The TV-and-print political pundit and New York transplant, 68, discusses living in McLean for 25 years, political partisanship, and Dan Quayle.
You came to the area in 1985 to work in the Reagan administration and never left. You must like it here.
Like so many people who come to Washington, you come for a year or two and you stay for 35 years. We’ve been in this house [in McLean] for 25 years. Our kids went to Fairfax County schools and now two of the three live in Northern Virginia, and we have three grandchildren in schools here, so that’s nice.
You’re known as a conservative Republican, but stumped for Virginia Democrats last fall. What do you make of the results?
I was disappointed. But you know, it was a national wave [to the right] and I think that’s the truth of it. People are overanalyzing the particulars of the races. I mean, [Republican Glenn] Youngkin ran a good race and [Democrat] Terry McAuliffe made one or two mistakes. And if you have a president [in your party] in a partisan and polarized situation, it’s hard to overcome.
You moved from Massachusetts, where you were teaching at Harvard, to work at the White House. Any culture shock?
Harry Truman reportedly said, “If you want a friend in Washington, get a dog.” People told us life inside the Beltway is cutthroat, everyone’s transient, it’s all politics, it’s a one-employer town [the government]—and I didn’t find any of that to be really true. I found people were nice and interesting and very diverse. You have Republicans and Democrats, people who moved here to work in different administrations, people from abroad working for embassies and the World Bank, and not everyone works for the government. But the community spirit I thought was striking from the beginning. Our kids played Little League and all the usual stuff and, you know, for being 10 miles or less from DC, you could say it’s not a typical American town or county, but a lot of it is. It has a nice civic spirit, and it’s pretty, and has all the cultural stuff we like to do.
Do you get recognized at the McLean Giant?
Occasionally, yeah. People are pretty polite. One advantage of being here, people are used to seeing people they’ve seen on TV or members of Congress or cabinet secretaries, and there’s a relaxed attitude toward it.
You worked for Vice President Dan Quayle. Does he get a bad rap?
He does a bit. It was hard to fix his image after the [Lloyd Bentsen] debate. But he’s a good person and a sensible person. This is a good example of how partisanship has changed: Dan Quayle and [Democratic House Minority Leader] Dick Gephardt were elected to Congress in the same year and they used to carpool together from McLean to Capitol Hill. It was a different era.
Can democracy be saved?
Yes, it can be. I think it will be. Youngkin isn’t Donald Trump, so I’m hopeful he’ll be a responsible governor.