In the Loop: Chatting with Mike McCurry and Frank Fahrenkopf


Former Clinton White House spokesman Mike McCurry, now a partner at government relations firm Public Strategies Washington, and Frank Fahrenkopf, the former RNC chairman who now leads the American Gaming Association. (For The Washington Post)
October 2, 2012

Discussion about expectations for Wednesday night’s debate between President Obama and Mitt Romney has mostly focused on the candidates themselves: Who’s playing the lower-the-bar game? Who needs a breakout performance?

But what happens on that stage has much to do with the planning by the folks at the Commission on Presidential Debates, the nonpartisan group that sponsors and produces the face-offs between White House aspirants.

Before the presidential candidates get their grilling, the Loop thought it would be a good time to turn some questions on the commission’s co-chairs, former Clinton White House spokesman Mike McCurry — now a partner at government relations firm Public Strategies Washington — and Frank Fahrenkopf, a former Republican National Committee chairman who now leads the American Gaming Association.

Q&A with Mike McCurry:

Which Cabinet secretary would you most like to hang out with, and what would you do?

For fun, having a beer with Leon Panetta, and for conversation, asking Hillary Clinton what was the weirdest thing that happened in her travels around the planet.

What’s your favorite non-work-related Web site/app/magazine?

The Christian Century, a remaining bastion of common sense in the mainstream Protestant church.

Fill in the blank: People would be surprised to know that I _________.

I am completing a master’s degree at Wesley Theological Seminary.

What’s your dream job?

Not ordained minister . . . . God has standards for things like that. But running a credible program that gets people thinking about how they treat each other in public life.

What motivated you to go into public service?

My dad, who died this past summer. He was a career civil servant and taught me to believe that government can indeed help people who need it.

Favorite TV show?

“Newsroom.”

Which character from that show do you most identify with?

Charlie Skinner, the Sam Waterston character. He gets things right and he likes bourbon.

What subject, other than your work, do you know the most about?

Old Testament influences on the New Testament. . . . We should pay more attention.

What’s the best job you ever had?

I told President Clinton once he gave me two great jobs, but being State Department spokesman was more fun and challenging than being White House press secretary.

Fill in the blank: I’m scared of _________________.

Dying before I have grandchildren.

What’s one word you wish people would use to describe you?

Lovable.

You can draft one person in the private sector to come work for the federal government. Who would it be, and what would you have them do?

Billy Shore, founder of Share Our Strength. I’d have him reorganize programs that help the poor and hungry and I’d give him the authority to require every political appointee to figure out how to serve their local community.

Q&A with Frank Fahrenkopf:

Which Cabinet secretary would you most like to hang out with, and what would you do?

Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood, and we would play golf.

What’s your favorite non-work-related Web site/app/magazine?

I guess it could be considered work-related, but I love National Journal.

Fill in the blank: People would be surprised to know that I _________.

Was born in Brooklyn.

What’s your dream job?

To play shortstop for the L.A. Dodgers.

What motivated you to go into public service?

As trite as it sounds, I really did get involved in politics to make a difference.

Favorite TV show?

“Game of Thrones.”

Which character from that show do you most identify with?

I like Jon Snow. He has a quiet strength and a sense of integrity about him in an otherwise pretty crazy world.

What subject, other than your work, do you know the most about?

Baseball.

What’s the best job you ever had?

Being President Ronald Reagan’s RNC chairman.

Fill in the blank: I’m scared of _________________.

Continued economic hardship for our country.

What’s one word you wish people would use to describe you?

Integrity.

You can draft one person in the private sector to come work for the federal government. Who would it be, and what would you have them do?

My wife, Mary Fahrenkopf, to head the budget office. She’s really good at it!

Background Check is a Loop feature in which we grill various government types about their lives on and off the clock. Please send suggestions for future subjects to intheloop@washpost.com.

What say you, Citizen?

