
DUKAKIS: Yes. I mean, all of us kind of grew up through this. I
grew up with 10 years of my dad as governor and the rough-and-tumble of
Massachusetts politics, and so we were a little used to the idea that Dad
was not always around, although mine was home for dinner every night. But
sometimes he wasn‘t really there while we were eating. But you know, it‘s
· I never really resented that. It was—there may not have been as much supervision from time to time, but certainly during the campaign, I agree with Chip, we got much closer as a family because you‘re really the only ones kind of experiencing this extraordinary experience.
NORVILLE: Which is why I‘m sure everybody‘s head is nodding up and down as each of you were talking. You all can uniquely relate, whereas the rest of us can‘t. Rebecca, in your situation, what was the best moment on the trail for you? What was the worst?
LIEBERMAN: There were so many amazing moments. I would say one of the down sides of this experience, particularly in 2000, was the sense that you—as much as it brought the family together, there was this whole mechanism that swooped in, the Secret Service and the schedulers. And you develop this awareness that if you‘re not with your dad when he‘s leaving a location, you‘ll be left behind. And that would never happen in normal life, but you know, he‘s in the car and they‘re off.
NORVILLE: Yes, you‘re sort of the Macaulay Culkin of politics, like “Home Alone.”
LIEBERMAN: You know, you‘re sort of an accessory. You have to think of yourself as like a belt or something. You know, you make the picture look better, which is why it‘s so fun to go out and campaign on your own. I would say some of the toughest times were when you were in sort of very remote areas, going to events, and there really isn‘t anyone there. And you‘re, OK, this is me and three people talking about my dad.
NORVILLE: But you‘re going to convince those three people...
LIEBERMAN: You‘re going to convince them and...
NORVILLE: ... to vote for the guy whose last name you share.
We‘re going to take a short break. When we come back, more with my guests, including a look at what it‘s like to be the candidate‘s child on a campaign trail and (UNINTELLIGIBLE) right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE WALKER BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: She‘s already given me good advice. She said, Dad, change your shirt.
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LAURA BUSH, WIFE OF PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: Jenna actually said to her dad that she didn‘t want to look back on this last campaign of his and think—you know, be regretful that she wasn‘t a part of it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
NORVILLE: First lady Laura Bush talking about her daughters traveling with their father, the president, on the campaign trail. Back now with Steven Ford, Chip Carter, Eleanor Mondale, John Dukakis and Rebecca Lieberman, all of whom know what it‘s like to be on the campaign trail when Dad‘s running for president.
I‘m curious, is there any possibility that you would have sat out the campaign, Chip Carter? Can you totally understand why the Bush girls are out there?
CARTER: Absolutely. It would be very difficult to be there, when their father‘s in a tough situation politically and they‘re out of college now, and they have something to say and they‘ve grown up, not to come out. And another thing I think is that what the press knows about them is that they drink, and that‘s ridiculous when it comes to what they are as real human beings. So they got a little bad press. This one here, hopefully, will change that (UNINTELLIGIBLE) because I‘m sure they‘re wonderful people.
NORVILLE: You know, in that magazine that‘s just come out, “Vogue” magazine, that hit the newsstands today, the president‘s quoted as saying, “The thing I‘m most excited about is that I get to spend the last campaign of my life with two girls that I love.” He makes it sound like they‘re going to be hand in hand, dancing down the sidewalks, soliciting votes. I mean, isn‘t the reality, Steven Ford, that the president is going to be here and the girls are going to be out there?
FORD: If that‘s the strategy they take. I went off on my own and was separate from Dad and didn‘t go campaigning in those big cities. I went to the small towns. But they‘ll get an education very quickly, and if you can get through the first two weeks, you‘ll hear every question you‘re probably ever going to be asked and so...
NORVILLE: What‘s the hardest question you were asked, Steve?
FORD: Oh, gosh. You know, they would come up with—somebody on a college campus that was trying to be cute or smart would come up with some small, little fact about the defense budget, and you‘re expected to know that. And there‘s just no way. And I agree earlier, at some point, sometimes you have to say, you know, I don‘t know. That‘s—I‘m not an expert on that. I‘m here represent maybe my father‘s values, his character, who he is, what he thinks about this country he grew up in, the possibilities and things like that.
NORVILLE: John Dukakis, when your dad‘s running for president and you‘re out there working the stump for him, how much of your presence is for them to see he raised this kind of kid, so he must be this kind of man? Is there that role that you play out there?
