- Associated Press - Saturday, October 1, 2016

CAMP HILL, Pa. (AP) - She’s looking for a little boy.

Her pink polished nails reach toward the picture window in a Camp Hill living room.

Is he out there? Did he drown? Was he in an accident?

These are the questions and fears troubling Kit’s 97-year-old mind.

Her son sits next to her and softly says, “Mom, it’s me, Jeffrey. I’m that little boy.”

Kathleen “Kit” Lord’s failing eyesight makes it hard to see him, even when her 65-year-old son’s face fills up a TV screen.

But she always recognizes the voice.

“He talks all the time,” Kit says, sharing her irritation with the constantly ringing phone and his numerous commutes to be on air in New York.

Jeffrey Lord is scheduled to be on CNN every weeknight now through Election Day, trying to find balance between political analysis and caring for his elderly mother.

He’s attracting attention and scrutiny as one of the first people who said Donald Trump should run for president.

In public, local supporters cheer when his name is mentioned during Trump rallies and ask for selfies when they see him in the supermarket.

At home, he’s caring for a mother who often doesn’t know who he is.

“It’s wistful,” Lord says. “It’s emotional when your mother disappears like this, but I know she’ll come back.”

On air

Sometimes Kit is “totally with it,” Lord says.

Last Friday she was the cogent mom who raised him, the lifelong Republican woman who wasn’t afraid to share her views in liberal Northampton, Mass.

In that New England town where Lord grew up, Kit worked as a secretary at Smith College and his father, Neville “Buzz” Lord, was a hotel manager who also held the city council seat once occupied by Calvin Coolidge.

That small town is where Lord learned people could disagree politically and still be friends - a lesson that has proved valuable after making several unpopular comments during the 2016 election cycle.

The most notable parley came during the winter primary run when Lord said the KKK was the “military, terrorist arm of the Democratic Party.”

Liberal commentator Van Jones quickly responded: “The things that Donald Trump has done, and not just in this race, are horribly offensive…There is a dark underside here…he is whipping up and tapping into and pushing buttons that are very, very frightening to me and to a lot of people.”

Jones and Lord have frequently sparred on air, but both maintain they get along when the cameras are off.

“You don’t have to agree with someone to like them and care about them and appreciate what they’re trying to convey,” Jones says. “I think Jeffrey Lord is doing a great service to the country by speaking up for people whose opinions and voices are usually not welcome in mainstream conversations. These voices need to be heard. These conversations need to be had.”

Jones says he also thinks a lot of people have been shocked by what he called Lord’s “revisionist history.”

“I think he’s cherry-picked a world view on race, but he’s not alone,” Jones says. “There are millions of people who agree with Jeffrey Lord, with the vast majority not as well-educated, well-researched and kind-hearted. We get along great.”

Jones views a lot of Lord’s controversial comments as a strategy that oversimplifies history to make Republicans look good and Democrats look bad.

“I think he’s a better man than that at the end of the day,” Jones says. “Jeffrey Lord is universally beloved at CNN as a person.”

Lord brings good cheer and, even when he doesn’t agree with some politically, he’s never personally nasty, Jones says.

Fellow CNN analyst Paul Begala, a Hillary Clinton supporter and former adviser to President Bill Clinton, also finds common ground with Lord because of their professional backgrounds.

Begala will debate Lord at 8 p.m. Oct. 14 at Franklin & Marshall College in Lancaster. Both men were chosen for their past political experiences and recent analysis of the 2016 presidential election.

Lord, an F&M; alum, was a political director to former President Ronald Reagan and also worked for former U.S. Housing Secretary Jack Kemp during the George H.W. Bush administration.

“I respect Jeffrey for what he has done,” Begala says. “He served a president, as I did. There is a bond, a comradeship, among those who have worked in that remarkable building. I know how stressful it can be and respect Jeffrey’s service. I also like him as a person. Jeffrey is kind, considerate, charming, funny, self-deprecating. Of course he is deeply wrong about politics, but that does not make one a bad person.”

Sometimes Lord is having these political debates from a small office in his mother’s rented home in Camp Hill. They live on the bottom floor of a two-story house, which was the perfect size for Kit and Buzz when they moved here from Massachusetts decades ago and no longer wanted to own a home.

The office is a museum to both his love of politics and his life in it, with some books and artifacts revealing he was once a fan of Democrat John F. Kennedy. Lord says Kennedy would now be considered a far-right Republican - a statement Begala and Jones both dispute.

Most of the office includes books on every president, a collection of Republican campaign hats and memorabilia from his days in the Reagan White House, including a portrait from the Oval Office that he moves behind him each time he’s on CNN.

Until CNN gave him special equipment, Lord’s mother could sometimes be heard calling for him in the background.

She yells for “Jeffrey” if he’s in trouble and “Jeffers” if he’s not.

Off air

Lord answers his mother’s call, looking for the woman he once knew: The one in the cobalt blue hat, standing next to the Massachusetts governor. The one who danced and was invited to state dinners. The one who debated with her liberal friends during dinners and drinks. The one who tells him the TV is too loud.

But sometimes even when he’s holding her hand, she’s not there.

Kit looks at her only son convinced there’s another boy somewhere. She longs for that child, as Lord tries to reassure her he is with her.

Lord talks to his mom about people and places from their past to jog her memory, such as the Ruddy and O’Donnell families from Massachusetts.

A recent phone call with Joan Ruddy Leonard seemed to help. Ruddy Leonard, 73, used to be Lord’s babysitter.

“I’ve known them since I was 11 or 12,” she says of the Lord family. “I was the one cleaning up the snacks and emptying the ashtray after the dinners.”