Forget the expectations game and all that debate prep. It turns out that Mitt Romney has a secret weapon at his disposal that will guarantee a smooth, gaffe-free performance during his debate tomorrow night with President Obama.

He revealed its existence in October 2011, after a Florida town hall meeting during which the former Massachusetts governor had apparently not stumbled, insulted the audience or alienated a U.S. ally. A woman congratulated him on doing so well without the use of a teleprompter, to which he replied, according to our colleague Phil Rucker: “You didn’t see the teleprompter? It’s in my watch, actually. I just look down.”

We get that Romney was joking, but remember that phantom bulge in President George W. Bush’s jacket during his debate with challenger Sen. John Kerry back in 2004 that fueled conspiracy theories?

So if you see him checking the time tomorrow night . . .

Also worth noting — in addition to Romney’s confident assessment of his own prowess at public speaking — is that the headline of the story in which the quote appears is “Republicans mock Obama’s teleprompter use.”

But that was waaay back when the GOP line was that Obama couldn’t string a cogent sentence together without the magical screen.

How times have changed.

Ready for four more

On Thursday, Education Secretary Arne Duncan said he was “in for the long haul,” hoping Obama would keep him around in a second term.

On Friday, Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan was — or tried to be — slightly more evasive when asked what his intentions were.

Donovan, appearing on C-Span with our colleague Brady Dennis and Wall Street Journal reporter Alan Zibel, was asked whether he “anticipated” staying on for a second term.

“I anticipate the president being able to make that decision when he’s reelected,” Donovan said, smiling awkwardly. “It’s up to him. I’ve loved serving him,” Donovan went on, “but ultimately he’s going to decide who his team is.”

“Would you accept the invitation?” C-Span host Greta Brawner pressed.

“All I’m going to say,” Donovan said, “is I’ve loved what I’m doing. I think we’re making a real difference in families’ lives. I’m very, very happy with the work that I’m doing.”

Hmmm . . . doesn’t even rise to the level of the traditional nondenial denial. Sure sounds like he’d be very, very happy to stay.

With Emily Heil

The blog: washingtonpost.com/
intheloop. Twitter: @InTheLoopWP.

Al Kamen, an award-winning columnist on the national staff of The Washington Post, created the “In the Loop” column in 1993.
SECTION: {section=politics, subsection=decision2012}!!!
INITIAL commentConfig: {includereply=true, canvas_permalink_id=washpost.com/8bvh5zpd9k, allow_comments=true, commentmaxlength=2000, includeshare=true, display_comments=true, canvas_permalink_app_instance=m6yzjj840m, display_more=true, moderationrequired=false, includefeaturenotification=true, canvas_allcomments_id=washpost.com/km4ey0dajm, comments_period=14, defaultsort=reverseChronological, includevoteofftopic=false, allow_videos=false, includesorts=true, markerdisplay=post_commenter:Post Commenter|staff:Post Writer|top_commenter:Post Forum|top_local:Washingtologist|top_sports:SuperFan|fact_checker:Fact Checker|post_recommended:Post Recommended|world_watcher:World Watcher|cultuer_connoisseur:Culture Connoisseur|weather_watcher:Capital Weather Watcher|post_contributor:Post Contributor, childrenitemsperpage=3, includeheader=true, includeverifiedcommenters=true, defaulttab=all, includerecommend=true, includereport=true, maxitemstop=3, source=washpost.com, allow_photos=false, maxitems=15, display_ugc_photos=false, includepause=true, canvas_allcomments_app_instance=6634zxcgfd, includepermalink=false}!!!

UGC FROM ARTICLE: {allow_comments=true, allow_photos=false, allow_videos=false, comments_period=14, comments_source=washpost.com, default_sort=, default_tab=, display_comments=true, is_ugc_gallery=false, max_items_to_display=15, max_items_to_display_top=3, moderation_required=false, stream_id=}!!!