DUKAKIS: No, I absolutely think that‘s—particularly later in the cycle, that‘s more important. I think the early going, if you‘re so inclined, you‘re out there before anybody knows who the candidate is and really working it day to day so that people see you over and over again. I think later, after the convention, it‘s very much about kind of humanizing the candidate and having people get a better idea of who he is as a more rounded person. I think in the case of the Bush girls, it‘s an opportunity for him to talk about something other than some of the things that he‘s being pressed to talk about.
NORVILLE: You know, there‘s the big question just how much value does a child bring to the campaign trail. And on MSNBC today, we‘ve been asking folks to log in and give their answer to the question, “Do the children of presidential and vice presidential candidates have any impact on your vote?” And 86 percent...
NORVILLE: ... I hate to tell you—think it‘s fabulous that you‘re out there, but you‘re really not going to affect their vote. OK, everybody is laughing right now. Eleanor, I hear you laughing very loudly. Your response, ma‘am.
MONDALE: It‘s so nice to know that all that work for nothing.
MONDALE: No, I mean, it‘s funny. It probably shouldn‘t affect the vote, but you know, when you see your dad and you love him and you believe in him and you want to get out there and help, it‘s an amazing opportunity to be able to help. I mean, just because the results aren‘t exactly as you‘d like them to be...
NORVILLE: Rebecca, you were chuckling as loud as anybody there.
LIEBERMAN: Well, I mean, I often said on the campaign, either people are really sadistic, the campaign staff really hates us and is trying to torture us by sending us to these places, or we‘re having an impact. I mean, I think people maybe don‘t recognize the effect the kids have, which is to say, when we are in a place and the newspapers and TV media covers it, our fathers‘ names are in those people‘s heads that evening. And that wouldn‘t have happened if we weren‘t there. So whether or not, you know, we, as children, impact them may not be the question. The question is, Did they think of our parent, the candidate, that day, and to what end?
NORVILLE: And beyond that, beyond just the name recognition and get Dad‘s name on the evening news and in the local paper, what do you think you brought to the strength of his candidacy?
LIEBERMAN: Well, contrary to whatever people said in the poll today, I did a lot of work outreaching to young students, recruiting volunteers in high schools this time around, and talking to college students last time around about issues that matter to them. And so I think, I hope, that I had the ability to energize volunteers and just show young people that the candidates cared about what they had to say.
NORVILLE: Chip, you were 26, if I‘m doing my math right, when your dad was elected to the White House.
NORVILLE: And as I recall, Jimmy Carter had been out for almost two-and-a-half years prior to that, virtually an unknown on the national scene. What, in that regard, was your role and your brother‘s roles out there?
CARTER: We started off defining who “Jimmy Who” was and talking about him, I think similar to the rest of these kids of candidates who were out there campaigning. But you do go out and you do make a difference. I‘m surprised that we made 14 percent worth of a difference.
CARTER: That‘s millions and millions and millions of people. I‘m excited about that, actually. But when you‘re traveling and you go into a town and you get a lot of press and they use to you raise a crowd that comes in and, you know, campaigns for a congressman or something like that, campaigning for a congressman can get you help in the presidency later, if you need that kind of thing. So I campaigned in the off year in about 200 congressional races, and it was used to raised a crowd. And I think we were somewhat effective in—at least with the people that we met, maybe not the media, but the people became hyped about the process.
NORVILLE: There had to be some...
CARTER: And you can get them hyped and get them working.
NORVILLE: There had to be some wacky experiences that went out there.
I mean, forget about...
NORVILLE: ... you know, convincing people, but just what‘s some of the—what‘s the weirdest thing that happened to you, Chip, when you were out there working for your dad?
CARTER: Well, several times, I was attacked in places by people that the Secret Service had to handle. I guess the worst time I had was when I was trying to make a speech at a university in Texas, and 250 Iranian students came and tried to get me, and...
CARTER: ... Secret Service actually—it‘s the first time I‘ve ever seen take off their ties and their—and really get into it with people. But that was really scary.
CARTER: The other things, it‘s mostly funny. You know, I mean, things you—they get you up and tell you you‘ve got to clean up after a pig or you got to milk a cow or you got to do something for TV, cook a fish. Now, have I ever cooked a fish at home? Once or twice, but never on TV until you get to do this stuff. So you get a lot of experiences you never would have had, and you meet an awful lot of people you never would have.
