Q: This was in Washington, and you were —
TRIPPI: In Washington, DC. It was like I had to roll out of bed. (laughter) It was, like, pretty easy. All I had to do was get up, go over there, and I was like, “Yeah, OK, fine. But I’m not doing another presidential campaign.” And so, he [00:21:00] — I remember they told me to come over to his hotel room, and the — you know, the ball– the sp– the speech was downstairs in the ballroom. “Come to his hotel room at 10:45.” Got there. He was — the speech was at 11:15. And I get there and he comes walking into the room, and looks at everybody — you know, his team — and says, “So, what should I say?” And I’m like, thinking, “What should y–?” You know, “What should you say?” I mean, everybody el– this is the meeting in which Bill Clinton launched his 1992 candidacy. Everybody else has been practicing in front of Teleprompters or in front of mirrors for a month for thi– for what they’re going to say downstairs. And this guy is walking in there doing, “What am I gonna say?” And I was like, “Oh, no.” But I didn’t — I mean, I was sitting there “No big deal. That’s great.” And one of the staffers said, [00:22:00] “Well, you know, you do your healthcare thing. You’re a doctor.” And I just looked at these guy– I looked at him and said, “Look, the guy who…” I don’t know how I can do this on tape. It’s a lot of expletive bull– deleteds, but —
Q: (laughs) Go ahead.
TRIPPI: — is that good? Well, he — I go — I said, “Look, the guy who’s gonna blow the roof off downstairs is the guy that walks down, takes that podium by both sides with everything he’s got, looks out at that crowd, and says, “What the fuck has happened to the Democratic Party? Why the fuck are we supporting George Bush’s war in Iraq?” And I’ll never forget this. For a long time, Howard looked at me — looked up — the whole room kind of like gasped. And Howard looked up at me and said, “I can’t say, ‘What the fuck happened to the Democratic Party.’” And I’m like, “I didn’t mean literally. (laughter) I mean figuratively.” This was like — it was — this was literally one of my first real interactions with him. [00:23:00] So he took an envelope out of his pocket, and a pen, and he put a star, and said, “What’s a better question?” And we, collectively, the whole room, came up with, “What I want to know is, why — you know, what’s happened to the Democratic Party? What I want to know is, why are we supporting George Bush’s unilateral war in Iraq? What I want to know is, why are we standing by and not taking, you know, some — fighting for single-payer healthcare?” The — what are — I can’t remember exactly, you know? And, “I’m here to represent the Democratic wing of the Democratic Party.” And he’s writing these little notes — little dots and notes. And, you know, we’re both on the — literally on the floor of the hotel room with a — on the coffee table, you know, on our knees, and he’s writing these notes as we’re cooking up these questions in the speech. And he walked downstairs on, [00:24:00] like, five-minutes’ notice at that point. Walked downstairs, grabbed both sides of that podium with everything he had, and bellowed out, “What I want to know is, what is — what’s happened to the Democratic…” Just bellowed it out, and the roof came off that place. I mean, it just shook. I remember Kerry and Edwards and Gephardt all on stage, looking at each other, like, literally with, like, “Who the — what the hell is this?” because the He had just blown the doors off the room. And, I don’t know. He came off the stage and it was like the — you know, we were both looking at each — it was like a shotgun marriage in a lot of ways, or love at first sight, or whatever you want to call it. But that’s how we… And then, from that point on, the problem was, I’d get sort of like, “Do you — I want you to come up and run the campaign.” And I’d be like, “I’m not doing that.” And so, it was a lot of — it was a slow — [00:25:00] it probably took another month before I ended up up in Burlington, and didn’t avoid the 2004 presidential campaign, which I was dead set on trying to do, but failed at it.
Q: Well, we will pick up the narrative there in a little bit. But I wonder — he forms his exploratory committee back in May of ’02, when the war in Iraq was still way on the horizon and publicly was not being debated extensively.
Q: He gives a speech at the DNC in February of ’03, which is a month before the war begins. It’s clear it’s gonna happen. When, in that year — do you know, when did he become focused on the war as an issue?
TRIPPI: I really don’t know. I mean, my first — like I said, my first interaction was right before that. [00:26:00] Probably the February meeting, because I think that was where he gave — we gave that speech.
Q: Was it before the February — and before the February DNC meeting?
TRIPPI: Was it DNC?
Q: — or did it begin then?
TRIPPI: It had to be before… It probably was at the D– I mean, it — I don’t know where he, personally — but he was against it, I remember that from the — you know, from our meetings. But I’m just say– I mean, from that meeting. It wasn’t like I was saying, “Why are we f– against this war?” and he was, like, “I’m for the war.” You know, he was — no, he was against the war. That was in parallel with what he believed. I just don’t know when that bel– when that kicked in, you know, whether it was months before, or a year — you know, I mean, all — from the very beginning, or whatever.