NEW YORK — Kellyanne Fitzpatrick Conway’s life has come full circle.

The little girl from Atco, N.J., raised in a collaborative effort by her mother, a grandmother and two aunts, all living under the same roof, now has her mother living in her home, helping her and her husband with their four children.

“Funny how that happened,” she says of her mother moving in after she became Donald Trump’s presidential campaign manager in August. “It is the way I was raised and, honestly, it really has been amazing.”

Below her Fifth Avenue office in Trump Tower, tourists crowd the glistening peach marble lobby, hoping to catch a glimpse of the future president. Secret Service officers patiently allow them to linger long enough to see the gilded elevator doors open, then move them along to keep the lobby fluid.

Up the tower, retired Army Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, Trump’s pick for national security adviser, stands in the 14th floor lobby with a young man in a crisp white shirt and navy tie, discussing an article about the general published that day. Vice President-elect Mike Pence breezes by with a broad smile and a wave, then takes a seat in a glass conference room filled with advisers.

Down the hall, dozens of young people manning laptops and phones or watching television monitors fill the transition team’s war room. Chocolates fill candy dishes on desks everywhere, and Omarosa Manigault, a first-season contestant on Trump’s reality-TV show “The Apprentice,” huddles with a young staffer on a phone in an office around a corner from the offices of Conway and campaign CEO Steve Bannon.

Conway’s office is an uncluttered workspace filled with family photos, bookcases, a white board with “#winning” and “Make America Great Again” written in green marker, a faux fireplace, a glass door leading to a small outdoor terrace with several chairs, and, left behind by former campaign manager Paul Manafort, a map of the country.

Conway, the first female campaign manager to win a presidential election, will become “counselor to the president” on Jan. 20, the day Donald J. Trump becomes the 45th president of the United States.

Unsurprisingly, she is beaming.

Trump team prepares to defend nominees against onslaught

Also from the Washington Examiner

Transition hopes to defuse the searing rhetoric that will be hurled at Trump’s nominees

01/09/17 12:01 AM

“Funny how that happened,” she says of her mother moving in after she became Donald Trump’s presidential campaign manager in August. (AP Photo)

“You want to hear about destiny? I was born Jan. 20, 1967. I will turn 50 years old on Inauguration Day, the day he is sworn in as president,” she says, deadpanning, “Honestly, I think my family is very relieved that they don’t have to think of a party idea.”

It’s a long way from her working-class upbringing in New Jersey’s “Blueberry Capital of the World.”

Yet she remains deeply connected to the blue-collar roots of an Italian family of four women who brought her up on limited financial means and a sense of boundless opportunity.

The Blueberry Princess

Energy, farm policy collide in the new Congress

Also from the Washington Examiner

Groups mobilize to ensure energy issues aren’t overlooked in the next agriculture bill.

01/09/17 12:01 AM

Conway’s unconventional childhood household “doted on me with everything that is important — love, attention, prayerfulness, patriotism, the value of being more of a giver rather than a taker,” she says.

That last trait sometimes made her a self-denying person early in her career: “Now it makes me have a much more grateful heart in a generous way.”

Her father left when she was around 2 years old; there was no alimony or child support so, at age 26 and with only a high school education, her mother “had to figure it out.”

“So we were middle class, maybe? Somedays I wonder. But it was a wonderful childhood, filled with family and cousins, great story-tellers and a lot of food because, in an Italian family, food is love.”

She cannot remember a time when something wasn’t cooking on her grandmother’s stove: “Anybody came in, it was like a full-course meal ready for them. There was no texting, saying can you call me to arrange to see each other. There was none of that. People just came over,” greeted by her grandmother wearing a pretty dress, an apron and a warm smile.

One of Conway’s favorite memories is of watching her family tell stories. Oddly, politics was never a subject around the dinner table, on her grandmother’s knee, or anywhere else.

Instead, politics came to her when she was a high school senior and the local newspaper gave her an assignment to cover the Democratic and Republican national conventions by watching them on television. This was a time when the three networks covered conventions gavel to gavel.

It was a way for the local paper to give readers in the small farming community a young person’s view of the political process.

“The party out of power goes first, so I covered the Democrats first and I thought that it was so cool that an Italian woman was Walter Mondale’s running mate,” she recalls. “That was truly ground-breaking to me in 1984.”