NORVILLE: And these were the handlers telling you to do these things? These were the handlers saying, Mr. Carter, we need to you milk a cow today, it‘s going to help get your dad elected?
CARTER: Absolutely. And you don‘t have any idea that you‘re going to do it until you show up at the event.
CARTER: Showing up in West Virginia and going down in deep mine with a suit on is something that probably all these folks have experienced—I mean, something similar to that, where you just have no idea what it is, and it ruins the rest of your day sometimes.
NORVILLE: Eleanor, I know you had one experience on a campaign flight that ruined the rest of your day, too. You want to tell us about it?
MONDALE: Oh, I survived. It was—you know, when—I‘m sure all these guys can agree with me, when your dad‘s running for office, you try very hard not to say things that would make people not like you because you want them to like you so they vote for the dad. But clearly, it doesn‘t matter, according to your poll.
But anyway, so I was flying from—I always got sent to the places where any man would probably be physically harmed, like, really, really right-wing Republican places. So I was flying from Midland, you know, Bush‘s hometown, to El Paso. And it was the old days when the commuter planes had seats facing each other. So this guy spent the entire flight telling me, you know, that my dad was a communist and that he wanted women fighting in the front lines, basically insulting me the whole time. And I kept saying, I‘m sorry you feel that way, I‘m sorry you feel that way.
And as we get ready to land, he turns to me and barfs all over my skirt! And meanwhile, I‘ve got this town of El Paso waiting, the mayor, the mariachi bands are waiting. And he‘s, like, Oh, I‘m sorry. And he knows who he is. He‘s watching, I‘m sure.
MONDALE: And I‘ve got gross mean-guy vomit in my lap. So I washed it off in the airplane bathroom. And you know, it‘s, like, I‘m sure all these guys could agree. You have no choice. You have to go. You have to—you have to—you know, you could be...
NORVILLE: Put that smile on and keep on marching!MONDALE: Yes. Oh, yes!
NORVILLE: We‘re going to take a short break. We‘ve just had a little bit of a glimpse of what it‘s like out on the campaign trail when your dad‘s running for president, but how does it affect your own life? We‘ll get into that with our group after this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HEINZ: We raised $7.5 million for the campaign, which is a record for that kind of event. And I think it was great energy, and it worked out really well that Senator Edwards was there to join the ticket and actually have this big, fun role (ph) out here in New York.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MONDALE: Is it great or what? Yes! We‘ll send Reagan back to L.A. And we are going to win. And you know what? You‘re helping us! You guys are great.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
NORVILLE: So that was Eleanor Mondale campaigning for her father, Walter Mondale, when he ran for president back in 1984. As we‘ve noted—oh, She‘s dying! I‘m so sorry! You cringe...
MONDALE: That‘s mean!
NORVILLE: ... when you see that? You look beautiful!
MONDALE: Oh, yes.
NORVILLE: You do.
MONDALE: Thanks for that. I appreciate it.
NORVILLE: Well, you‘re very welcome. We‘ve got more in the treasure trove. Just stick with us.
MONDALE: Oh, I bet.
NORVILLE: You know, one of the things that‘s interesting is three of you, your dads made it. You were in the White House. Eleanor, your dad was in the vice presidential mansion. Two of you didn‘t get that far. So let‘s talk with the people who got there.
Eleanor, we life that different for you and your brother when your dad was vice president, you were living there at the Naval Observatory?
MONDALE: Well, we moved about six blocks away. And so that physically wasn‘t that different. And then we had servants. That was very different.
MONDALE: I think I gained 30 pounds that year because you could make out your menu.
It changed the people around you, though, because your true friends were freaked out by all this going on. And the people that you never talked and didn‘t even necessarily like in high school were all of a sudden hey, Eleanor, how are you, really buddy, buddy. And even my teachers were kind of weird. So it makes you appreciate who your true friends are.
And it‘s like Chip said earlier. And all these guys I think agree. Your family is just the core, and it‘s the safest place to be in, and so we were close before, but we really got a lot closer.
NORVILLE: And did you feel like there was always a spotlight, always a magnifying glass on you after that, Eleanor?
MONDALE: Yes. And it wasn‘t for years—until years after that I got away from it that I realized how stressful that was. I mean, I chose a career in TV, but it‘s different, different doing what you do, which I never achieved that greatness, but—and then being the kid of a candidate, or a vice president or a president or whatever.
