The Day Fun Died – Part 1
The Day Fun Died
It has suddenly come to my attention that there are individuals working together with the media who are investigating my personal background in an effort to find indiscretions which may be exploitable against me and my party on the eve of the upcoming historic vote on impeachment.
When I did an early interview with the media after announcing my candidacy for speaker, I told a reporter that I was running for speaker, not sainthood. There was a reason for those words.
Because of the tremendous trust and responsibility my colleagues have placed in me and because of forces outside of this institution seeking to influence the upcoming events and/or media coverage of these events, I have decided to inform my colleagues and my constituents that during my 33-year marriage to my wife, Bonnie, I have on occasion strayed from my marriage, and doing so nearly cost me my marriage and family.
I sought marriage and spiritual counseling and have received forgiveness from my wife and family, for which I am eternally grateful. This chapter was a small but painful part of the past in an otherwise wonderful marriage. I want to assure everyone that these indiscretions were not with employees on my staff and I have never been asked to testify under oath about them.
Because these were personal relationships, I have no intention or desire to reveal any
specifics in order to avoid harm to others. I offer this statement today to let these facts be
known to my constituents and my colleagues. This will be the only statement I will make on this subject.
To those who are investigating me or others of my colleagues, please understand that I will not be intimidated by these efforts. These efforts will NOT deter me from performing my sworn duty under the Constitution as a member of Congress. I know this will disappoint many friends and supporters, but I have complete faith that my constituents and colleagues will judge me fairly, and I have every hope that I will continue to prove worthy of the many kind things that have been said about me in the last few weeks.
Bob Livingston, pre-resignation speech
Official wire reports
Dec. 18, 1998
It was a cold, rainy, winter day near New Orleans only days before Congressman Livingston had released this statement. The spirits inside the newsroom of the small, tri-weekly, paper I was working for were grim in comparison to the nasty weather outside. Slow news days do that to the staff of a small newspaper.
In fact, we were running a story from the weekend before, when the future next United States Speaker of the House had given the commencement speech at my graduation from Southeastern Louisiana University.
I’d actually wrapped up courses at the end of summer, but the school only gave two graduation ceremonies a year; one at the end of fall semester in December and the other at the end of spring semester.
The only picture the paper had from the event was my own personal glossy eight-by-ten that came compliments of the university, along with the diploma, that consisted of myself, Bob Livingston and our the then president of the school.
It was Mitch, the only other reporter there working there besides myself,
that picked up the picture and laughed.
“But look at you now,” he added. “You’ve made it to the big time, a tri-weekly rag that’s used as fish-wrap before its even read in the morning. Half the time the carriers don’t even get the damned thing to the customers driveways. Nope, in the ditch. If you never listen to a single word I say, remember this. Forget all your delusions of grandeur, freedom of the press and righting America’s ills. No one really cares. In the grand scheme of things we don’t mean shit, we’re just filler around advertising. Remember that and you’ll be fine.”
He was right of course. And while most of his rhetoric was just as biodegradable as our news product was, that lesson always stuck with me.
“Oh yes my friend, you have the face of a man who is looking doom in the eye,” he kept on. “A deer in the headlights. And the fact that you ended up here, as opposed to a hundred million other jobs you could have taken, confirms this.”
“Stop this nonsense now,” I said. “It’s not good for either of us.”
“Take a long, hard look around you,” he said sweeping his hands out in a grand gesture. “This is it, this is that great future,” he said. “Forget all the dreams of greatness and posterity. The buck stops here, this is the end of the line. Do not pass go, collect $200 if you’re lucky.”
I moved away and sat back down at my desk and continued typing up coverage
from the zoning meeting the night before.
I ignored his tomfoolery.
No. Things were looking up for Louisiana, with Livingston being the obvious shoe-in for the Speaker of the House seat, and myself, as a fledgling young reporter about to take on his first big assignment.
One of my first assignments was a harried Sunday gig, covering the “Bob-A-Cue,” that was held just outside the city limits of the great metropolis of Covington, Louisiana.
That’s right. As the nation watched the impending presidential impeachment, the first of its kind in over a hundred years, a local boy done good, Livingston, had become the shoe-in for the Speaker of the House position that was vacated when Newt Gingrich announced his sudden resignation.
Bob’s itinerary was to start with a 10 a.m. landing at a small airfield in Hammond, not far from my apartment. From that point, he was to be shuttled via limo to Covington, to the Bob-a-Cue.
I was excited about this.
The man, after all, was going to be the next Speaker of the House. I figured that nay inroads I could make, could possibly be a feather in my cap later on down the line, especially if I were able to meet with the man and write a good story.
The night before his scheduled landing, I drove out to the airport to check out the scene. I strolled out onto the airfield, with a 22-ounce Budweiser in hand, trying to imagine what the next day was going to be like.
Life, at that moment, seemed full of infinite possibilities. The sky, it seemed, really was the limit.
It was dark out and airfield lights cast strange shadows here and there. I was a little wary about some overzealous redneck airport cop sneaking up behind me, as I sipped the beer and fumbled with my fly to take a leak. But as the dreams of what could be unfurled and a cool wind blew through the air, I knew that even a goofy airport cop couldn’t touch me at that point.
I woke the next morning at 6 a.m. to a nasty and severe storm. My bedside digital clock was blinking uselessely.
“Fuck,” I muttered out loud. The power had gone off and my first feeling was one of panic at the possibility that I had overslept.
I got up and walked to my kitchen and discovered it was still only 6. I turned the Weather Channel on, on the TV, and noticed the entire southern half of Louisiana was underneath a very large blanket of dark green on the Doppler radar. I tried to reach people at the airport, to no avail. I also called the sheriff’s office and was told that Bob’s flight would likely not be able to land on time.
