Tom Brokaw and the Inside Track From New York’s Democratic National Committeeman

Lunch At Michaels

LunchAtMichaelsIt was business as usual at Michael’s today as the regulars (Jerry Inzerillo, William Lauder) packed the dining room before the summer vacation season kicks off next week. Plenty of heads swiveled in his direction as Tom Brokaw took his seat at Table Three, but mostly today’s crowd consisted of the usual suspects who were there to see and be seen between bites of their Cobb salads.

Today I was joined by two of my favorite regulars, marketing/PR man and political commentator Robert Zimmerman and producer Joan Gelman for our semi-annual Michael’s lunch, where there’s always a lot of laughs and plenty of juicy dish on the menu. (Sorry, but most of the good stuff is OTR.) Today, the two passionate democrats who first met 15 years ago in East Hampton at the home of a mutual friend, wanted to talk politics and there was plenty of fodder for us to chew on. Robert was fresh off  last night’s appearances on Lou Dobbs Tonight and The Kelly File on Fox News where, he said, he engaged in a “fiery debate” with Peter Hegseth on Iraq. “He was fantastic!” enthused Joan. Robert’s take on the issue: “The Iraqi government doesn’t deserve a second chance.” And, he said, he’s clearly not alone in believing that. Despite the contentiousness of his conversation with Hegseth as Megan Kelly played referee, Robert said with every passing day, “the consensus that opposes going back into Iraq cuts across party lines.”

Robert Zimmerman, Diane Clehane and Joan Gelman
Robert Zimmerman, Diane Clehane and Joan Gelman
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After the segment aired, Robert told me he discovered that polarizing and profane points of view are alive and well on Twitter. A relative newcomer to the social media site (“My account got a baptism by fire!”), he was floored by the venomous comments lobbed at him by some “followers.”  “The kindest ones wanted to save my soul. There were people speculating on my sex life,” he said with a laugh. “I’m glad anyone is interested.” As for the haters, he still sounded a bit shocked, they were “so vulgar I couldn’t believe the language.”

That led us to debate the finer points of spending time on Twitter and Facebook. Robert told me he leaves the tweeting and posting for his firm to “the younger, hipper people on our staff,” but conceded: “Social media is an important communications tool for our business. Still, whatever we are doing now will be out of date quickly and replaced by something else.” The downside, he said, is that you can’t stop the chatter. “You can turn Rush Limbaugh off on the radio, but you can’t turn off his followers.” As for Joan: “I don’t twit and I don’t tweet. I’m still using a dictaphone. It’s a total accident that I wound up on Facebook, but now I know when all my friends are having a tuna fish sandwich.”

I wanted to talk to both of them about Hillary Clinton and their take on the torrent of stories about her since she kicked off her book tour and infamously told Diane Sawyer she and husband Bill Clinton were “dead broke” when they left the White House. When I characterized her comments as a colossal PR blunder, Robert countered by saying, “It was 100 percent accurate. They were more than broke — they were in debt.” And then added: “I find it remarkable that the media isn’t focused on the enormous grassroots support she is getting everywhere she goes; the number of people that are coming out to see her and meet her. I’m amazed by what fascinated the media. The bigger issue is that [the ‘dead broke’ story] has no relevance for people with real lives.” Robert believes that Hillary’s supporters are “immune” to the attacks in the media by the opposition. Joan believes the stories are “sexist and ageist,” adding: “Someone should go after the Koch brothers. They are vile people!”