InnerView

InnerView with Pat Schroeder

By Jody Hope Strogoff & Ernest Luning
THE COLORADO STATESMAN

Pat Schroeder — a Denver Democrat who served 12 terms in Congress and was briefly a candidate in the Democratic presidential primary in 1988 — was in town last week for the annual conference of the English-Speaking Union of the United States, an organization she chairs. Schroeder also was the keynote speaker last week at a luncheon celebrating the 40th anniversary of Colorado Common Cause.

Pat Schroeder
Photo by Ernest Luning/The Colorado Statesman

Elected in 1972, Schroeder was the first woman to serve on the House Armed Services Committee and later chaired the Select Committee on Children, Youth and Families. Following her retirement from Congress in 1997, Schroeder served for 12 years as president of the American Association of Publishers. She and her husband, Jim, live in Florida.

Schroeder visited with The Colorado Statesman on Sept. 22 for an hour-long interview over coffee in the lobby of the Brown Palace Hotel. Her husband joined the conversation briefly while on his way outside.

Read other InnerViews online at www.coloradostatesman.com/innerview.

Below is the transcript of The Statesman’s conversation with Schroeder. It has been edited for clarity.

Colorado Statesman (CS): Are you watching any of Colorado’s races?
Pat Schroeder (PS): Gosh, well people tell me that Hickenlooper’s fundraisers are more like job fairs, you know? They’re just — everybody just figures he’s a done deal.

CS: Have you been paying much attention to Tancredo?
PS: He’s crazier — he’s really scary. I mean, the whole world looks at him and says he doesn’t bring a lot to the state. You know, he’ll be on cable news and people will say, “Where’s he from again?” And you kind of say, “Yeah, but he’s not in office anymore. No, no, no, no.”

CS: And here he is. But the Republicans seem to have fallen apart here in Colorado, with their candidate (Dan Maes).
PS: It’s incredible. Incredible. Because (the Republicans were always) the organizers, we were always the ones that were all over the lot and putting our firing squad in a circle.

CS: Exactly.
PS: (Laughs)

CS: Exactly. So do you still feel attached to Colorado?
PS: Oh, yeah, absolutely. We love it, it’s so wonderful.

CS: And are you living in Florida?
PS: Well, yes, I mean the only other place (where) politics is crazier is Florida right now. They (nominated) a guy who has the great distinction of having the largest Medicare fraud thing — a billion seven. [Ed. note: Florida Republican gubernatorial nominee Rick Scott was CEO of Columbia/HCA when the hospital conglomerate was fined $1.7 billion after being charged with Medicare and Medicaid fraud, the largest such fine in history.] Which means he must have stolen at least $30 billion. I don’t know, it’s — I don’t know what to say. Politics is really crazy.

No, we’re living in Florida, you know, and it’s just kind of like we don’t know where we’re going to end up or what we’re going to do.

CS: What part of Florida are you in?
PS: We’re in Celebration. You know Celebration?

CS: It’s the Disney town, isn’t it?
PS: Yeah, the new urbanism, Disney town. And what happened was, as I say, when I left, my parents were really quite ill and my father had lung cancer and they said, “You have to get him out of the altitude.” So, since I was working in Washington and so was (Schroeder’s husband) Jim, Florida made the most sense to move them because we could get there easily. And they were, “Hell no, we won’t go, it’s God’s waiting room, it’s flat, it’s ugly,” you know. And one day dad said, “Well, I was reading in the Wall Street Journal about this new town and if I have to live in Florida I might live there because it’s not gated, and it’s not just old people.” So Jim and I were on the next plane and said, “Just give us any house. We don’t care, we just have to have it, we have to have it now.”

And the kids went down and furnished it, we moved them down. I mean, no thought went into any of this, it was just whatever we could get as fast as we can get it and get them there. So when they died we got ready to sell it and our kids said, “Well, you can sell it, but if we ever have grandchildren, we’re going to tell them.” Jim said, “That will not be cool.” So he retired first and started spending more time down there and said, “You know, this is really kind of nice.” And so now that we’ve got these four grandchildren, it’s like a salt lick for toddlers. They just — they want to come down there all the time, which is wonderful for us. So we don’t dare sell it until at least they get old enough that they don’t like it.

CS: How old are your grandkids?
PS: The oldest is five and the youngest is four, and we’ve got two four-year-old twins in the middle.

CS: Oh my goodness.
PS: My daughter had the first one, my son had two twins and then she had another one. So they look like quadruplets.

CS: Where are they?
PS: Jamie’s in Montana, and she’ll be here this weekend.