NORVILLE: I want to come back to you on the whole career stuff, being the child of a very well known political figure.
Steven, you said—you pointed out that your dad kind of went right into the White House, had never won an election. I‘m sure it was a head-spinning experience for your sister and you. But how was your life different? I mean, there had to be some perks beyond the menu in the morning and checking off what you want for your breakfast.
FORD: Well, a couple things. One, dad was vice president for about 10 months and then all of a sudden, when he became president when Nixon resigned, all of a sudden, we got 10 Secret Service agents following us around.
And trust me, when you‘re 18 years old, that‘s not really the group you hope to hang out with. So life changed a little bit that way. I headed out West, started working on ranches and stuff. But I‘ll never forget the first night we moved into the White House. And, actually, it was six days before we were able to move into the White House. Dad was president. We went back to our house in Alexandria, Virginia, because the Nixons weren‘t able to pack up their clothes and everything right away.
FORD: And so it was six days before we got to the White House.
And the first night in the White House, I invited my best friend over, Kevin Kennedy (ph), a kid I grew up with. Here we are on the roof of the White House, 18-year-old kids, wondering how did we get here? I think we had like Led Zeppelin playing in the background or something and looking at each other, going, there has been a serious problem with security if we‘re here right now.
FORD: It was just such a strange—it was like dumb and dumber being up there. But I remember sitting there one day.
NORVILLE: Yes. Go ahead.
FORD: I remember sitting there one day. I was eating a peanut butter and jelly sandwich in the living quarters, the family living quarters, sat down with a glass of milk, peanut butter and jelly sandwich, sat down at our house. At home, you might pick up a “Sports Illustrated,” “TIME” magazine, whatever.
I looked down and here was a “Sports Illustrated” on the White House table, plus a document that says for the president‘s eyes only, top secret. And I looked around the room and I said, wait a minute. I‘m the only one here. I‘m going, “Sports Illustrated,” president‘s eyes only, “Sports Illustrated.”
Those things don‘t happen to you when you live in suburbia.
NORVILLE: So which one did you pick up?
FORD: Oh, “Sports Illustrated.”
MONDALE: Oh, yes, right.
NORVILLE: Yes, right.
OK. The skepticism level is high, 86 percent skepticism here on that one.
And, Chip, when you and your siblings saw your dad sworn in as president, what was the biggest change for you guys?
CARTER: We got Secret Service agents that day, so that was a huge change. Moving into the White House was a huge change. The first night we were there, we watched, I think it was a pre-release of “All the President‘s Men.” And it really didn‘t hit you until they used your new phone number in that movie and all of a sudden you‘re sitting there going, wow, we‘re really here. So that‘s kind of when we got to know it.
But I enjoyed the White House. I got a divorce my first year there.
Having Secret Service and your father in the White House did not hurt when
you were trying to get dates. And
NORVILLE: I would think that would cramp your style. Being a president‘s son might be OK, but having two guys in black suits along on the date would be problematic, I would think.
CARTER: I always said, if you don‘t like me, here‘s John and George or Bill or Joey. You‘ll like one of them.
FORD: Deborah, it was interesting.
NORVILLE: Go ahead.
FORD: I said, it was interesting. When I took a date out—and, again, I at that time only had two Secret Service guys following me at a time.
When you would call to get a reservation for you and your date, the girl and you, you‘d also have to make another reservation for the two Secret Service guys. And so it‘s just a little awkward things like that that kind of crept into your life.
NORVILLE: I hope they picked up their own tab when you were out.
FORD: Yes, that‘s—taxpayers paid for that.
NORVILLE: All right. We‘re going to take a short break.
When we come back, the other side of the coin. More with our panel of presidential hopefuls‘ kids. When your dad is president, even the first day of school becomes news. Remember when Amy Carter went to school? One of our guests does.
Back in a moment.
NORVILLE: Five sons and daughters of past presidential candidates pass their advice on to kids whose dads are running today. What should they look out for?
Stay with us.
NORVILLE: After years of living away from the glare of the media spotlight, President Bush‘s 22-year-old twin daughters, Barbara and Jenna, are featured in a new “Vogue” magazine spread that hit newsstands today. It comes as the girls are starting to get involved in their father‘s reelection campaign.
Back now with sons and daughters of past presidential and vice presidential candidates, Steven Ford, Chip Carter, Eleanor Mondale, John Dukakis and Rebecca Lieberman.
