Tuesday With Lanny
A day in the life of Hillary Clinton's biggest fan.
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6 p.m.—Set of The O'Reilly Factor. Schumer and Davis sit down with Bill O'Reilly at a table overlooking the convention floor. Apparently O'Reilly has been briefed on Schumer's tiff. "No one tells me what to do either, and I'm the star," O'Reilly says. "Now, siddown." They agree Schumer will speak first, and that he and Davis won't appear on-screen together.
At one point during the interview, Davis pointedly refers to "great Democrats like Chuck Schumer." Schumer doesn't return the compliment.
6:24 p.m.—I've lost Lanny. After the O'Reilly segment ended, he bolted for the bathroom. He says later he was pretty sure Schumer turned to shake his hand, but Davis walked away before he could. In Lanny's absence, the Fox producer pulls me aside. "Tell Lanny thank you," she says. I promise to pass along the message.
6:30 p.m.—I've found Lanny. He's standing at a railing, dialing into the show of Lars Larson, an Oregon radio host Davis describes as "right of Attila the Hun." I ask him about l'affaire Schumer. "It wasn't about me—I could have been anyone," he says. "It was about Chuck Schumer."
6:51 p.m.—Next person he calls is his eldest son Seth. Lanny insists I speak with him. Seth is sort of an alternate universe Lanny—gregarious and talkative but pro-Obama. (He talks about Hillary in the same polite way his father talks about Obama—she has a "great personality.") He's also a journalist—Seth writes for Sports Illustrated and is also an analyst for CBS's NCAA coverage—whereas his father is a journalist manqué: As a student, he was chairman of the Yale Daily News.
7:28 p.m.—The hall. With the keynote speech about to begin, Davis finds us a couple of seats in the section reserved for "honorary guests." It's getting late, and he is now desperately trying to get Hamilton's number. He calls the car service several times, getting more agitated when they put him on hold. People sitting nearby are staring. Finally, he gets an answer. "Can you write this number down?" he asks me.
When he gets off the phone, Mark Warner is finishing up his speech. "This might be the worst keynote speech in the history of the Democratic Party," Davis observes.
8:25 p.m.—It's Hillary time. As the intro video starts to play, Davis inches forward in his seat. The audience is roaring. "This is not going to sit well with the Obama people," he says. "It's like a commercial for Hillary."
During a montage of Hillary's famous laugh, Davis tells me it's really the most joyous thing about her—always has been. When one of Hillary's friends jokes, "We don't want her to sing—ever," Davis bursts out laughing and claps. He takes off his glasses, puts his face in his hands. "I get all sobby."
8:30 p.m.—Hillary comes onstage. From where we're sitting, the podium is just out of view. We walk over and stand in the aisle, in violation of the fire code. A DNC volunteer asks us to move. A few bystanders, seeing the commotion, decide to intervene. "He's a very important man," one of them explains.
Eventually the DNC guy retreats. Lanny Davis can stay. His people, Hillary's people, have spoken. He soon spots a friend in a nearby skybox and we watch the rest of her speech from there. Davis knew what she was going to say, but even so, once again, he gets emotional. I don't blame him. If you squint a little, it almost looks like a victory speech.
Christopher Beam is a writer living in Beijing.
Photograph of Lanny Davis by Alex Wong/Getty Images for Meet the Press.