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Travels With Jerry : ON THE ROAD WITH THE 1-800 CAMPAIGN

May 31, 1992|SARA DAVIDSON | Sara Davidson is the author of four books, including "Loose Change," and the creator of the television series "Heartbeat."

But the focus is shifting. In the coming weeks, she says, Jerry will be working up a platform, which will include all the elements of his campaign: a simple and fair tax plan; universal health care; a family bill of rights; an aggressive environmental-protection program. "We may get more votes for our platform than our candidate," she says.

The campaign will also focus on a longer view: building a grass-roots organization that can fight for change after 1992.

Today, though, a crisis is developing with ABC, which is about to run a story charging that Jerry, while governor, had parties in his home where marijuana and cocaine were used.

"It's outrageous," Jodie says. "I worked with Jerry then, and you knew, if you were around Jerry, you didn't smoke marijuana or you were gone."

She starts phoning state police who served as Jerry's drivers, to enlist them as witnesses, and asks an attorney to put ABC on notice that the allegations are false.

When the charges are aired on "Nightline," Jerry tells Ted Koppel: "It didn't happen. I never saw drugs used in my house. If you support me and think we oughta fight back, call 1-800-426-1112." The number is swamped with callers who pledge money.

APRIL 11. JERRY SITS IN THE front seat of Jodie's red Land Cruiser, ready to pull away from the California Democratic Party convention. A man leans in the window and says, "You realize you're in a Japanese car?"

Jerry snaps his head. "What? This is a Toyota? We shouldn't be riding in it."

Jerry's driver pulls into the street. Jerry turns to Dee Hansch. "This is a real screw-up! In California, we don't think about it. But in Michigan, it's a big deal."

They're approaching the ramp to the freeway.

"Stop," Jerry says. "I'm getting out."

"Jerry, wait . . ."

The driver honks, to get the lead car's attention, and both pull over to the shoulder of the on-ramp. Jerry gets out and, trailed by five people, hurries to the other car, a dented Chevy wagon owned by a volunteer.

Mariachis are playing when the Chevy arrives at Dolores Mission Church in East Los Angeles. "This is what's fun, right?" Jerry says. Father Greg Boyle, a Jesuit who heads the mission, takes Jerry on a walk through the streets, where a 4-year-old girl was shot and killed the night before. "I've buried 26 kids in the last three years," Boyle says.

"Gangs?" Jerry asks.

Boyle nods. "What will quiet the bullets is jobs. If you give them jobs, the drug problem goes away."

Jerry adds, "Jobs that give people a wage they can live on. No one wants to hear how simple it is."

A lowrider pulls up with two young Latino men. Boyle says to Jerry, "Come here and meet two homies."

Jerry sticks his head in the window and says, flat-footed, "Are you in a gang?"

The young men don't answer.

"We shouldn't ask," Boyle says. "We're all in the human race."

"Right," Jerry says, and makes a thumbs-up gesture.

In the afternoon, Jerry returns to Jodie's house for a meeting with what Jacques calls "the round table"--a floating cast of advisers which, today, includes Tom Quinn and Pat Caddell.

At 4 p.m., when I join them for the evening events, they're discussing whether Jerry should sue ABC for libel. Jerry is furious at the people accusing him. Caddell is taking practice swings with a baseball bat. "No presidential candidate has ever sued a network. It shows he's innocent and so outraged he's gonna strike back."

Quinn agrees, "If he doesn't, he looks guilty. And it will smoke out who's behind this."

Jerry says, "You know what it's like to wage a lawsuit. It becomes your life."

Later, driving to a benefit, he asks to stop at a drugstore. "I feel a cold coming on."

"It's that conversation," Jacques says, "It does the same thing to me."

"You don't agree with Pat on how to handle this?" Jerry says.

"I always have a problem with you going on the attack," Jacques says. "That's the lesson of New York. People don't like to see you in the gutter."

We find a drugstore and get out of the car. Jacques adds, "In the samurai code, if you pull out your sword, you've already lost the battle." He takes a breath and stands up tall. "You stop it by who you are."

Inside, Jerry heads for the cold remedies. He starts reading labels, trying to see the difference between a name brand and a generic cough syrup. "They should tell you what it is--it's part of the disempowerment," he says.

In the car, he opens the boxes of medicine he's bought and unwraps bottles. "Look at this packaging mess," he says, holding up a plastic bag full of cardboard and paper. "It adds to the landfill."

I sigh. Doesn't he ever shut it off? But his fixation with the environment is contagious. The following day, at a market, I find myself refusing a bag for the one item I purchase.

APRIL 19. I AM DRIVING WITH Jodie and several friends to Burbank for a sweat lodge conducted by a Muskogee Cree medicine man, Bear Heart. This is the only time I have been able to pin her down for an interview.

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