Craig Livingstone did exist...and Al Gore knows something too. (hope this isn’t too long but it’s a blast from the past and worth it)
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HEADLINE: FROM BEAVER COUNTY TO WHITE HOUSE: HE KEEPS OFFICIAL ACTIVITIES ON EVEN KEEL
BYLINE: JANE CRAWFORD, POST-GAZETTE STAFF WRITER
DATELINE: WASHINGTON, D.C.
They call him ‘’The Mayor of the White House.’’
Craig Livingstone strolls from one corner of America’s most famous residence to another, greeted with waves and ‘’hi’s’’ from staffers and security people. Every 10 minutes or so he stops — sometimes in mid-sentence — to respond to his beeper, usually beckoning him to put out one sort of fire or another as he carries out his duties as Director of Personnel Security at the White House.
The buzz word in his conversations is ‘’situation’’ — as in ‘’yesterday’s situation,’’ ‘’today’s situation’’ and ‘’the other situation.’’
Following him around the White House is a lesson in navigation in exclusive waters. Keep your eyes and ears open, know when to keep your mouth closed, recognize the players, get the picture quickly, be nice and smile are the lessons learned early on.
Livingstone, a former Indiana University of Pennsylvania student and 1977 graduate of Beaver High School, is a member of the White House’s ‘’second tier of staff’’ as he puts it. Among his duties are doing background investigations on staffers and checking out those requesting press credentials, being the liaison with the Secret Service and the FBI on personnel security and helping stage events attended by President Clinton, such as the recent signing of the Middle East Peace Accord.
‘’Basically my job is to stay out of the way and be invisible. If I’m around, something’s wrong.’’ At only 35, he’s a political veteran with major responsibilities and access to the power brokers in the White House. It’s not unusual for him to confer with senior policy adviser George Stephanopoulos (’’he’s brilliant,’’ Livingstone says), chief of staff Mack McLarty and other big guns from the president’s inner circle. He sees the president almost daily and — along with other staffers — sits in on an occasional meeting with him.
Livingstone, who lives in suburban Maryland, leaves this week for London where he will do preliminary work in coordinating the June presidential visit to mark the 50th anniversary of D-Day. He oversaw the burial of Virginia Kelley, the president’s mother, and was asked to coordinate the president’s role at Richard Nixon’s funeral, which he was unable to do because of a personal commitment elsewhere.
Stephanopoulos, who has worked with Livingstone since Clinton’s presidential campaign, gives him high marks. ‘’He does a terrific job. All I know is that anything that has anything to do with security or logistics — Craig’s going to take care of it. You don’t have to tell him how to do it, when to do it. Just that it needs to be done, and he does it. And he knows how to cut through the bureaucracy and get things done.’’
There are sometimes problems attached to getting things done. Livingstone readily admits ‘’we had been remiss in the quickness of getting people cleared’’ for some jobs, especially early on. He explains that the hiring and investigation process hit a lot of snags due to staff transition and unexpected kinks in the system.
This past March Livingstone’s venue was Pittsburgh as a member of the team to plan the visit of Clinton and British Prime Minister John Major. Arriving days in advance he ensconced himself at the Tin Angel restaurant on Mount Washington where the leaders were to dine. Then the work began. Checking out exits and people, directing the installation of 17 phone lines, even opening stuck doors and later, checking to see that the bill for dinner had been paid (it had) were among his tasks.
‘’He and 15 people on the advance team showed up with business cards and credentials. Craig was real businesslike and pleasant but I wouldn’t want to be on his bad side,’’ said Maria Kyros, the restaurant’s co-owner.
Kyros got a taste of Livingstone’s access to the president when ‘’one night at 11 o’clock his private phone rang. Only the president’s office calls him on that phone and when it rang he said, ‘that’s the big guy’ and left the room to take the call.’’ It was the president’s operator asking a question for Clinton.
In April, Livingstone was back in the area (his grandfather still lives in Ellwood City though his parents have moved to Maryland) to speak at an education conference at IUP. Not one to forget where he came from, he recently set up a White House internship program for an IUP student.
‘’He had a great deal of poise and was well-versed in terms of what’s going on at the White House and administration policy,’’ said Robert McGowan, acting associate dean, College of Fine Arts, at the college. He remembers Livingstone well and has kept in touch with him off and on over the years.
Teachers tend to recall the bright students but McGowan said Livingstone was ‘’persistent, not intimidated by authority,’’ as well as smart. ‘’He had some sense of vision for himself and a passion for politics. So I wasn’t surprised when he called me about six months ago about the intern program,’’ McGowan said.
