Did anyone know that the flip side of "high tech" is "high touch?" Or that wine coolers are a sign that Americans want more government regulation? And who were those guys with Lee Iacocca?
The "answers" came at a weekend retreat by House Democrats at the Greenbrier resort in the rolling mountains of West Virginia. It is a lovely place, full of such diversions as golf, tennis, sulfur baths, swimming, massages, horseback riding and abundant food.
More than 100 House Democrats, many with spouses and children, attended as part of the political resuscitation process in which the party is engaged, and they kicked off a weekend of meetings and seminars with a cocktail party and dinner last Friday night.
The featured speaker was Lou Tice, a motivational expert said to have inspired football and baseball teams to greatness and who is a friend of House Majority Leader James C. Wright Jr. (D-Tex.). Notwithstanding his experience, he had a tough assignment.
Much of his message is lost to history because reporters were excluded from all but one session during the weekend. But his ending is worth retelling. Framed against a huge white movie screen in the darkened room, Tice told Democrats they could feel more like winners if they approached life by changing the words of an old song.
"Sing it, 'I'm off to be the wizard, the wonderful Wizard of Oz. I know I am a whiz of a wiz because of the wonderful things I does," he said.
As chortling Democrats streamed out of the dining room, weary after the 70-minute presentation, a senior member waved a white linen napkin over his head to signal surrender.
The Democrats talked, or more precisely heard, about where America is going, where it is politically. They talked about economic policy, national defense and winning elections. They socialized and got to know one another better, and they heard a few things they probably never knew.
Like "high touch." This term was used by John Naisbitt in his book "Megatrends" and refers to a desire by consumers for personal attention in a high-tech society. It came to the Greenbrier courtesy of Regis McKenna, described in background material as "the philosophical guru of Silicon Valley."
McKenna told reporters Saturday morning that the high-technology society creates a demand for a high-touch society. "Nobody remembers who was on the cover of Time magazine last week, but everybody remembers who they had lunch with," he explained.
Next came Ira Weinstein, a marketing expert best remembered for the line, "It's in to be in, and it's out to be out." Reporters took that as their unofficial motto for the weekend.
Weinstein, who has helped corporations pitch lip balm, rental cars, instant cameras and bubble gum, said the country is moving back toward an appreciation of the family.
As part of this, he said, people want the government to help regulate responsibility, even while they want less government interference in other areas. Hence, the popularity of seat-belt laws in state legislatures. He tied this "responsibility trend" to the growing popularity of low-alcohol wines, which he said is an expression of "I want to be in ontrol; I don't want to be drunk."
If it is any consolation, it was not easy to follow at the time either.
Not only were the sessions and meals closed to the news media, efforts at journalistic enterprise were dealt with harshly, as New York Times reporter Jonathan Fuerbringer discovered.
On Friday night, Fuerbringer noticed Chrysler Corp. Chairman Lee A. Iacocca walk out of the dining room, accompanied by a sizable entourage. Fuerbringer approached Iacocca to ask him to join reporters at a table for a drink. Before Iacocca answered, two men grabbed Fuerbringer by the arms, pulled him away and told him to "move along." The two were later identified as high-level Chrysler employes.
Democrats arrived by chartered train to the sounds of a school band. A dozen or so green limousines were there to carry them across the street to the resort. In keeping with their heritage, most of the Democrats chose to walk, and some waved tiny American flags. One unidentified Democrat, who picked luxury over exercise, leaned out of his limo and yelled, "This is how Republicans live, isn't it?"
After all passed by, Rep. Richard A. Gephardt (D-Mo.), who had helped organize the event, came back down the path toward the train station, nearly at a trot. Said Gephardt, a man noted for his smooth political skills, "I forgot to thank the band."
The main event Saturday night was a country-and-western dinner dance that featured the U.S. Navy country band, in dress blues, and members of Congress in jeans and boots singing, playing harmonicas and gibing at colleagues.
The performance ended with a medley that began with "The Battle Hymn of the Republic," ended with "Dixie" and reportedly brought down the house.
The next day, former Reagan White House communications director David R. Gergen told the Democrats they should take the act on the road. "This was not the Democratic Party I saw at the Democratic National Convention in San Francisco," Gergen said later.