Many people play-act at bipartisanship in Washington, but Tony Blankley was the real deal - when he needed to be. I suspect he preferred the clever baton he wielded to orchestrate feisty attacks on Democrats in Congress and on my then-boss President Clinton when we engaged each other in the 1990s. But when that music had to stop and serious business needed doing, Tony would stop by the West Wing or give a call and we would find some way to harmonize.
My favorite days were when he’d trudge down to the White House for live shots on the morning shows and we’d each take our turn at our talking points and then retire to my office for coffee and sober discussion. He was funny, insightful, fiercely loyal to his boss, House Speaker Newt Gingrich, and to his GOP House caucus. But he listened carefully, respected my point of view and always found some way to disagree agreeably. One of my favorite pictures is of the two of us mugging for the camera after a joint interview, pretending to punch each other’s lights out but smiling all the way.
Tony also saved my neck one day in the midst of the ferocious battle over the federal budget in 1995. I suggested at a press briefing that Mr. Gingrich’s interest in seeing Medicare “wither away” was because he thought old people should probably shrivel up and die, too. That was too much for the speaker and he more or less told President Clinton that there would be no more negotiating until I was sent packing. Tony intervened and rescued my job after coaxing me to eat a little humble pie at the podium. I only wish I could have had some way to return the favor for a class act, a brilliant writer and someone who knew what the important things in life and in Washington are really about.
Mike McCurry was press secretary to President Clinton and director of communications for the Democratic National Committee.