GQ: Joe Trippi’s Wild Ride

An amazing story. Everything you saw on The West Wing was true — and more.

A failed campaign manager (Toby):

[H]e watched his first chosen candidate, Gary Hart, implode over Donna Rice, and his second, Dick Gephardt, win Iowa but lose the nomination to Michael Dukakis. He was bitter, cranky and broke. (He claims he’s still owed $89,000 in expenses. Then again, Howard Dean has yet to pay him a dime in salary.) For a great many reasons, he got disillusioned. With the system, with his career, with just about everything. Full of angst and disappointment—which, okay, he thrives on, but still—he gave it up.

The converted believer (Josh):

Steve McMahon […] started calling Trippi, hounding him to join the Dean campaign. “You gotta come see this guy,” he crowed about Howard. McMahon is one of Joe’s partners at Trippi, McMahon ” Squier, the consulting firm Trippi cofounded—and stayed with, even through his “disillusionment.” […] He begged and badgered until Trippi schlepped to Iowa with his duffel bag—like a child going to camp, he has his name written on masking tape across the front—where Dean was making an early, unnoticed appearance. Trippi stood on the sidelines and watched. He watched the energy, he watched the passion. He had it, fucking Howard Dean had it. “He spoke to me,” says Trippi. He was saying all the things Trippi didn’t think politicians, let alone Americans, believed anymore. Stuff about taking back your country. “YOU have the power!” Howard screamed. And Trippi fell in love.

His assistant (Donna):

“WHAT?” he screams into his cell phone. It’s Kristen Morgante—his fiercely capable assistant, a pretty 24-year-old who often prefaces her reports to Joe with “Listen, asshole.” “His mom’s gonna be calling me? ME? About what?” He moans like he’s just been stabbed. “Why, Kristen, why?” It turns out Howard’s mother is concerned that her son is worn-out and wants to discuss this with Trippi. Like a lot of people, Mrs. Dean is apparently under the impression that Howard actually listens to everything Trippi tells him.

A father who dies while he’s on the campaign trail (Josh again):

After that, Joe and his father planned a trip to Sicily. It was time to heal the wounds. But Joe took another race first—thinking, when it was over, then he’d go to Sicily. His father died before that could happen, alone in his chair, of a heart attack.

A hidden illness (Bartlet’s MS):

He hates to discuss it, but he’s sick. “I’m not really into this inquisition into my health,” he rants. Then, as is his custom, he simmers down (“Are you mad at me?”) and allows that, well, okay, having serious diabetes probably isn’t a good thing when you’re running a presidential campaign. (For a doctor.) He’s supposed to get lots of sleep, eat well and regularly, exercise and avoid stress. He admits that “every doctor I’ve ever seen has told me, ‘Get out of the business—you’re gonna kill yourself. This is the worst fucking business you can be in.’ ” He pauses. “So I’m stuck in the position of pitching the game of my life. And I don’t know if I can make it nine innings.”

Treated by the wife (Abby Bartlet):

His current doctor is Judith Steinberg Dean, Howard’s wife. Isn’t she worried about him? “Can we get over this already?” (The last thing he frickin’ needs, he explains, is The Washington Post’s Dan Balz asking how he feels every day.) Later he admits that occasionally Howard will ask his wife in Joe’s presence, “‘How’s he doing?’ And she keeps telling him it’s doctor-patient privilege,” says Trippi, strangely relieved that he can continue to kill himself.

There’s more. Read it.

posted January 30, 2004 12:27 PM (Politics) (2 comments) #


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The Trippi Story
The Furious Rise of the Anonymous Writer
Nader’s Negligence
Campaign Finance Reform: The Problem and Solution
Third Parties: Why They Spoil and How to Stop It
Gerrymandering: How Politicians Steal Votes and You Can Return Them


“Then again, Howard Dean has yet to pay him a dime in salary.”

Yeah. But he got paid a commission. About 10% is typical for a media company. The campaign spent $10,000,000 on ads. 10% of $10,000,000 is a lot of money.

posted by Luke Francl at January 30, 2004 05:20 PM #

I wonder if they spent so much on ads because of the commission he’d get. seems plausible.

Aaron, remember this. When it came time to put up or shut up the base that Trippi helped build for Dean shut up.

Also looks like he has a knack for picking losers.

posted by James at January 30, 2004 10:11 PM #

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Aaron Swartz (