The Secret Life of Kitty Lyons: Dan Rather and Election Night 2000

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The Secret Life of Kitty Lyons by Maggie Cutler  


Aural Sex, Rather Good

Ever since the election, everyone’s been obsessing over “the people’s choice.” Me, I’ve been obsessing about People’s choice. Because when that terribly influential magazine voted to award the title of “the sexiest newsman alive” to John Roberts of CBS, Dan Rather had yet to cover election night. So I’m demanding a recount.

Dan’s status as world’s most attractive super-anchor gelled for me late that Tuesday, soon after the media called the Florida vote wrong — for the second time. When a guy betrays everything he thinks he stands for, the way Dan did, it makes him ultra-desirable. Why? Because you know he needs to crawl inside some woman and hide ’til he heals. As he would say (and did): “We’ve lived by the crystal ball, we’re eating so much broken glass. We’re in critical condition.”*

Well put, my love. When he’s charged up like this, excited and guilt-ridden, his down home ejaculations become baroque and strange. He says things like, “If a frog had side pockets, he’d carry a handgun.” Who could argue with that? Listening to him into the dawn, all I want is for him to talk to me the way he’s talking to the nation. Only a little bit dirtier.

“Kitty,” I have him say, “you’re hot enough to peel house paint.” It’s a phrase he used to describe the presidential race, and it makes me weak. “I’m hot as a Laredo parking lot; I’m crackling like a hickory fire,” I brag, throwing a couple of his other bon mots back at him. He grins. We clinch. He’s strong for sixty-nine, smells of sandalwood, lust, fear. And the Ratherisms keep coming.

“Turn the lights down, this party just got wilder,” he mutters huskily.

But I want to see. Because by now he has become a conduit for the entire electoral process. What’s the frequency? Mega. He’s charged up. Here in his pants he’s packing the rapacious ambition of the Bush clan, Gore’s pumped-up tenacity, the defiance of Greens and gun-owners. In his gut smolder the furies of blacks, single women, Cubans, Libertarians. And behind his surprised eyes hide bitter tears of Palm Beach jews whose ballots fell fallow upon the ground like Onan’s seed, abominations under law.

As I run my hands down along his stocky yet comforting frame, I’m “melting faster than ice cream in a microwave” (Dan’s phrase for Bush’s lead over Gore in Florida). But he’s not melting at all. He’s “like a squirrel in a cage,” replaying his mistakes over and over. If I want to get him romantic, I’ve got to get him to absolve himself; but how?

“It wasn’t you who stole this election,” I tell him.

He’s wondering if it was that woman who designed the butterfly ballot.

I shake my head no, and flutter against him.

I can sense the laundry list of blameworthy targets unfurling in his brain: Was it Nader? Modern polling techniques? The idiot who cut Florida into two separate time zones? Bush’s cousin at the Fox News Channel? Lawyers? Judges? Lack of precedent in overseas balloting law? The CIA?

I spank him playfully, No, no, no! “Give up?” I give him a look to match his description of Hillary’s Senate run: “hot and squalid as a New York elevator in August.”

He gives up.

“Oral sex, silly,” I announce, planting a big, smack-y kiss on his ever-so popular mandate. I grin up at him, and Dan finally gets the joke: if America wasn’t so freaked by Clinton’s hunger for It, Dubya wouldn’t have had a popsicle’s chance. Dan’s tension pops (as he would say, but didn’t) like a wad of Dubble Bubble long-ago in Wharton, Texas. It’s sticky, it’s all over his face, maybe even in his hair, he’s going to get yelled at, but the whole mess is droll as all hell.

He laughs, which I’ve never seen him do, until grateful tears fall from his eyes onto my breasts. I can definitely hand-count his ballot now. His vote is thick and warm in my palm, and it’s for me.

“I’ve got something that can really take your mind off Florida, I smile, inserting him into my ballot box, “and you can have it if you describe it to me in your fabulous election night words.”

The fit is perfect, and he delivers: “It’s, it’s . . . ” he stammers “‘tight as a too-short bathing suit on a too-long ride back from the beach?'”

“Aw, come on.”

“‘Tight as rusted lugnuts on a ’55 Ford?’

“More! More!”

    “‘Spandex tight!’ ‘Tick tight!’ ‘Jar-lid tight!'”

    Oh yeah. Dan and I are, as they say, “Too close to call.” We’re tight as Election 2000, that race to the bottom that Dan has called “nearly a sacred ritual,” a “back and forth, knock ’em down, get up, come back race” — a contest that can’t end well for any of the players in it.

    Except for me. This minute. Here.

* All direct quotes attributed to Rather in this piece were actually uttered by him on election night, even the one about frogs, although newspaper sources vary as to whether or not he used the word “squalid,” as quoted.

last week next week

Maggie Cutler ©2000 All rights reserved