John and Rebecca, we were talking about what happens wins. How do you deal with it, John, when dad doesn‘t?
DUKAKIS: Well, we‘ve actually all been through that experience. And I have a feeling that winning is a better experience than losing.
DUKAKIS: It‘s tough. My dad had lost before and that had been a particularly awful experience, and it‘s something that stays with you for a while.
He went back to being governor of Massachusetts. And the two years after the campaign were really bad. The people of the commonwealth I think were very—were justifiably upset that he had kind of let them down and not run a better campaign. And he lived through that. And as time has gone on, it‘s better, and...
NORVILLE: Do you ever really get over it?
DUKAKIS: I think it‘s always in the back of your mind. It doesn‘t rule my life in any possible way, but it‘s something you think about. And particularly every campaign cycle, we get to relive some of those wonderful moments.
NORVILLE: Yes. And how about your dad and mom? It‘s so difficult when you are the candidate and you are the candidate‘s help mate to see it all go down in flames the way it did so publicly. I mean, how did they deal with it?
DUKAKIS: And, as we all know, my mother had some problems after that campaign.
DUKAKIS: And, in some ways, losing, it probably saved her life.
But, you know, that‘s very—again, as has been said before, the family really comes together at that point. And you really have to work on making it better and—gradually. My mother is doing very well right now, and so is my dad.
NORVILLE: Oh, I‘m glad to hear that.
Rebecca, your dad was obviously part of the ticket in 2000 with Al Gore and then was back out there. Sadly, it didn‘t go the way he wanted it to. How do you and the rest of the family buck up dad when clearly he‘s disappointed?
LIEBERMAN: Well, I have to say, he‘s an incredibly optimistic person.
And he and all of us are so proud of the race that he ran. And I bet that all of the kids here would express that kind of pride in their parents as well. I mean, we had the sort of surreal experience of winning one election, but actually not getting to take office and then this time undeniably not winning.
I think you just sort of look back at the experience and feel the pride that you feel. And I will admit that the choice of Edwards in this whole process was an emotional time for me to sort of remember that, four years ago, that was my family and we were about to embark on an incredible adventure. And I just wish all of them well in that experience.
Also joining our discussion now is Doug Wead. He‘s author of a book called “All the President‘s Children.” He‘s also a friend and adviser to President Bush, President George W. Bush.
And, Doug, thank you for joining our discussion.
You wrote this book I gather based on a conversation that you had with then son of President Bush.
DOUG WEAD, AUTHOR, “ALL THE PRESIDENT‘S CHILDREN”: That‘s right. His father had just won the election. And I was sitting in the office with him and he was talking about who‘s going to go to inaugural and who‘s going to go to the White House.
And he sighed in the middle that have conversation and said, what‘s going to happen to me? And I said, well, you want me to do a memo on what happens to presidential kids? He said, yes. So I did the memo. And then 15 years later, here is the book.
NORVILLE: Well, the memo must have been pretty upsetting because when I look at the very beginning of your book, it says research shows being related to a president brought more problems than opportunities, seemed to be higher than average rates of divorce and alcoholism, and even premature death. I mean, I would have stopped right there.
WEAD: Well, the truth is, the subtitle of the book is “Triumph and Tragedy in the Lives of First Families.” And the fact is, this is a small universe. We‘re talking about 175 people.
And out of that 175, eight have been congressmen; 14 have been ambassadors and Cabinet members. One was the richest man in America in his generation. Two were elected president of the United States. They‘ve led armies. They‘ve headed universities. They‘ve been great writers, like some of your guests on the show. Chip Carter was president of the Friendship Foundation, a great organization.
So there are great achievers, too, but the expectations are so high that there‘s a lot of tragedy.
NORVILLE: And you actually point to Chip Carter in your book as a great example of a presidential offspring who has brought it all together in a beautiful way. Why?
WEAD: Well, he‘s named after his father.
And psychologists show—and there have been studies that show that firstborn and namesakes tend to be high achievers among the general population, but not among presidents‘ kids. John Adams II died as an alcoholic at 31 and William Henry Harrison Jr. at 35, and Andrew Johnson Jr. at 26. And they tend to be self-destructive.
NORVILLE: So, Chip, how did you avoid the Andrew Johnson, John Adams II? How did you manage to be enough of your own person, being your dad‘s namesake and obviously, you know, it‘s Jimmy Carter‘s son?