She thought Geraldine Ferraro, the first female nominee on a major-party presidential ticket, spoke substantively and offered a compelling personal story.

“But I disagreed personally with so many of the positons she took and the promises she made.”

Conway thought Geraldine Ferraro, the first female nominee on a major-party presidential ticket, spoke substantively and offered a compelling personal story. (AP Photo)

Then came her political awakening.

“I listened to Ronald Reagan a week later and here he was, literally, a different gender, four times my age, and from a different coast. And yet I just connected with him immediately. His message was aspirational and visionary and positive. It was also uplifting and hopeful,” she says.

One month later, Reagan came to Hammonton, N.J., when Conway had just been crowned the town’s Blueberry Princess. (Four years later she won the World Champion Blueberry Packing competition).

Conway met Reagan onstage when he spoke in Hammonton. A Reagan presidential library video of the event shows an excited crowd of 25,000 people at the event, waving “Italians for Reagan” and “Farmers for Reagan” signs, as the candidate refers to the town’s Italian heritage, Bruce Springsteen, the Hammonton Blue Devils and the St. Joseph Wildcats, for whom Conway played field hockey.

“I loved my hometown. It was truly a great moment, but after high school, I was also ready to see the world,” she says.

The “No” man

Conway went off to Trinity University, a Catholic college in Washington, D.C., then earned a law degree from George Washington University.

“I worked for Reagan’s pollster Richard Wirthlin for eight dollars an hour, loved it. Finished law school, clerked for a judge, politely declined an offer I had already received from a law firm, and then went right back into polling,” she says.

She went to work for pollster Frank Luntz and, in 1995 at age 28, started her own polling company.

“I went out on my own and never looked back,” she says.

Conway loved being an entrepreneur and a job creator with an emphasis on small business; it enabled her to see the whole country and much of the world, “because when they say, ‘How is it playing in Peoria?’ … I am the one who gets on the airplane and figures out how it is playing in Peoria.”

She had a successful career, with clients such as American Express, Hasbro, Major League Baseball and Vaseline, as well as conservative politicians such as former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and Pence, then an Indiana congressman. She specialized in polling, trend analysis and communications.

Conway joined the Trump campaign in July as an adviser and pollster, when Manafort was still in charge. But her relationship with Trump began more than 15 years earlier, when she and husband George T. Conway III bought an apartment at Trump World Tower near the United Nations: “I sat on the condo board. That is where I really got to know him. He’s very involved in his condos. He knew I was involved in politics, so he would always ask me my opinion about politics.”

Conway’s conversion from pollster to campaign manager came on a Friday that she describes as the low point of the campaign.

“The worst day of the campaign was the day before I became the campaign manager. It was Aug. 11, it was a Thursday, and I went out on the road with Gov. Pence, who I adore, who has been a client and a friend of mine for 10 years,” she says.

Conway describes in detail a creeping malaise that filled the organization, and people wondering aloud, “Is it worth it? Can we win? What is going on? What are they meeting about? Why did he say that? Who is in charge?”

At the time, Manafort, Trump’s second campaign manager after Corey Lewandowski, reportedly didn’t get on with the candidate, and there was dark talk about political work he had done in Ukraine.

When the New York Times reported Manafort may have received cash payments from a political party affiliated with Russian President Vladimir Putin, the atmosphere reportedly within the campaign began to turn sour and despairing.

When the New York Times reported Paul Manafort may have received cash payments from a political party affiliated with Russian President Vladimir Putin, the atmosphere reportedly within the campaign began to turn sour and despairing. (AP Photo)

The next day Conway was back in Trump Tower, helping with a video shoot in which Trump “was doing different commercials and appeals and videotaped messages to groups that were holding meetings that he could not attend.” They had been working on it for an hour or so and were about to leave for Pennsylvania when Trump asked everyone but her to leave the room.

After the others had gone, Conway asked Trump what was going on. “You are running against the most joyless person in presidential political history,” she told the candidate, “and you don’t look like you are having fun anymore.”

Trump insisted he was having fun but admitted that he missed the days of the Republican primaries, when he traveled around the country and met people. “And I said, ‘Well, those days are gone, because it is not the primary, it is the general [election]. But in fairness to you, sir, let’s find a way to replicate that and put it into proper context for a general election strategy.”

