The Grand Gulf arrangement was eventually upheld by the District of Columbia Court of Appeals, which had jurisdiction over cases involving federal regulatory agencies. The opinion was written by Judge Robert Bork, my old Constitutional Law professor. Just as he had been at Yale, he was all for states rights when it came to restrictions on individual liberty. On the other hand, when big business was involved, he thought the federal government should have the final say and protect business from meddlesome state efforts to look out for ordinary citizens. In 1987, in testimony I researched and wrote myself for the Senate Judiciary Committee, Borks decision in the Grand Gulf case was one of the grounds I cited for opposing his nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court.
The killings were both heartbreaking and perplexing, because the overall juvenile crime rate was finally declining. It seemed to me that the violent outbursts were due, at least in part, to the excessive glorification of violence in our culture and the easy availability of deadly weapons to children. In all the school shooting cases, including several others in which no deaths had occurred, the young perpetrators seemed to be enraged, alienated, or in the grip of some dark philosophy of life. I asked Janet Reno and Dick Riley to put together a guide for teachers, parents, and students on the early warning signals troubled young people frequently exhibited, with suggested strategies on how to deal with them.
While we were getting organized and dealing with the controversies in the press, most of my time in January and February was devoted to filling in the details of the economic plan. On Sunday, January 24, Lloyd Bentsen appeared on Meet the Press. He was supposed to give nonspecific answers to all questions regarding the details of the plan, but he went a little further than that, announcing that we would propose a consumption tax of some kind and that a broad-based energy tax was under consideration. The next day, interest rates on the governments thirty-year bond fell from 7.29 to 7.19 percent, the lowest rate in six years.
A day or so after I returned, I got a call from my friend Harry Thomason, producer of the successful TV show Designing Women, which his wife, Linda Bloodworth, wrote. Harry was the brother of Danny Thomason, who sang next to me in the church choir. Hillary and I had gotten to know him and Linda in my first term when he came back to Arkansas to film a Civil War television movie, The Blue and the Gray. Harry told me I could make silk out of this sows ear, but I had to move fast. He suggested I go on the Johnny Carson show and poke fun at myself. I was still shell-shocked and told him I needed a day to think about it. Carson had been having a field day with the speech in his monologues. One of his more memorable lines was The speech went over about as well as a Velcro condom. But there really wasnt much to considerI couldnt end up any worse off than I already was. The next day I called Harry and asked him to try to set up the Carson appearance. Carson normally didnt invite politicians on the show, but apparently he made an exception because I was too good a punching bag to pass up, and because I agreed to play the sax, which he could use as an excuse to keep his ban at least on nonmusical politicians. The sax argument was Harrys idea, not the last clever one he would think up for me.
The guard took a look at us, figured it out, and let us in. We had the whole exhibit to ourselves. It was wonderful, and Ive liked Rothko ever since. When we were done, we went out to the garden, and I picked up the sticks. I suppose I was being a scab for the first and only time in my life, but the union didnt have a picket line outside the museum and, besides, politics was the last thing on my mind. After I paid my cleaning-up dues, Hillary and I stayed in the garden for another hour or so. There was a large, beautiful Henry Moore sculpture of a seated woman. Hillary sat in the womans lap, and I sat beside her talking. Before long, I leaned over and put my head on her shoulder. It was our first date.
The pattern of good policy and bad politics wasnt confined to legislative matters. I organized the governors office without a chief of staff, giving different areas of responsibility to Rudy Moore, Steve Smith, and John Danner, a policy analyst from California whose wife, Nancy Pietrafesa, was on old friend of Hillarys. Nancy was working in the administration, too, on education. President Kennedy had organized his White House in a similar way, but his guys all had short hair, boring suits, white shirts, and dark, narrow ties. Rudy, Steve, and John all had beards and were less constrained in their dress code. My conservative critics in the legislature had a field day with them. Eventually, several inter-office conflicts broke out. I decided to make Rudy chief of staff, have Steve oversee a lot of the policy initiatives, and release John Danner and his wife, Nancy, from their responsibilities. With an inexcusable loss of nerve, I asked Rudy to tell them. He did it and they quit. Although I tried to talk to them about it later, our relationship never recovered. I doubt that they ever forgave me for not handling it myself, and I dont blame them. They were good people who worked hard and had good ideas; through inexperience, I had put them in an impossible situation. It was my mistake.