This story was published when Dee Dee Myers was Bill Clinton's campaign spokeswoman, shortly before Clinton defeated incumbent President George H.W. Bush. Upon Clinton's inauguration Jan. 20, 1993, Myers became the first female (and second youngest) White House press secretary, a position she held until December 22, 1994.
Myers was born Sept. 1, 1961, in Rhode Island but grew up in the Valencia Hills subdivision and graduated from Hart High School in 1979.
The seduction was swift, and it happened beside a Xerox machine. Dee Dee Myers was a lowly political grunt, running the copier for the 1984 Mondale-for-President campaign in Santa Monica. It was monotonous work, all for a losing cause. But politics — with its quick pulse and intoxicating possibilities — bewitched her nonetheless.
Eight years have slid by, and today Myers wears a few more stripes. As press secretary for presidential candidate Bill Clinton, she is at the epicenter of American politics — one of the most prominent members of the Arkansas governor's campaign entourage.
If Clinton holds his lead and wins the presidency next month, Myers, a native [sic] of Valencia, may clamber still higher up the political heap. Just 31, she could become the first woman to serve as press secretary for an American President.
Hers is a vintage tale of local kid makes good, and it doesn't surprise those who have watched her grow:
"Dee Dee has been out there in the fields, toiling away, and now she has gotten her break," says state Sen. Art Torres of Los Angeles, an old friend and former boss. "It's been a quick ascent, but she's been seasoned, she's been measured. ... She'd be a great asset to Clinton in Washington."
Myers is a superstitious person, so a life in Washington is something she refuses to discuss. Thoughts of post-election plans can jinx a candidate, she believes. In any case, she has no time.
Press secretaries, you see, bear some of a campaign's heftiest burdens. For starters, they are the media's spittoon — the receptacle of any and all complaints. Is the food crummy on Clinton's campaign plane? Is the candidate ducking questions? Was the weather miserable at a rally in Cleveland? If so, Myers will hear about it from the stressed-out, often cranky, journalists who accompany Clinton.
More fundamentally, the press secretary must cope with a relentless stream of questions that arise on the campaign trail. Free trade, health care, the deficit — Myers must deliver mini-dissertations on these and myriad other subjects, and do so in sound-bite-sized phrases that will win her boss favorable treatment on the evening news.
These tasks are staples of any political campaign, but they have been made considerably trickier by the nasty stretch of turbulence marking Clinton's run for the presidency. From Gennifer Flowers' allegations of adultery to the revelations about Clinton's avoidance of the draft, character assaults have given the governor's candidacy an extraordinary pummeling — one the political cognoscenti were convinced he could not survive.
By most accounts, Myers has weathered it all with aplomb.
"Dee Dee's had a rough year, but she's a quick study and she doesn't lose her cool," said Edward Walsh, who has covered four presidential campaigns and now writes about Clinton for the Washington Post. "The reporters see that and it has an effect. It serves her and the campaign well."
It was just past nightfall on the Clinton campaign jet, a chartered Boeing 727 aides call "Air Elvis." The day had been a seesaw for the candidate. Things started out strong, with a fiery rally and a speech full of catchy one-liners in Louisville, Ky. But by dusk President Bush was stealing the headlines — and perhaps the momentum — with a bombshell proposal for four debates. It was time for a Dee Dee Myers spin session.
"Spinning" is a skill a good press secretary masters early. It is the art of putting a positive glow on the day's events, of smoothing the jagged edges off a candidate's blunder, of sowing doubts in a journalist's mind.
Myers ambled toward the pizza-munching press corps at the rear of the plane. Soon, she was encircled by seven reporters and engaged in a friendly duel: Had Bush, on the defensive for weeks over the issue, suddenly upstaged Clinton?
Reporter: "You've got to admit that was a pretty good move by Bush. They've taken the initiative."
Myers: "Oh pulleeeeze! We've occupied the high ground on this issue for months and the American people know it. Bush can't erase that with one proposal."
Reporter: "Well, I don't know. ... How would you write it?"
Myers: "I'd probably say this: Bush, desperate to get back into the story, hurled a long Hail Mary today, proposing a politically obvious four debates in the hope that Clinton would reject them and look bad."
Hoots of laughter filled the cabin, and Myers, grinning broadly, sauntered back to her seat.
Later, Myers reflected on the episode over her cocktail of choice — a dry Bombay martini, straight up, with extra olives. Her mission, she said, had been threefold — to test theories, gather intelligence and do a bit of spin.
"I wanted to see what they were thinking, and sure enough it was your classic pack journalism — they had all come to the same conclusion, that this was some brilliant chess move by (Bush campaign manager) Jim Baker," she said. "What I do is just give them my opinion, and they're never quite sure if it's spin or if it's really my opinion."
Dee Dee Myers is actually Margaret Jane Myers, the second of three girls born to Steve and Judy Myers. A Navy pilot, Steve Myers moved his clan seven times in Dee Dee's first seven years, finally settling in Valencia. There, the outgoing middle sister enjoyed a Brady Bunch upbringing in suburbia: swim team practice, Mass on Sundays, straight As and a job at Magic Mountain.
The Myerses were conservative, Republican parents and politics was not a dinner table topic. Dee Dee figured she might follow her father into the Navy, or maybe become a journalist. Instead, she got a degree in political science at the University of Santa Clara, moved back to Los Angeles and signed on as a volunteer for Walter F. Mondale's 1984 campaign.
Before long, her boss, Mickey Kantor, said he saw she had "tremendous instincts for politics." By the time Mondale lost the election, Myers had become assistant press secretary for California.
Since then, she has lived the life of political gypsy, shifting her talents and allegiance from one politician to the next. After Mondale it was Torres, then Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley, whom she served as press secretary at City Hall and in his unsuccessful 1986 campaign for governor.
In 1990, Myers was spokeswoman for Dianne Feinstein in her gubernatorial bid, and a year later she helped former Police Chief Frank Jordan beat long odds to become mayor of San Francisco.
Immediately after that victory, she joined the Clinton team, thanks to Kantor, her old friend and Clinton's campaign chairman. The Arkansas governor, Myers says, is "the best candidate I've ever worked for."
Whether she was giving her opinion or just spinning was impossible to say.