Going back to the point that Aaron raised about the context in which John Edwards got all folksy with us by showing off his boots back in 2004: I can now add some perspective to both his memory and mine — that is, if hearing is believing.
First, let me share with you a passage that I wrote in the very first draft of the piece, a version I KNEW was too long. (The "Director’s Cut" version was one I thought would fit, until Cindi Scoppe told me it was 32 inches, of which I cut six for the print version.) It went like this:
… And we’re talking impressions and memories here. None of these events or observations struck me as anything worth noting in detail at the time, so my notes are sparse. But over time, without my intending it, an impression is formed. Human nature, I guess. But even without all the notes and details, I know exactly how he caused me to think of him as I do…
I had tried to reconstruct as much as I could from notes and the data trail of stories and editorials from the time. I was on vacation, and it was Sunday, but I dragged by daughter and granddaughter to the office with me after Mass to get my notes from the 2004 presidential primaries. I even listened to the beginning of a recording of the endorsement interview with Edwards, but decided after a minute of listening that I must have turned on the recorder after the crack about the boots.
So I searched my notes. No direct quote. I asked Cindi Scoppe, and she said without looking that she didn’t have it. She takes better notes than I do, but she’s a serious journalist — she doesn’t bother with the frivolous remarks that I often think are revelatory of character.
So I went with my best memory of what he said: “How do y’all like my boots?” And Aaron offered his perspective. Today, I decided to listen further in the hope of finding something to add to the record — seeing as how there was so much interest in this column.
And guess what I found at one minute and seven seconds, right at the point at which I was trying to get everybody to settle down from the opening pleasantries and get serious (apparently, tomfoolery had gone on longer than I had recalled)? Yep, it was the actual audio of the "boots" remark, which went like this:
ME: "Well, welcome."
EDWARDS: "Thank you. Have you noticed my shoes?" (general laughter as he props one on the table) "These are my boots that I wear in New Hampshire ’cause you can clomp aroun’ in ‘at snow an’ mess (inaudible), but it don’t exactly fit in Sou’ Calahna."
So right away I noticed two things: One, my memory wasn’t exactly right on the precise words he spoke. That’s embarrassing. But I feel much reinforced in terms of my characterization of the way he said it, and the exaggerated folksiness of it — which, of course, was my point. It sounds even more like an impersonation of early Andy Griffith than I had remembered. And mind you, this was right after he had breezed by the regular folks down in the lobby without giving them the time of day.
There is no sign on my recording of Aaron prompting the remark, but Aaron could well have said something just before that my recorder did not pick up. I trust Aaron’s memory on that.
As for the rest, click on this and give it a listen. I’ll be interested to see how it struck you.