The Breakfast Table

Oval Dreams


George Stephanopoulos is giving me bad dreams.

After you went to sleep, I stayed up too late again reading All Too Human, which is much better than the reviews would have you believe. So far, it reads like All the King’s Men, minus the lyricism: a politician with flaws and charms of equal enormity, enfolded by aides who are slowly but surely corrupted by him. Stephanopoulos is brutally frank about his own spiral downward, even recalling how he accosted the 8-year-old daughter of a man peddling scandal about Clinton, telling her, “Your father is a very bad man.” It’s as if, while absorbing the anger of Clinton’s daily tirades, he also soaked up all the shame his boss should have felt for his lying and cheating. The other image I can’t shake is of Bill and Hillary at breakfast, “her standing over him at the dining-room table, finger in his face, as he shoveled cereal into his mouth, his head bent close to the bowl.” So much for the dignity of the office.

The bit that gave me bad dreams, I think, was Stephanopoulos’ claustrophobic tale of the 1992 campaign, with his daily slog from 5 a.m. wake-up to all-day War Room to evening Stairmaster to 11 p.m. collapse, interrupted by Clinton phoning at 1 a.m. to harangue him, or by one of the cranky staffers on the campaign plane “calling from a holding room in some anonymous hotel, waiting for Clinton to leave a fund-raiser so they could return to the plane to fly half the night on a moldy sandwich for the privilege of getting up three hours later to start another day.” What ever made us think we wanted to cover a campaign?

I dreamed I was on an endless book tour with all-night flights that ended in Germany, where I’d missed my appointments for the day and found myself sleeping in a house occupied by John-John Kennedy (a dream morph, I think, of Stephanopoulos–also a handsome young political celebrity). Kennedy had a dog that kept running up and clamping its jaws on my hands, but no one could hear my pleas until finally I shouted “Help!” and woke up. It’s the first time I can remember ever actually calling out in my sleep. What do you think, doctor?