FINAL commentConfig: {includereply=true, canvas_permalink_id=washpost.com/8bvh5zpd9k, allow_comments=true, commentmaxlength=2000, includeshare=true, display_comments=true, canvas_permalink_app_instance=m6yzjj840m, display_more=true, moderationrequired=false, includefeaturenotification=true, canvas_allcomments_id=washpost.com/km4ey0dajm, comments_period=14, defaultsort=reverseChronological, includevoteofftopic=false, allow_videos=false, includesorts=true, markerdisplay=post_commenter:Post Commenter|staff:Post Writer|top_commenter:Post Forum|top_local:Washingtologist|top_sports:SuperFan|fact_checker:Fact Checker|post_recommended:Post Recommended|world_watcher:World Watcher|cultuer_connoisseur:Culture Connoisseur|weather_watcher:Capital Weather Watcher|post_contributor:Post Contributor, childrenitemsperpage=3, includeheader=true, includeverifiedcommenters=true, defaulttab=all, includerecommend=true, includereport=true, maxitemstop=3, source=washpost.com, allow_photos=false, maxitems=15, display_ugc_photos=false, includepause=true, canvas_allcomments_app_instance=6634zxcgfd, includepermalink=false}!!
Comments
SECTION: {section=politics, subsection=decision2012}!!!
INITIAL commentConfig: {includereply=true, canvas_permalink_id=washpost.com/8bvh5zpd9k, allow_comments=true, commentmaxlength=2000, includeshare=true, display_comments=true, canvas_permalink_app_instance=m6yzjj840m, display_more=true, moderationrequired=false, includefeaturenotification=true, canvas_allcomments_id=washpost.com/km4ey0dajm, comments_period=14, defaultsort=reverseChronological, includevoteofftopic=false, allow_videos=false, includesorts=true, markerdisplay=post_commenter:Post Commenter|staff:Post Writer|top_commenter:Post Forum|top_local:Washingtologist|top_sports:SuperFan|fact_checker:Fact Checker|post_recommended:Post Recommended|world_watcher:World Watcher|cultuer_connoisseur:Culture Connoisseur|weather_watcher:Capital Weather Watcher|post_contributor:Post Contributor, childrenitemsperpage=3, includeheader=true, includeverifiedcommenters=true, defaulttab=all, includerecommend=true, includereport=true, maxitemstop=3, source=washpost.com, allow_photos=false, maxitems=15, display_ugc_photos=false, includepause=true, canvas_allcomments_app_instance=6634zxcgfd, includepermalink=false}!!!

UGC FROM ARTICLE: {allow_comments=true, allow_photos=false, allow_videos=false, comments_period=14, comments_source=washpost.com, default_sort=, default_tab=, display_comments=true, is_ugc_gallery=false, max_items_to_display=15, max_items_to_display_top=3, moderation_required=false, stream_id=}!!!

FINAL commentConfig: {includereply=true, canvas_permalink_id=washpost.com/8bvh5zpd9k, allow_comments=true, commentmaxlength=2000, includeshare=true, display_comments=true, canvas_permalink_app_instance=m6yzjj840m, display_more=true, moderationrequired=false, includefeaturenotification=true, canvas_allcomments_id=washpost.com/km4ey0dajm, comments_period=14, defaultsort=reverseChronological, includevoteofftopic=false, allow_videos=false, includesorts=true, markerdisplay=post_commenter:Post Commenter|staff:Post Writer|top_commenter:Post Forum|top_local:Washingtologist|top_sports:SuperFan|fact_checker:Fact Checker|post_recommended:Post Recommended|world_watcher:World Watcher|cultuer_connoisseur:Culture Connoisseur|weather_watcher:Capital Weather Watcher|post_contributor:Post Contributor, childrenitemsperpage=3, includeheader=true, includeverifiedcommenters=true, defaulttab=all, includerecommend=true, includereport=true, maxitemstop=3, source=washpost.com, allow_photos=false, maxitems=15, display_ugc_photos=false, includepause=true, canvas_allcomments_app_instance=6634zxcgfd, includepermalink=false}!!
Show Comments