That passion has been simmering for years. ‘’When I was 15 I said I wanted to work in the White House. People laughed but I developed strong political skills like getting people to work together who don’t like each other but are exceptionally good at what they do.’’
As a student leader (national vice president of the U.S. Student Association) he went to Poland during the initial push for Solidarity and was invited to address students there and meet Lech Walesa.
Livingstone now has an office in the Old Executive Office Building across from the White House. But in his student days he was often on the other side of the fence — literally — carrying a picket sign. He did his share of demonstrating at the White House ‘’many times’’ against President Reagan’s financial aid policies, education issues and in support of organized labor.
His professional career in Democratic Party politics began when he worked on the personal staff of Geraldine Ferraro (’’I took care of the bags’’) during her vice presidential campaign and on Gary Hart’s staff during his presidential bids in 1984 and 1988. In addition to doing whatever was needed on campaign stops Livingstone said, ‘’I always had a clean shirt or blouse for them. Every politician likes to get into a clean shirt. Those are the things they remember.’’
In between campaigns he held jobs as diverse as doing public relations for a casino in Atlantic City and the film ‘’The Last Temptation of Christ,’’ serving as assistant to Washington City Council member Charlene Jarvis and training Angolan guerrilla soliders in democratic politics in advance of an election there. He was also director of operations for the Democratic Convention in Atlanta in 1988.
Impressing the right people in the right way got Livingstone the job as director of security for Clinton’s inaugural celebration. Al Gore had ‘’known about me through the grapevine.’’ Gore asked Livingstone to put together his announcement to run for the presidency in 1988. He was on Gore’s advance team in 1992. And on solid ground with Clinton and Gore high-level staffers.
Livingstone’s beeper was working overtime while on the job with former Arkansan/current Hollywood producer Harry Thomason during the inaugural festivities, and got his current job one week after the swearing in.
‘’He’s very level-headed ... patient and professional. You need those attributes in a job like his. He’s someone who excels when it’s a crisis situation,’’ said deputy press secretary Ginny Terzano.
Although there is not a crisis every day, one suspects Livingstone would like there to be one. In the meantime, he’s popping in and out of the White House senior staff dining room (’’the mess’’ as regulars call it), walking by the Oval Office, criss-crossing the Rose Garden and arranging special White House tours and other hard-to-get tickets for appreciative friends and acquaintances.
McGowan and his parents were the recipients of this generosity on a recent trip to Washington. They sat in the presidential box at the John F. Kennedy Memorial Center for Performing Arts, compliments of Livingstone. ‘’My parents actually sat in president and Mrs. Clinton’s seats,’’ McGowan said. To say they were all thrilled is putting it mildly.
Also in the D.C. area, is Livingstone’s brother, Steven, an engineer, a political appointee in the Department of Energy working on hazardous environment issues. He, like his parents, is a Republican.
Livingstone tries to squeeze in time for bicycling and going to movies — his passion. And while he’s winning friends and influencing people in the nation’s capital, he’s gearing up for another campaign — to find someone in the girlfriend/ wife/mate/date category.
‘’I’m ready, it’s my next project after I leave this job,’’ he said. Working 12 and 15 hours a day, six and seven days a week isn’t the best arrangement for building a social life. ‘’I meet women just like me. They put themselves and their careers first, they’re goal-oriented. Most of us are here because we believe in the president’s agenda.’’
That agenda is presently focused on dealing with the latest round of sexual misconduct charges not to mention Whitewater and cattle futures trading. Do these charges discourage Livingstone?
‘’I am a presidential staffer and I understand that role. I believe in the fundamental vison he has for America and there will always be distractions associated with any president. I see him daily and while I’m concerned about (the charges), I believe in the president 100 percent.’’
Livingstone, having observed the president up close for more than two years, says Clinton ‘’is very focused, caring and impassioned. He has an amazing ability to remember people’s names. You don’t dare meet with him without being prepared because very often he’ll know more about the subject than you.’’
Livingstone knows he’s existing in a unique environment that won’t last forever. After this stint in Washington, he believes his next direction will be due west — as a producer in Hollywood. If that happens, he’ll no doubt arrive with enough experience to make a new niche for himself — beeper required.
I took care of the bags
.... he held jobs as diverse as doing public relations for a casino in Atlantic City and the film The Last Temptation of Christ,...
Where to begin?
What a tissue of lies this puff-piece is.
He did everything he was asked to do. He took care of the bags alright. His Atlantic City job was as a bouncer and it's not surprising that he did the PR for the sacreligious Last Temptation mess.
Hillary didn't know him. Bill had no idea who hired him.