There is no good time to lose a friend. Sometimes you know they are sick and have a warning. Other times it comes from nowhere and your response is simply screaming “Oh My God!” as many times as possible because you don’t believe it is possible for that person not to be around, or even more disturbing to know you will never see them again. For people who have worked primarily in Presidential politics and because we usually see one another every four years, you think it would be easier. The time apart doesn’t make us love one another any less, it’s just a reality. We sometimes lose touch during the four years, but when we see each another, it’s like no time passed. With Carl Wagner it was a little different.
With Carl, everything was different. (“Coulter, Coulter what is your 7/8?”) — don’t try to figure it out. If you know, you know, if not, just move on). Carl was a wild man. Not in any negative way — although there were people who didn’t like him. But he had not time for negative people or negativism about anything he thought would work to move a campaign forward. Not everyone thought he was a genius, but the few of us who did were always anxious to hear his next idea. And inevitably we would somehow wind up involved. No matter how nuts.
A few months before the campaign season, which was shorter for us dinosaurs, then it is now, he would call me, we would meet for lunch and he would start in the same way “So what are we going to do for this next campaign. There were usually a few would-be candidates who had announced. If not, Carl would still know who they would be. We would go thru his list of potential Presidents and he would muse about their capabilities. One year he managed to convince me I should work for the actor (Tom Laughlin) who played Billy Jack. One year we decided that since we didn’t like anyone, we would run Lee Iacocca —without his permission. Lee was not happy. In fact he was adamant about not running. But you could only work for candidates who were unannounced. We raised substantial funds and spent it on lovely lunches and dinners where we talked about what might have been. Then he convinced me to work for Ross Perot — just to see what it would be like. It wasn’t like a campaign. They picked me up in a limo and put me up in a nice hotel. After 10 hours I quit. We always had a great laugh — at my expense.
In 1992 we decided that we should coordinate all the Democratic Primary Debates, We called ourselves Debates 92. We convinced the Networks we had total access to the candidates, and the candidates believed we had total access to Networks. With the help of Eric Sklar and Sara Farnsworth we hired our own people to represent each candidate so consequently, for once, there was no personal staff drama. OK The candidates almost came to blows, but that was no big deal. We had such chutzpah.
Back to the 70’s briefly. Carl was gorgeous. Every woman in every campaign was smitten. Once when we were in Philadelphia I had to share a room with him. It was so intimidating, I went to sleep at 8pm and ignored any meeting I was supposed to have. I shared that story with him at some point and he said, “that’s why we’re still friends.” His wife was amazing and Alex (his daughter was breathtaking. When we learned that the Alex on MSNBC (and now CBS) was “our Alex” we all carried on like she was ours. Carl was so proud. We talked about how brilliant she was, and of course, how she had Carl’s street smarts. He did admit she was much nicer than he was. But nice was not something we looked for in a Carl campaign — when he was thinking it was always fascinating. Yep, sometimes he was a God and sometimes he was an asshole because he wouldn’t take care of himself.
Those of us who considered ourselves friends of Carl’s loved him, envied him, trusted him, counted on him, and worried about him all the time. Those who were his friends knew we would hear from him or he would also call us back. He was the first person in my phone contacts, so every time I butt dialed, it was to him. And he would simply say, “I guess it’s that time to get together” …. and we usually did. Trouble simply wasn’t as much fun if Carl was not a part of it.
I will miss you my friend, try to rest in Peace, which we all know will be difficult for you. We’re just sayin’.. Iris