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Reflections On Jack Germond

August 15, 2013


Famed political reporter Jack Germond died yesterday.

The tributes continue.

–CRAIG BROWNSTEIN, Edelman vice president (@PuckBuddys) : “We’re both dedicated horseplayers and for the last 15 years, I was proud to be included with him in the Hotline’s annual Triple Crown predictions. I don’t think either one of us nailed a Derby winner. But my best memory of him was political, not equine: I was a junior woodchuck at C-SPAN, and in Atlanta for the 1988 Dem Convention. I was waiting with Jack in a long line for a shuttle bus to be herded to some event. Atlanta in August — every bit as steamy as D.C. in August, maybe more so. Standing in the sweltering heat, I pulled off my blazer and noticed a pen had exploded in my shirt pocket, leaving a big blue stain. Jack looked at me, pulled his jacket back and said, ‘That’s nothing kid. Look at this!’ He too, had a pen incident. And given the man’s girth, his blue spot was a good deal larger than mine. ‘We’re both a couple of ink-stained wretches!’ he bellowed.”

–MO ELLEITHEE : “In 2000, I was working my first presidential campaign, as Bill Bradley’s New Hampshire press secretary. A few weeks after landing in Concord, I got a call from Jack Germond asking me to lunch. That alone was enough to blow the mind of this young operative. The legendary Jack Germond! When we got together a few days later, I was shocked at how laid-back and interested he was. When he heard that I had just come from Congressman Tom Udall’s office, and that I got my start as a high school volunteer for Mo Udall’s congressional campaign, his eyes lit up and he walked me through the history of Mo Udall’s ’76 campaign through the most fascinating series of war stories from covering it. One of the best political history lessons I’ve ever gotten. In this world of instant communications and campaign embeds with constant access, digital cams and twitter feeds, Jack Germond still got better and deeper insight into the candidates he covered than almost anyone does today. He didn’t just care about what they were saying. He wanted to know who they were. I wish there were more like him today.”

–JEFF GREENFIELD : “It was a winter day in early 1988, and we were gathering for a debate a couple of weeks before the New Hampshire primary. (Which party? What forum? Memory does not serve). Moments before the debate began, Jack Germond more or less staggered into the press room. He’d been in Iowa the day before, and a series of travel glitches had turned the always delightful Des Moines-Manchester journey into something approaching the Bataan Death March. It was clear he’d had little if any sleep, and the typewriter he was lugging — laughably described as ‘portable’ — only added to his burden. The combination of Jack’s travails, his exhaustion and – yes — his weight led me to fear for his long-term prospects. I should have known better. Making it to a significant political event did not drain Jack Germond; it restored him, energized him. In the years that followed, I would sometimes look back on that debate, delighted in how wrong I was about Jack Germond’s future. He was in every sense a long-distance runner.”

–MIKE McCURRY: “My favorite Jack memory of many: closing out the bar at the Sheraton Wayfarer with Germond and a rowdy bunch of reporters and campaign staff just before the Democratic presidential primary in N.H. in 1988. The next morning, I carefully explained to Gov. Bruce Babbitt that Jack was not likely to be seen for our scheduled 7a.m. breakfast. But down we went to the café anyhow. And there was Germond, rapping his fingers on the table, greeting us with a gruff, ‘Where ya been?’ and then a wink on the side to me.”

–ADAM NAGOURNEY: “Jack was like the reason a lot of us got into political journalism in the first place. He was the real, no-nonsense, thing: facts and opinion-based facts. It was always about the story; not about him. Loved that. A model for us all.”

–NINA TOTENBERG : “Jack WAS a novel, or at least straight out of one. From the time I first laid eyes on him during a New Hampshire primary, to a sunny day at the track, to the hilarious off-air moments on the set of ‘Inside Washington,’ he was always better than any newspaper character you could dream up. Irreverent, funny, adventurous, hard-drinking, hard-eating, hard-loving of Alice, willing to go anywhere, any time for a story, and politically so prescient that if he told you something, you took it to the bank right away. And Jack had a soft side, too, that you rarely saw — but it was there when you needed it. He, and everything he stood for in the ‘old journalism,’ will be missed more than anyone under 50 will ever realize.”

One Comment
  1. August 15, 2013 10:40 AM

    Perhaps so, Deke. But I well remember an episode of the McLaughlin Group wherein Fred Barnes predicted that soviet socialist republics like Ukraine and Kazakhstan would follow Poland and Czechoslovakia to freedom. Old Jack snorted in derision of such fantasy. Too far outside the Beltway for Jack, I guess. R.I.P. nonetheless.

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