Tuesday With Lanny
A day in the life of Hillary Clinton's biggest fan.
See Slate's complete Democratic Convention coverage.
Lanny is explaining all this when his phone goes off. "David!" he exclaims. It's David Brooks. "Did you get my email?"
3 p.m.—Lanny's phone dies. This is bad for two reasons. That's where he had the number for Hamilton, his driver, saved. It also means he now has only two methods of wireless communication—his pager and his BlackBerry.
Like many politicos of a certain age, Davis' relationship with technology is a combination of dependency and bewilderment. I show him how to set his BlackBerry to vibrate. It starts buzzing immediately. Davis looks puzzled. "Hey, you know what?" he says after a moment. "This is buzzing from e-mails!"
3:20 p.m.—Hallway. Davis hands me his coffee and calls in to a radio interview with Michael Medved, a right-wing talk show host. Medved's an old friend from Yale, much like Hillary Clinton (Davis met her in law school), Bill Clinton (met him after law school; worked in his administration), Joe Lieberman (worked on his first campaign; Lieberman held the pillow at his son's bris), John Kerry (Davis thought he'd be president, even back then), George W. Bush (rushed his frat while Bush was prez), Greg Craig (no longer friends), and other people you may have heard of. Some people entertain paranoid fantasies about the media and political and business worlds being one big gentleman's club. Now I know why.
4:22 p.m.—Hallway. To be Lanny Davis at the DNC is to be barraged by a steady stream of nods, smiles, waves, bear hugs, and teary thank-yous. "Why are they thanking me?" Davis wonders out loud. "It's about loyalty. Maybe they had someone who abandoned them once."
Others use Davis as a sort of unity-meter—a gauge of whether Clintonites will be supporting Obama. Davis' prescription for Obama is a lot like what Davis tells his clients: He has to come clean. "He should acknowledge his dearth of knowledge and experience. And rather than his arguing, as he did in the primaries, that you don't need experience … it's better to say, You're right, I do lack experience. He has implicitly said that [by picking] Joe Biden already."
I don't doubt Davis is serious. But as Lanny himself would say, I don't question his motives—only his judgment.
4:50 p.m.—Hallway. We're heading to the Fox News green room for a 6 o'clock O'Reilly appearance. Davis runs over his schedule in his head. "Six-thirty, Lars Larson. You gotta remind me." Somehow, in the last few hours, I have become Lanny Davis' personal assistant.
5:22 p.m.—Fox News green room. Laura Ingraham is getting her hair done. "You're looking more beautiful than ever," Lanny tells her. "You know how to make an old girl feel good," she says. "Not at all!" he says. "You're a very young girl."
A minute later, Davis is regaling Juan Williams with a story about how when he grew up in New York, his father never let him be a Yankees fan. "They're the Republicans of baseball," he said. "They have all the money, and they win all the time." This sends him into a long tale about the time he saw his hero Willie Mays play at the Polo Grounds in 1957. This story then becomes a story about how he told that story to Bill Clinton and Willie Mays himself at the White House, which, he says, left Clinton in tears. Which, of course, reminds him of the time President George W. Bush chatted with Davis' son for 20 minutes in the Oval Office. "That reminds me," Davis says, and pulls out of his wallet a photo of his son Josh printed on one of those Little League mock baseball cards. "Check this out."
I know way too much about Lanny Davis.
5:38 p.m.—Davis is still waiting for makeup when Sen. Chuck Schumer enters the room, entourage in tow. "Lanny!" he says. "What are you doing here?" Davis explains that they're going to be on O'Reilly together. Schumer's smile vanishes. He turns to Amy Sohnen, a heretofore cheery Fox News executive producer. "Absolutely not," Schumer says. Apparently there's been a mix-up. Schumer thought he was going to be appearing alone. Davis, sensing trouble, drifts over to the food table.
The senator storms out of the office to make a phone call. Outside in the hall, his spokesman is soft-yelling into his cell. It's unclear whether the objection is to Davis himself or appearing on-screen with someone of lesser stature than Schumer.
After a few minutes, Sohnen approaches Lanny. There's been a terrible mistake, she explains, and they can't have him on the show. "That's not an option," Davis says. He was the original guest, and he gave his permission for Schumer to join him. "I'm sorry. Unless Roger Ailes calls me personally, I'm doing the show."
Christopher Beam is a writer living in Beijing.
Photograph of Lanny Davis by Alex Wong/Getty Images for Meet the Press.