“It was always politics they talked about,” Ruddy Leonard says. “My father especially liked to egg on Kit. You could always tell how upset she was by how fast her leg was bobbing.”

Ruddy Leonard agrees those early debates helped shape Lord’s approach to being friends with those who disagree with him.

“When our parents discussed and debated the issues, there was never hard feelings or bitterness,” she says. “I feel the same way today with Jeff.”

Ruddy Leonard is a Clinton supporter and sometimes jokes with Lord about how he supports Trump, sometimes sending emails after his CNN appearances.

“Mostly I try to be supportive, even though I disagree with a lot of what he says,” Ruddy Leonard says.

She sees the man, not the politico. “This day and age it’s extremely unusual for a son to take care of his mom as he is for her,” Ruddy Leonard said. “I’m really touched by that. He really is a caring, loving son.”

The people at Chapel Hill United Church of Christ call him a saint.

Deb Reinhard, a 65-year-old Enola resident and member of the Camp Hill church, sits with Kit while Lord is on air at home. Visiting Angels takes care of her when he has to be in New York.

“I sit with her and hold her hand. She can get feisty at certain times of the afternoon and always wants to know when he’s coming back,” Reinhard says.

When Reinhard is with her, Kit is concerned about “the other people over there.”

“There are no other people,” Reinhard says. “Many times she thinks she has two sons. She’s never sure where that other son is or what his name is.”

Buzz, Kit’s late husband, used to act like this too. He would always have cocktails at 5 p.m., setting out seven glasses even though just three people were in the house.

“They were always very sophisticated people, mannerly, intelligent sounding, just delightful people. It’s just horrible what dementia does,” Reinhard says.

“What he goes through with her, I just can’t imagine living like that,” she says of Lord. “He’s so good to her, so patient with her. We think he’s a saint.”

In June, Lord hosted a 97th birthday party for his mom. He dressed her up and painted her fingernails “just so she would look nice for all her visitors.”

“To us, that’s just angelic,” Reinhard says.

Lord admits it’s not always easy, as he’s been living with his family since December 2004.

At that point it became undeniable his father had Alzheimer’s. Lord was convinced when his father, who was always up on politics and the news, couldn’t identify John Kerry and had no idea what happened on 9/11 or why anyone was talking about it.

He navigated a new world in which his father would ask questions about his mother such as, “Who is that woman in there on the couch?”

“That was after being married 60 years to his high school sweetheart,” Lord says. “You don’t think about your parents growing old. It just happens.”

And Lord still gets tears in his eyes when he explains his father didn’t know him when he died.

“I’d ask him every morning, ‘Dad, what is my name?’ He’d say, ‘Jerry.’ Then he’d try again and call me ‘Jimmy.’ I’d start to spell out my name and tell him ‘Jeffrey.’ By the end, he didn’t know me at all,” Lord says.

He’s hoping for a different outcome when his mother passes away. She still has a lot of lucid moments.

On a recent Friday, Kit knew her son and understood what he was doing for a living.

She said when she sees him on TV, she thinks, “That’s my kid!”

But she likes it more when he’s home.

“I don’t know what I’d do without him,” Kit says. “I’m so happy to have him here.”

Looking at him, she adds, “So don’t go getting any ideas.”

One of those ideas might be working in the Trump administration. During a campaign stop in Mechanicsburg last month, the applause was especially loud when Trump said he’s taking Lord with him to the White House.

Lord says no offer has been formally extended, the election is far from over, and he couldn’t just leave his mom behind and move to Washington, D.C.

“I’m not just going to walk out the door on mom,” Lord says.

Not long after he said that, the house phone rang. It was a telemarketer trying to solicit donations from seniors.

“What would happen if she was here by herself? This is where seniors get in trouble,” Lord says, claiming the call was a scam.

In other moments, a blunt, quick-witted Kit seems like someone impervious to scams, claiming she wasn’t impressed by the presidents and presidential candidates she met in her lifetime. She tells Lord he talks too much and yells at him to get off the phone.

“See there, that’s the mom I know,” Lord says with a laugh.

When she’s lucid, she still talks politics. “I don’t think we knew anything else but politics,” Kit says.

Hillary Clinton’s candidacy is historic, but Kit won’t be voting for her. She’s supporting Trump.

Kit has rough days sometimes and needs a wheelchair to get around, but quickly answers when asked if she will vote on Nov. 8: “Of course! Why wouldn’t I?”

In other moments, she asks where all their guests are, even if none are expected.

Kit and her son are getting through it with a sense of humor.

Lord looks at her and says, “Mom, you’re nuts today,” and they both laugh.

But when all the cameras are off and there’s no one asking for his opinion, Lord gives in to the emotion.

“When any child looks at their parent, they’re always seeing the parent who raised them. In my mind’s eye, she’s perpetually 40. She looks like a headshot taken in the 1970s. That’s the way I think of her,” he says.

The woman in front of him now can’t walk on her own.

“She was always very active, energetic, very lively, loved to dance. I miss that certainly,” Lord says.

Even on the hardest days, Lord said he wouldn’t dream of not taking care of her.

“Well, she’s my mom, and I just feel I’ll never regret this,” he says.

If he had to give up anything, it would be the public attention gained during the election season.

“I’d trade it in an instant just to have her know me again,” Lord says. “When you’re changing Depends every day, you gain perspective about what counts in life and what doesn’t. One is reality, the other is just politics.”

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Online:

http://bit.ly/2dbAoiq

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Information from: Pennlive.com, http://www.pennlive.com

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