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Lunch With Karl (Rove)

In May of 2006, I was asked by an editor at the HuffingtonPost.com to write some articles for the popular online news and opinion site. One of my first pieces was a political piece entitled "Why I Left The Left." It got a tremendous response and was, subsequently, featured on many other sites, including RealClearPolitics.com and Yahoo.

Based on the success of my first article, I continued to write political pieces. A few weeks after my first piece was published, I received an email from the Undersecretary of Commerce, Frank Lavin, who complimented my work and said that if I was ever in Washington D.C., maybe we could have lunch. I told him that I was scheduled to go to Washington a few weeks from that date. Soon after, I received an email from Lavin asking if I'd like to have lunch in the West Wing of the White House with him and Karl Rove. Did he mean Karl Rove, the near-mythic architect of so many political victories? I was intrigued.

A few days later, I received another email invitation asking me to lunch at the White House with Lavin and Rove on July 20th at 12 noon. The Undersecretary asked me to come by his office first so that we could walk to the White House together.

Of course, I called all of my friends, where the news mostly didn't compute. The typical response that I received was, "What do you mean you're having lunch at the White House with Karl Rove?" Some people imagined that he liked my writings and was possibly looking for someone to replace the president's main speechwriter, Michael Gerson (who has the same last name as my wife, but is not a relative). I speculated as well, but did not have a clue as to the real reason that lead to my invitation.

I flew to D.C. with my 11-year-old son Julian. On the morning of my lunch date, I worked out early in the hotel's gym, as I wanted to be totally sharp for this unique event. Then, I put on my new suit and went to the Department of Commerce to meet Undersecretary Lavin, who greeted me warmly and gave me these special coins made by the Commerce Department. He told me how much he had enjoyed my articles and promptly cleared up the wild speculation about my visit stating that he had noticed in my bio that I am a songwriter and explained that every once in a while, he liked to invite interesting people from outside the beltway to the White House. Cool.

A little nervous waiting to meet Lavin and Rove at The White House.
 

Lavin, who insisted that I call him Frank, and I walked (seemingly for me, on air) the one block to the White House and entered one of the guard booths where the Undersecretary showed his credentials and joked with guards, who he obviously knew. Then, we walked in the front entrance of the West Wing. It was incredibly exciting. As we waited for Rove, Lavin introduced me to Budget Director David Portman, who was there with his wife. I had seen him on Fox News the night before and congratulated him on his informative appearance. He was very appreciative and I thought to myself, maybe these guys are so often interviewed that no one bothers to tell them how good they were, or weren't.

A couple of minutes passed and then Rove walked into the mess hall waiting area. He had on a black suit and thin blue tie and I remembered thinking how much thinner he looked in person. We were introduced and headed down the 10 stairs into the very small, but elegant White House mess where we sat at a table against the wall. Almost immediately, the new Secretary of the Treasury, Henry Paulson, and the National Security Advisor, Steven Hadley, came over to our table to say hello to Rove and Lavin. We were introduced and I remember that the moment had a surreal, almost Forrest Gump, nature. This realization was followed by the thought, "What am I doing here having lunch and meeting the movers and shakers of the free world?"

Lavin mentioned to Rove that I was a songwriter and that I had had a number of books published. Karl mentioned that he had read many of my political pieces and enjoyed them very much. Again, I thought to myself, "I'm having lunch in the White House with Karl Rove, who is telling me that he reads my articles? Okay."


The menu from lunch that day.

Rove is a very nice, warm and funny guy. He was genuinely interested in the new documentary project that I am working on called, Beatles Stories. He got a kick out of the fact that I had interviewed former First Daughter Luci Baines Johnson for the project. He insisted that I order the special of the day, a Mexican dish. Then, he jokingly picked up a plate and told me, "You can't leave the White House without taking something." He asked the waiter if there was a souvenir or two that he could give me. The waiter brought back a menu from that afternoon and an official White House box of M&Ms with the presidential seal on it.

After about an hour and 10 minutes, Rove's attractive assistant, Taylor, came in to tell him that he was needed back at his office. When I read the newspaper the next day, I learned that Rove went from our lunch to President Bush's meeting with the NAACP. Taylor joined us for dessert. I asked her if she was affected when she went home at night and turned on CNN, only to see them consistently bashing the people she works for and with. She said she wasn't particularly fazed by it.

That's the feeling that I received from the people that I met in the West Wing. There was great camaraderie, and the vibe was of both a dynamic and pleasant place to work. You could tell that the people who worked there liked each other.

After lunch, Taylor took Lavin and I back to Rove's office where I saw Rove's autograph from his idol, the 25th president, William McKinley. I could see the Oval Office. The door was closed, but the president was in there. I also saw Vice President Cheney's corner office. Black-and-white photographs of the president and vice president, individually and with others, adorned the walls.

Rove showed me the reception area where the heads of state wait before their meetings with the president. We exited out of the front of the West Wing where I noticed a microphone set-up. Frank told me that that was where the network correspondents received updates from the White House.

Rove and I said goodbye and I thanked him for the incredible thrill that I had just experienced.

During our meeting, Rove mentioned that he and his wife Darby enjoyed baseball. I promised to send him my latest book and I received this nice note from him a short while later.

All in all, my impromptu lunch at the White House was among the most memorable experiences of my life.






Comments | Post a Comment

this is a great story my friend. This must have been a great day for you.
Don't get too upset over these foolish leftists. these are not the people who are going to change their votes. On second thought, who knows, keep it up because when the curtain closes strange things can happen.

Posted by: billy

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