This column has been more than patient waiting its turn to interview Al Gore, but won’t argue as one of the vice president’s more visible supporters agrees to step in.
“I can’t remember a man so qualified to run for office,” says supermodel Christie Brinkley, who, if you didn’t notice, was a delegate to this year’s Democratic National Convention. “I can’t understand why this race is so close.”
Neither can we. Tell us about George W. Bush.
“You know, some women come up to me and say, ‘Christie, I think Bush is cute.’ I am insulted by that,” says Mrs. Brinkley, 46, who alongside husband Peter Cook is raising her three young children on Long Island, N.Y.
“Let me tell you about women today,” she says. “If Bush [gets] ahead with women voters it’s because women are so busy adjusting to their hectic lives, getting their kids to school, being a good wife, a good mother. They’re seeing only the periphery of this race right now, and so is the media looking at the personalities instead of the issues.”
Yes, we see what you mean. What are the issues, then?
“The Supreme Court,” she says. “Right now four of the justices are getting a little bit older and they happen to be four of the more liberal ones. George W. already said he likes judges in the vein of [Clarence] Thomas and [Antonin] Scalia, so these are really right-wing, scary appointments that will make our country leap back in time.”
Are you excited about Joseph I. Lieberman?
“You know, Bill Richardson got a bum rap,” says Mrs. Brinkley, an outspoken environmentalist who has worked closely with the energy secretary on nuclear and other issues. “He would have made an amazing running mate with Al Gore … but Lieberman is an excellent choice as well.”
Richard B. Cheney?
“Who in their right mind would vote for cop-killer bullets?” she asks.
Don’t you hunt?
“I used to live in Mexico and go out into the jungle and shoot coconuts out of the trees,” she says. “I got pretty good at it. I could shoot a coconut down in one or two shots. But I’m a vegetarian and don’t like hunting.”
Continuing our discussion on name recognition or lack thereof of vice-presidential candidates, we wrote last of the letter Vice President John Adams sent his wife, Abigail: “My country has in its wisdom contrived for me the most insignificant office that ever the invention of man contrived or his imagination conceived.”
While Al Gore didn’t write in to argue, we did receive plenty of other comment.
“My all-time favorite assessment of the office came from John Nance Garner: ‘Ain’t worth a bucket of warm spit,’ ” writes Jim Weidman, public relations director of the Heritage Foundation.
“But,” he adds, “if Adams and Garner were around today, they’d be the first to say: ‘We’ve come a long way, baby.’ ”
“Though the grand tradition of marginalizing the No. 2 post continued through FDR [Franklin Delano Roosevelt], that all changed with [Dwight D.] Eisenhower, who believed the veep should be both fully prepared to assume the top slot (should the unthinkable happen) and should be given meaningful executive responsibilities,” says Mr. Weidman.
“The nature and extent of those responsibilities has varied widely since then hinging on a number of factors ranging from the personal relationship between president and vice president to the strengths and ambitions of the individuals involved.”
It just so happens that on Wednesday morning at 9:30, one day before the vice-presidential debate, Heritage (214 Massachusetts Ave. NE) is hosting a round-table discussion of the changing role of the vice presidency and its effect on American politics.
Politics and art
Sometimes they mix, and sculptor Frederick Hart certainly benefited from his share of political connections.
And vice versa.
In 1985, President Reagan appointed the carver, who died unexpectedly in August, to a five-year term on the Commission of Fine Arts. In 1996, politicians gathered with him as a white Italian marble statue of Sen. Richard Russell was unveiled in the rotunda of what is today the Russell Senate Office Building.
And he has created other statues and busts: former President Jimmy Carter (the full-length statue stands on the grounds of the Georgia state Capitol) and a grinning Sen. Strom Thurmond (on display in the U.S. Capitol).
Yet his best works weren’t political. He got his start at the Washington National Cathedral, fetching coffee mostly as an apprentice. But he worked his way up, and now is credited for creating many of the greatest religious sculptures of the 20th century.
This Friday, within the giant Gothic cathedral he helped carve on Wisconsin Avenue, friends will hold a memorial for Mr. Hart. Among them, author Tom Wolfe, who says, “He is, and I do not say this lightly, America’s greatest sculptor.”
Ironically, the October feature in the cathedral’s Rare Book Library Exhibit Room: “Transcendence and Renewal: A Memorial Retrospective” exhibit of works by Frederick Hart.