CARTER: It was easy because I‘m the second son, not the oldest. My older brother was so ugly when he was born, ad refused to give him his name.
CARTER: So I was named after him, so I got rid of a lot of that stuff right to start with, you know.
NORVILLE: So you have to thank your father.
Yes, go ahead.
CARTER: It‘s difficult, though.
NORVILLE: Go ahead, Chip.
CARTER: It‘s really difficult.
I‘ve been divorced three times. I love my wife, you know. I got some wonderful kids. And it has been a tough story, because you‘ve done one of the neatest things you‘ll ever do with your life and you‘re through with it at 30. So where do you go from there?
And it does take a lot. You obviously cannot walk in your parents‘ footsteps or in your father‘s footsteps. So you have to cut your own little piece up and then go after that aggressively and just try to do the best you can at one thing. And I think a lot of people have a hard time realizing that and getting to that. It took me a while.
NORVILLE: Doug Wead, what advice would you go presidential offspring?
WEAD: It seems like the most successful of presidential offspring—and Jackie Kennedy actually studied this—stayed far away from the White House. There are exceptions, Webb Hayes and other exceptions. But you look through history, Jackie Kennedy especially zeroed in on Zachary Taylor‘s son, who was this great figure in his own right.
Historians, when they talk about him, don‘t even mention his dad was president. And she tried to keep her children out of the limelight. And as painful as it is, that seems to work for many presidential children. The Fords that you have on tonight, it‘s the reverse.
NORVILLE: Well, let‘s flip around the horn.
And let‘s start with Steve Ford.
What advice would you give, Steven?
FORD: Well, I would say just to be yourself. When the spotlight of the White House came down on me, I left. I was supposed to go to Duke University. And I decided to pick up my bags and go out West and start working on ranches. And that eventually led to rodeo. And rodeo eventually led me to acting. I spent 22 years as an actor working on films and TV and soap operas. And I followed my heart.
I didn‘t want to go into politics. I wasn‘t in my blood. And I think most important thing to tell anybody is, follow what‘s in your heart, not what you think the public wants you to be.
NORVILLE: Eleanor, your heart led you to a career in front of the camera as an actress and as a television presenter. What advice would you give?
MONDALE: Yes, isn‘t that crazy? Well, I would say first...
CARTER: She made a lot of money. She put Reese‘s Pieces in “E.T.”
MONDALE: I would say off the record does not exist, so don‘t believe anybody that tells you that. And just surround yourself with people that you can truly trust, because there‘s just too much currency in gossip and even nice people will be tempted to say things, oh, I was over at her house and she had—her floors were dirty, you know, nothing tragic.
But just keep your cards close, enjoy yourself, but don‘t believe anybody that says it‘s off the record or I won‘t tell anybody, unless you really can trust them.
NORVILLE: There‘s no such thing.
We‘re going to get more advice from our guests. We‘ll take a short break. Our discussion continues right after this.
NORVILLE: Cute quote from Norman Mailer.
Back with the sons and daughters of past presidential candidates.
We‘re getting advice from those who have been there for the kids who are on the campaign trail this time around.
Rebecca Lieberman, what would you say to the Bush girls, to the Edwards, Kerry‘s, the Heinzes?
LIEBERMAN: I would sort of combine the advice that‘s been given thus far and say, be yourself, be real, but be guarded at all times, which is a hard balance.
NORVILLE: And John, John Dukakis?
DUKAKIS: I can‘t really add to that, except watch out for small planes.
NORVILLE: You want to elaborate on that?
DUKAKIS: All of us in the hinterlands have spent a little bit of time on planes that we would rather not have gone on.
NORVILLE: Oh, passengers on white-knuckle airlines, we do know all about that.
I‘m curious to get all of your reactions. You‘ve seen the photograph of the Bush twins in the “Vogue” magazine that hits this week. I want to look at that picture and then play the sound bite that‘s been sort of all over the place ever since the “Fahrenheit 9/11” movie, when George Bush was speaking at the Al Smith Dinner.
Let‘s listen to that and then think about these pictures.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This is an impressive crowd, the haves and the have-mores. Some people call you the elite. I call you my base.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
NORVILLE: Now, I realize we have a lot of Democrats on this panel.
But, Steven Ford, I‘m going to go to you.
Do you think that‘s going to play well, those photographs of these girls in beautiful couture dresses, during what‘s obviously going to be a very hard-fought campaign?
