Ship of State

Hart still had plenty of ideas, and he expanded on them at the early debates in New Hampshire and Iowa--when the other candidates would let him, that is. But the issue of Hart's cruise control kept coming up. "There is a difference between public morality and private morality," Hart pronounced at one January debate.

Not enough of a difference, apparently. After a poor showing in the Super Tuesday polling, Hart gave up for good on March 12, 1988. While he retreated to his home up Troublesome Gulch, his staffers cleaned out the donated Gilpin Street office, dumping bundle after bundle of campaign paraphernalia into the trash--where they were found by Stan Oliner of the Colorado Historical Society. "I still don't know what made me go to that dumpster," Oliner says. "My fingers went in it, through the snow, and here came a bunch of letters." He took them back to the museum, dried them on the radiator, notified Hart staffers of what he'd found--and that was the start of Collection Number 1246, the "Papers of Gary W. Hart."

While Hart's more traditional papers are at the University of Colorado, this collection may offer a truer glimpse into what makes a politician run--and what he runs from. The files are filled with phone messages, Christmas cards, potential speaking engagements (Texas Farmers Union, Galveston Mexican-Americans, Prince Georges [Maryland] County Board of Trade, Iowa Catholic Conference, U.S. Chamber of Commerce Council on Small Business, Poor People's Campaign, Irish Immigration Reform Movement, Northern Illinois Homebuilders), requests for memorabilia (from Punchdrunk Man Reader, a new book, and from the Willard Smith Racquetteville Library of Political Americana), resumes, resignations, donations ($1 from George Hooker: "I am fourteen, 3.70 GPA, love America, and believe in Gary Hart"), bills (a lawyer wanted Friends of Gary Hart to pay off a $727 Federal Express bill, pronto) and suggestions. Many, many suggestions. "The Battle of New Orleans" would make a great comeback song, advised one fan, but "don't play possum too long." Raffaele Martini Pandozy of NY, NY, sent $50, a copy of his manifesto The New Humanism, which would revolutionize the teaching of art, and this odd observation: "Unfortunately, many Americans will not be able to grasp the limits of your visions, but they will be able to judge upon the strength of your character."

Dr. Jonathan Kelly liked Hart's character just fine. "I am personally sorry for the recently publicized turmoil in your personal life which results in you dropping out of the presidential race," he wrote in November 1987. "On a just completed trip to Israel, my wife and I met an Armenian shopkeeper in old Jerusalem who believes that you are a man who can save the United States and maintain our position as a beacon of freedom for all. I am sending you his name and address...His only criticism is that you are too soft on Turkey."

"Buddy" was eager for Hart to get back in the game but wary of revealing his true identity. "I can deliver to you enough publicity that you will be elected," he promised. "Just one of these things is the original, uncut tape of the killing of JFK which will prove that it was Fidel Castro who caused it to be done. There are other such things available to me..."

Other correspondents offered nothing but their own support.
"I am a sinner," wrote Linda Hawthorne of Nevada City, California, a self-professed "patriot" when the word had a different meaning. "I have committed transgressions of the moral law. It is easy to identify those acts that are transgressions because I wish I had not committed them. The only remedy is to ask forgiveness of those we have harmed and commit to repentance. If this is in your heart, a simple statement to that effect should re-establish the trust the American people need to have in a candidate for the nation's highest office. You might have to spell 'repent' to the press--the freedom of the press knows no repentance!"

Not so fast, said Dan Leite of Columbus, Ohio, a Hart delegate in 1984 who took a break from a "busy work schedule" to counsel his candidate: "Being a former reporter myself, I would like to offer one small piece of advice, if I may, on the issue of 'attacking' the press. I know it has been harsh on you, but I hope you won't go overboard with attacking their position. By no means is the press perfect, but they can do some good for the campaign."

Virginia Duprenberger of Loveland sent a copy of the poem "Don't Quit," along with other instructions: "Fight on! Please don't give up your young and full of good ideas we poor tax-paying people need a voice. Rich get richer, Reagan, Sinatra, actors' best friends, millionaires should be taxed heavy--not the poor. Charity begins at home...Women do anything for a buck. Donna? Money talk, BS walks."

"How many American have skeletons in their closets!" chimed in Marge and Rosie. "Tell your wife to stand by her man. Two housewives from New Jersey think you have a good shot at it. Go for it, Gary." (Gary didn't, but Hillary Clinton followed Marge's and Rosie's advice when she sat beside hubby Bill during his campaign-saving 1992 Sixty Minutes interview.)

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