Ex Marks the Spot

I'm writing a book, going to the opera, and giving clients advice about how to handle politics. Do I miss being governor? Not for a second.
Ex Marks the Spot
Ready, willing, and abe: At the Lincoln Memorial in D.C.
Photograph by Pam Francis

NOT FOR ONE MINUTE DO I regret not being in office. Not for a second. I’ve always loved what I was doing, whatever and wherever it was. If I don’t enjoy what I am doing, I’d better change it—or change my mind. I loved being governor. I had a great time, and I loved affecting public policy. I did things that I look back on and I think: They were important; they were good. But I have a lot more freedom being out of office.

And I feel so lucky. When I left office, I didn’t have a dime. I didn’t own a house or a car. I had to get busy and make a living. I’d get real nightmares that I’d be living in a trailer in my daughter’s driveway. My God! I don’t know if it would be worse for her or me! So I felt really lucky to work with Harry McPherson and Berl Bernhard’s law firm in Washington, and then when Jack Martin [the founder and chairman of Public Strategies] talked to me about opening an office in New York, I jumped at the opportunity. Now I spend approximately half my time in New York City and half my time in Austin.

What I do is advise executives, mainly of corporations, on their relationship with the public, including government. I help them address a myriad of situations. Maybe the company has an image it would like to change. Maybe it is concerned about legislation that it would like to assist or defeat. It could be that there is a public official that they would like to have me talk to on their behalf. I’ve had clients that experienced change in personnel at the top, and the new person in charge would like the company to take on his or her vision rather than that of the previous administration. I advise companies and help them develop strategies to address their needs.

I still love politics, because it is the most pervasive institution in anyone’s life. Other than family or religion, no other activity so affects your life and the life of your children and grandchildren. Look at what will transpire in this country because of the government, and it can have good or devastating consequences. You can either do great things or you can do things that will take generations to change. I look now at the attitude of the administration and the Congress toward the environment, and for the first time in my life, I’m frightened. I can’t think of a time when I’ve really been frightened by the federal government. I look at the area of women’s rights, particularly reproductive choice. I look at what is transpiring in public schools. It’s going to take generations to alter what’s being done, and

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