They were monitoring the situation though, and after I left my name and number the guy swore he’d call back when he knew more. That call never came and I dozed back asleep.
I sprung to attention at around 9:30. I jumped into my truck and headed for the airport, still ahead of schedule. But then the unthinkable happened. Livingston’s plane had landed early, and he was being carted off into the limo just as I pulled up.
I drove like a madman through the rain, to Covington. By the time I got there, the rain had slacked off. However, the area where the Bob-A-Cue was to take place, outside an office park, was a sloppy, muddy mess.
After finagling my way through the crowd, I ran into the mayor pro tem of Mandeville, who whisked me inside the lobby of the building, to go try to hold court with Livingston, who was supposedly upstairs holding court with the press.
He rushed me up, but by the time we made it up, Livingston was shutting things down.
Taking pity on me, the mayor pro tem spoke up, “Excuse me Mr. Livingston. We have one more member of the press here. He’s one of our local reporters.”
I was allowed one question, which was something along the lines of, “What will your first order of business be, for the good of St. Tammany Parish, when you assume the role of Speaker of the House?”
Speaking in generalities, as politicians are apt to do, he told me there were a few highway projects, which included the widening of U.S. 190, that were at the top of the list. And then, just like that, all the reporters were kicked out, and sent back downstairs to mingle with the rest of the humans.
Eventually, after I was wary from meeting and trying to remember all who I met, I sauntered back outside to one of the tents they’d set up and helped myself to a beer. Although it was abysmally cloudy out still, and the end of November, it was still extremely hot outside.
I was dressed in khaki pants, white dress shirt, tie and a blue blazer and I was sweating like a fucking pig. It didn’t appear as if anyone were watching me, so I quickly slammed down the beer, tossed the bottle and quietly grabbed another. For all intents and purposes the assignment was over. There was really nothing left to do but hang around and drink the free beer until someone raised an eyebrow.
But just as I grabbed the next beer, I noticed there was an older gentleman sitting next to me, who looked at me with a grin and said, “Thirsty work isn’t it?”
The guy was a dead ringer for Colonel Sanders, of Kentucky Fried Chicken fame, only minus the dress Kentucky whites.
I asked him if he was a reporter too and he told me no, that he was a retired politician. He looked familiar, but I couldn’t quite place him. He declined to give me his name, even after I sat down next to him. And then, as an afterthought, he grinned mischievously at me and finally said, “Well, I guess you have to call me something don’t you. Just call me Bill. Bill Clinton. Only don’t say it too loudly. There are a lot of Republicans here. They don’t have a keen sense of humor. If they heard me talking like this they’d have me strung up by my balls and run out of town.”
I laughed and after realizing he was probably someone of some importance who probably just wanted to remain incognito, just let it slide and continued to call him Mr. Clinton.
He got up, grabbed us another round of drinks and sat back down.
“So how is Monica these days?” I asked him, meaning Monica Lewinsky, unable to pass up the chance at a free joke.
He smiled, leaned over and whispered in my ear, “She’s a fucking whore. She couldn’t keep her mouth or her legs shut.”
Egads, this was ugly talk, but the old fart was obviously having fun me, as I was with him. It’s not every day a bright-eyed, and bushy-tailed cub reporter gets to sit down and have beers with Bill Clinton.
“So what paper do you work for?” he asked.
I told him and he said he had a subscription.
“I need to have a talk with your damned carriers thought,” he said. “The dumb bastards keep throwing it in my ditch.”
We continued on with this creepy, but witty banter through at least two more beers before I finally told him I had to go make sure Bob hadn’t left the building.
“Well, you have yourself a fine day,” he told me. “And good luck with the new job. I can tell just from talking to you that you will go far.”
“Thank you Mr. President,” I said.
“The honor has been all mine,” he replied, a true southern gentleman.
I caught Bob just as he was making his closing speech before he departed. The corridor was crammed full of media, most of them not even from our area. I held out my hand-held tape recorder and taped Livingston’s speech about strong reform and a return to traditional (Republican) values.
I went home and write up the story that same afternoon. My managing editor was enthralled with the job I did. It was a high that would last another week or two.
Something went surprisingly awry though, in the weeks ahead.
In the midst of all this excitement Hustler Magazine Publisher Larry Flynt offered up a bounty for any information that could lead to more whoremongering politicians, like Clinton. In the middle of it all, Livingston admitted to having an affair and then resigned.
So much for the return to family values.
Mitch sauntered past my desk on the afternoon Livingston announced he was stepping down, looked at my picture and laughed.
“What are you chuckling about you Nazi bastard?” I asked him.
But he didn’t say anything, he only kept chuckling and shaking his head as
he held the glossy print.
“Stop that you fiend, give me back that picture,” I said.
“You know what I see here when I look at this picture?” he asked.
I was not in the mood for this sort of thing but I humored him.
“A handsome fucking man,” I said. “And Bob Livingston and I don’t look so
bad either do we?”
“No,” he said. “I see doom. It’s there in both Livingston’s and your own eyes. I see the look of a man who has no idea what the fuck he’s going to do with the rest of his fucking life. You better watch it, or just might go down like Livingston yourself.”
To my knowledge, I’d done nothing to warrant this kind of commentary. It was a cruel and unusual headtrip to lay on someone in the middle of deadline. But Mitch, being Mitch, thoroughly was enjoying himself.
“You might be the paper’s golden boy today, but one day you’ll be damaged goods, just like ole Bob there,” he replied.
I swatted him away with my AP manual and told him to leave me alone. He retreated back to his own workspace, but not without squawking out, “Doomed, doomed, doomed I tell you every other hour or so, giggling to himself deliriously like a geeked out crack whore.