FORD: Well, I think you can look at both candidates, whether it be Bush or Kerry. There‘s money on both sides—Edwards. So if people are really realistic about it, it shouldn‘t be an issue.
I know, with our background, dad grew up in the Midwest, Michigan. We lived outside of Washington, D.C., had a small three-bedroom house. Dad was a congressman for 27 years, didn‘t make much money. And then all of a sudden, overnight, we got good government housing, so it can go either way.
NORVILLE: OK. Anybody else want to weigh in on that?
CARTER: I think they‘re going to be fine.
MONDALE: Great picture.
LIEBERMAN: I‘m jealous.
CARTER: I don‘t think it hurts them at all. It‘s a great picture.
They‘re beautiful girls.
Doug Wead, you heard that statistic that we shared earlier, where 86 percent in the poll on MSNBC said they didn‘t think that a candidate‘s child was going to unduly affect how someone cast their vote. And you say you need to go no further proof than Ronald Reagan‘s family for that. Why?
WEAD: Well, because Ronald Reagan‘s family was very dysfunctional in the middle of the 1984 reelection campaign. They were all over the pages. Every one of them had an issue at the time, even Maureen and Michael, who the Secret Service had falsely accused and his father didn‘t believe them. And here was Patti claiming her mother slapped her and abused her.
You couldn‘t get—if kids could hurt a candidate, Ronald Reagan would have been hurt and he carried every state in the Union, except Minnesota. But I will add, this is different. When an election is close like this, everything counts. And if you send Vanessa Kerry or Jenna Bush to Saint Petersburg, Florida, and have them get their picture taken with 2,000 people, they‘re going to affect some votes.
NORVILLE: All right.
FORD: But I think Maureen made her parents proud. Maureen made her parents proud. She really worked hard. She was a great, great campaigner and I really liked her as a human being.
NORVILLE: All right, and spoken from a man who was on the other side of the election ticket. That‘s a very generous thing for you to say, Chip.
Finally, just really quickly...
NORVILLE: Yes, go ahead, Steven.
FORD: I was just going to say it‘s interesting because, you know, like with Chip and I, our fathers ran against each other in a very tight, close election, only 1 percent difference. And President Carter won.
When Chip all of a sudden got the Secret Service, my—I was playing cards with my Secret Service and all of a sudden the phone ran as soon as his father, President Carter, took the oath of office. And we were watching it on TV. And all of a sudden, my Secret Service guys started unplugging the radios and stuff and the card game was over, you know, so things change very quickly.
And I had a good hand, too. That‘s what upset me about it.
FORD: but the interesting thing is that both dad and President Carter, even though it was a hard fight, became great friends after the election, worked together on a lot of projects. And that‘s the way politics should be.
NORVILLE: Indeed it is.
You know what? We‘re going to let that be the last word. I just wish all of you were the same room, because I can tell there‘s a big coffee klatch about to happen.
Steven Ford, Chip Carter, Eleanor Mondale, John Dukakis, Rebecca Lieberman and Doug Wead, author of the book “All The President‘s Children,” thank you all so much. It‘s been a really fascinating hour. We appreciate it.
LIEBERMAN: Thank you.
MONDALE: Thank you.
NORVILLE: And when we come back, this week marks a poignant anniversary for another presidential family, the Kennedy‘s. Tomorrow morning, be sure to tune in to “Imus in the Morning” right here on MSNBC. He‘ll be speaking to both Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry and his running mate, Senator John Edwards.
That‘s tomorrow morning right here on MSNBC.
NORVILLE: You can send in your ideas and comments to us at NORVILLE@MSNBC.com. Some of your e-mails are posted on our Web page at NORVILLE.MSNBC.com. While you‘re there, you can sign up for our newsletter.
That‘s our program for tonight. Thanks so much for watching. I‘m Debra Norville.
This week marks the anniversary of the death of John F. Kennedy Jr. Tomorrow night, we‘ll be joined by a man who was one of John Jr.‘s closest friends. Plus, the magazine JFK Jr. founded, “George,” may be up and running again. Who is trying to bring it back and why? Find out when you join us tomorrow night.
Coming up next, Joe Scarborough, he will be joined by Julia Reed of “Vogue” magazine. She is the woman who interviewed the Bush twins for this month‘s issue. “SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY” is next.
That‘s it for us. Thanks for watching.
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