Ickes: Last of a Breed

ACORN Ideas and Issues Personal Writings

New Orleans Harold Ickes, Jr. may seem like the last of a breed, but he has been one of the great political organizers of this generation, usually way, way behind the scenes where what matters is the ability to get things done, rather than how much sugar he can put in everyone’s coffee. From time to time we have worked with Ickes, and even when not doing so have watched his work with admiration and the profound respect that is earned by true professionals. All of this made it fun to read the piece in today’s Times on Ickes’ work for Clinton in trying to lead super delegates into the Clinton corral and then hold them there once lassoed: a wildly hard job for a hard boiled pol!

I’ll spare you the career highlights film. It’s probably enough to say that if you go to this story on-line, the Times reminds you that you can read a piece from their magazine from 1997 on Ickes that they titled: “Bill Clinton’s Garbage Man.” More interestingly to me are a couple of classic quotes in the piece that speak volumes of Ickes value and spark, because only someone who has truly been to the rodeo and knows how to ride and has taken a fall would be so willing to be so categorically frank and forthright, even while maintaining absolute discretion where it matters.

Listen to some of this:

“I mean, I was fired publicly three days after the general election,” he said. “Learned it from The Wall Street Journal. Front page. Upper left hand quarter. You don’t forget that.”Now he finds himself, again and again, answering questions about what he is doing back here, given his history with Mr. Clinton and the obvious burdens of this campaign.”I recognize he has his frailties, as we all do, and some of them are pretty profound,” he said. “You’re wary but you accept it.”

That may be the most accurate summary of the love-hate relationship of the American public with President Clinton that exists.

Here’s another one that speaks dramatically to the life of the organizer:

Every day, he and aides churn through the list of the superdelegates, and he sends a list of names to Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Clinton of Democrats to call.

“They just thought the delegates would be there,” he said. “I remember Bill Clinton talking about how many delegate votes you need to get and he was like, ‘We didn’t have do to that in 1992.’ I said, ‘We sure did Mr. President.’ “

That’s the job! I am obviously not a fan of the role of super delegates in this close contest, but it’s hard to imagine anyone better at this than Ickes, so it won’t be over until it’s really over.

NY Times Caption: Harold M. Ickes is the Assistant to Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton’s Campaign Manager. He helped her husband win in 1996 and was then ousted as deputy chief of staff.