It was then that Trump offered her the job.

Conway accepted, as long as another person was in the C-Suite, a term derived from the use of the letter C in most high-level positions such as chief or chair. That other person was Steve Bannon, former Goldman Sachs executive, U.S. Navy officer, and publisher of Breitbart News, a right-wing news organization.

Conway then gave Trump her thoughts about how he could win, and about the issues and messaging it would require.

“He already knew that. His instincts are excellent,” she says. “He had already built a movement, but he needed to have some people around him who create the right environment.

“So how did we leverage that into a campaign strategy? And, conversely, as I said to him on that first day, ‘Let’s see who Hillary Clinton is not, nor ever can be, and let’s try to do it and be it.’ “

Conway and Bannon saw Clinton as someone who lacked an uplifting message and couldn’t break above 44 to 47 percent in polls. They also felt she would have a devil of a time knitting together the Obama coalition.

Meanwhile, Conway says she reduced the hassle and background noise for Trump, hoping to create an atmosphere in which he could flourish. “And I tried to take account of his gifts.”

Trump’s rallies soon became speeches, the kind of events where he began to use a teleprompter and to talk about policy. He started to offer a bullet-point outline of something that people could actually envision. He was still “able to add a great deal of personal flair and humor and off-the-cuff remarks at the rallies,” Conway says, “And people loved that.”

Conway serves in a role that few people consider possible, let along would want to take, and that is Trump’s “no man.” She believes every leader needs someone who can tell them when they have a bad idea and can stop it.

Great leaders, she says, always have someone in the room who can tell them “no,” and Conway says she does that, although others believe she sugarcoats things.

“It is actually the opposite. I think, because of our relationship and how much I respect him, that allows me to deliver a crisp message when I feel like it is in his best interest. You can do that respectfully, as long as it is accurate, smart and relevant.”

An imperfect mom with imperfect children

During our hours-long interview, Conway receives many, many texts. It seems likely that a lot of people are trying to contact her, given her position in the transition organization and her frequent appearances on TV news programs.

But actually, the texts are from one person, her daughter Claudia, who really, really wants to get in touch.

Finally, Conway pauses the interview and makes a call to answer her daughter’s question about choir practice at St. Mary’s, then proceeds to send several texts at lightning speed.

“That is the 12-year-old, the headstrong one,” she explains. “You know, when you are a pollster and you get 75 percent agreement on anything, you are thrilled. But when you are a mother, you need 100 percent agreement.”

Claudia, it appears, is the family holdout about moving to Washington.

“That’s all right, honey, Claudia had choir practice, she is just waiting to be picked up at the church,” she says on another call, a very affectionate conversation with her husband.

Once that’s over, she explains, “My daughter started an online petition called ‘Stop the Conway kids from moving to Washington,’ and she has like 400 signatures. So I had to punish her because it was not nice to do without permission, but I will tell her, when she is older, that I appreciated her moxie.”

Conway smiles at the thought. “I did notice that her sisters, who do want to move, were included in the signatures, and I said that it is against the law to forge or assume someone’s identity and fraudulently express their opinion. She is a piece of work.”

Claudia has a twin brother, George, and younger sisters Charlotte, 8, and Vanessa, 7.

Conway believes the children have adjusted to their mother’s fame fairly well: “They have way gotten used to seeing me on TV and, for the most part, people on both sides of aisle have been very nice.”

“Saturday Night Live” is another story. “The kids think the skits look a lot like our home,” she says, referring to the “Kellyanne’s Day-Off” sketch in which Conway is portrayed by cast member Kate McKinnon.

McKinnon portrays Conway trying to take a day off from the campaign trail, only to be constantly interrupted by a fictionalized Jake Tapper of CNN for breaking news on a series of ridiculous tweets by Trump.

“Saturday Night Live” cast member Kate McKinnon portrays Conway trying to take a day off from the campaign trail, only to be constantly interrupted by a fictionalized Jake Tapper of CNN for breaking news on a series of ridiculous tweets by Trump, played by Alec Baldwin.

“With mom trying to squeeze in every moment of spare time to go grocery shopping, or exercise, or do something fun with them — make them pancakes, as we do most mornings — they thought that was all very eerily true to life,” Conway says. “If someone is going to make a spoof of you, it should be with that kind of affection.”

