Tuesday, January 08, 2008

So You Think You Can Be President

Craig Greager and Iris Burnett, authors of So You Think You Can Be President?

MANCHESTER, N.H. -- Iris Burnett has a question for you: So You Think You Can Be President? That's the title of a soon-to-be-published book that Burnett co-wrote with Clay Greager. They're a bi-partisan team; Burnett has a long career in Democratic politics, while her co-author is a retired military man who identified as Republican for much of his life. The book was born out of an e-mail exchange between the two friends. Greager joked to Burnett that she should run for president; she retorted that she didn't think she could pass the test. "Is there a test?" Greager shot back. "No, but there should be," thought Burnett.

So the two, for their own amusement, according to Burnett, started devising questions they would like to see on such a test, and soon the two had a book's worth. Written in a light tone, the book is amazingly informative. "I think people don't have any idea of just how vast the federal government is," Burnett says. "There are 192 independent agencies, and they all need to be staffed [by the incoming president]."

One of the questions on Burnett's and Greager's test asks respondents to choose between a list of resources most useful upon winning office. One is "a discarded copy of the plum book." That's the best pick, says Burnett. "[The plum book is] a catalog of all the politically appointed positions. So after your candidate wins, you rush to buy the plum book because then you look in the plum book to find the job you want. Then they tell you you can't have that job, so you find another job. And eventually you wind up with a job."

Iris Burnett's career in government has ranged from communications strategy for campaigns to managing transition teams, ans working within government agencies. To date, she is the only woman to have served as security director for a national political convention: she ran security for the 1980 Democratic National Convention in New York City's Madison Square Garden. Asked how she got the job, she said Bill Dixon, who was staffing the convention, got to the end of his job list, and realized he had no women in key positions. And by 1980, the party was feeling the heat of the feminists. So, he gave the last job he had to fill to Iris Burnett. "But I've never done security," she told Dixon. "Are you saying you can't do the job?" Dixon goaded her. "Well, of course I can do the job, " she replied, and wound up coordinating contingents from law enforcement agencies ranging from the FBI to the New York City Police Department.

So, does she think she could be president? Maybe not. But now she can pass the test.

--Adele M. Stan

1 comment:

Iris and Clay said...

Hi Adele, you did a wonderful article and why not, you are a fabulous interviewer. Can't wait to share this piece and more stories and we will have books in the next few weeks. I'll make sure you are on the top of the list. We would love to link with you on our blog as well. All the best, Iris