Conway is impressed with McKinnon’s portrayal: “She has really captured me, from my struggle with my bad-hair, an ongoing saga for decades, to my mannerisms, to the fact that she is wearing the exact dresses that I own. It is really very sweet.”

She admits to having many flaws, “but being kind or generous is not part of those flaws. I am an imperfect mom raising four imperfect children. As long as you are kind and generous the rest falls into place.”

The call

Conway says she knew on election night by 8:30 the results looked good for them. “We kept calling him Mr. President-elect, but he is a brilliant businessman and he knows the deal isn’t consummated until everything is completed, and verified and signed, sealed and delivered,” she says.

And so he brushed them off. Once the AP called Pennsylvania, Trump, his family and the campaign staff started to make their way to the Hilton, in New York, where supporters had been waiting for seven hours.

As Conway, Trump, his family and top campaign staff made their way from Trump Tower to the Hilton, Clinton’s campaign chairman, John Podesta, told supporters “to go home, get a good night’s sleep,” and return the next day.

Everyone agreed that the case for Trump and his entourage to continue to the Hilton and join his supporters was simple. She puts it simply: “Why don’t we do there what we are doing here? We can stay at the headquarters all night or for a week if we have to. Let’s just watch the returns until he is the victor.” That’s why they didn’t wait for Clinton’s concession.

Minutes after they arrived at the Hilton, Jason Miller, their communications director, held his phone up and said “AP called it.”

“I said which state? He said the race.”

Conway said Donald Jr. picked her up into the air, “And I said ‘Oh my God, we won.’ “

Then her phone rang.

“I looked down, it said ‘Huma Abedin,’ and she said ‘Hi Kellyanne, it’s Huma.’ I said ‘Hey Huma, how are you?’ She answered ‘Secretary Clinton would like to talk to Mr. Trump.’ I said now? She said if he is available. I said he was available. And I said there you go,” she explains, recalling the conversation.

She sent Pence over to stand by Trump during the phone call for good measure to make sure Clinton conceded.

“And she did, and she was very gracious. She congratulated him and she conceded to him.”

“I looked down, it said ‘Huma Abedin,’ and she said ‘Hi Kellyanne, it’s Huma.’ I said ‘Hey Huma, how are you?’ She answered ‘Secretary Clinton would like to talk to Mr. Trump.’ I said now? She said if he is available. I said he was available. And I said there you go,” she explains, recalling the conversation. (AP Photo)

Faith and the future

Conway is content that these events happened as late as they did in her career. She believes the wisdom and judgment of age and experience kept her grounded and humbled by the events.

“I mean this has been super cool and heady and I am thrilled with the results and it never gets old to hear that we won,” she says. Her faith — she is a devout Catholic— has helped keep everything in perspective.

“Faith plays a minute by minute part of my life. It is constant,” she says.

“This,” she says, pointing to everything that is going on around Trump Tower, “is consequential, this is exciting and historic in its own way, but it is nothing compared to the universe in which we live, the God that I worship, and the totality of our lives.

“I do believe that God placed me in this position at this time to do my small part to create an environment to allow Mr. Trump to flourish and to help to create a campaign structure with our fabulous team.”

As the interview winds down, Conway, dressed in a vibrant pineapple colored dress with matching strappy Mary Jane shoes, is sanguine about what the future holds for the country under a President Trump.

“He fulfills that self-avowed desire to elevate someone to the presidency who is so wildly successful outside of politics. As president, he will realize that promise to the people with a very successful presidency.

“I am looking forward to being part of helping his vision work, and lift up the American people.”

Meryl Streep uses Golden Globes speech to deliver warning about Donald Trump

Top Story

Award-winning actress Meryl Streep begged the press to hold President-elect Trump accountable in an impassioned speech at the Golden Globes Sunday night.

Accepting the Cecil B. DeMille Award honoring her body of work, Streep used the stage to defend Hollywood and implore her peers to use their influence help keep the new White House in check.

“We need the principled press to hold power to account, to call them on the carpet for every outrage,” Streep said. “That’s why our founders enshrined the press and its freedoms in our Constitution. So I only ask the famously well-heeled Hollywood foreign press and all of us in our community to join me in supporting the Committee to Protect Journalists.

By Daniel Chaitin

01/08/17 10:38 PM

Source link

About the Author:

Leave a Reply