CS: She’s been there for a while?
PS: Yeah. We usually get together here in the fall once or twice. And Scott lives in New Jersey. Our problem is what do we do for the second home? We would prefer to come here but then their kids — you know, do you go where the kids are? But then if you go where the kids are, what if they move? So you know, we’ve been having this debate now for two years. Well, actually one year because I really only retired a year ago. But we haven’t gotten an answer yet.

CS: What brings you to Denver?
PS: I’m now head of the English-Speaking Union for the United States. So we’re having our national convention here.

CS: What does that entail? A lot of traveling on your part?
PS: Some. The international one is in Albania, so (laughs) I go to Albania.

CS: Have you ever been to Albania?
PS: No, I haven’t — do you know anybody who has?

CS: No.
PS: No, I don’t either so this will be an experience (laughs). So it’ll be fun.

CS: What is the English-Speaking Union?
PS: It was started by the British after World War I, and the idea was, is if people could all speak to each other maybe they wouldn’t fight. And, of course, (then) there was World War II. But Winston Churchill was very interested in it, and then Roosevelt got very interested in it, and Eisenhower was head of it for a long time. And the very interesting thing is, in America most of the people who know about it are of that World War II generation when it was really big. So we have an older population mainly.

It does wonderful things — it has these great Shakespeare competitions for all these high school kids and then the winners get to go to Lincoln Center in New York and perform. And it takes teachers and sends them to Europe, to England to study literature and stuff. There’s a group that have been, since the ‘60s, picking young people from one of the African American colleges and sending them to Europe for a year. They do those kind of things. But internationally, it’s exploding, there’s new branches opening, or new chapters opening internationally all the time, mainly because everybody’s trying to learn English. So, internationally people are wanting for us all to come over and visit and have them practice their English and do this and do that.

CS: Obviously, it’s different from the English Only Movement —
PS: Oh yeah — oh no, no, no. (Laughs)

CS: It’s not you and Tancredo?
PS: It has absolutely nothing to do with that. It’s just, basically, people saying, “We’re monolingual — unfortunately — but anybody who speaks English, we’re more than happy to come and talk to you because I think we really should do that.” And we probably should be bilingual, but there’s a lot of us too old to do it, so — (laughs) The British, they’ve always been… they’re always trying to talk their way out of stuff, which is great, you know? We should have talked our way out of a lot of things, I think, if we worked on it harder. So that’s what it’s really all about. And keeping the literature and the heritage of the British and the Commonwealth and democracy alive and well. So we’re starting some debate things now in the middle schools, so kids learn how to debate rather than just sling labels at each other and stuff, which is all they’re seeing now I think, in the political arena.

CS: Do you still have a lot of friends here in Denver and Colorado?
PS: Oh yeah. Yeah, that’s the hard part about coming. I’ve got family and friends and wonderful staffers, and there’s never enough hours.

CS: Have you seen Kip (Cheroutes, the longtime chief of staff in Schroeder’s Denver office)?
PS: I haven’t seen Kip, unfortunately. They’ve got me fairly heavily scheduled. I had my young nephews here last night — they live out in Littleton — and we all went to the Hard Rock (Café) and they thought they were King of the Hill or something.

CS: Well, Denver’s changed quite a bit —
PS: It just keeps growing.

CS: I understand yesterday when you were talking at (the 40th anniversary fundraising luncheon for Colorado) Common Cause that you were talking about some of the differences in the way politics — isn’t it astounding?
PS: It’s astounding, it’s — from the English-Speaking Union perspective, it’s frightening, because they aren’t debates, they’re just label-throwing, it’s nasty poison darts, you know?

CS: And so much more partisan, isn’t it?
PS: Oh, it’s terrible. I mean, look at yesterday in the Senate. [Ed. note: Senate Democrats were unable to get 60 votes to consider a law overturning the military’s Don’t Ask Don’t Tell policy, among other proposals.] How can (Maine Republican Senator) Olympia Snowe, and how can (Maine’s other Republican Senator, Susan Collins) — they’re two wonderful senators that are good friends of mine from Maine, say that I’m all for this, but I’m going to vote to stop it? How could you do that? Well, I know how — because they’ve got a foot on their neck. It’s just, “We’re going to stop everything, we’re going to make everything look terrible, we’re going to make people really angry.” And they’ve succeeded (laughs).

But one of the interesting things is they’ve also succeeded in blowing their own party apart as they’ve done that. I mean when I keep thinking about the Tea Parties, I listen to them and I think, they’re yelling at the guys that have done nothing but vote no the whole time. So what more could they do? Unless they start a revolution or something? So they’ve really worked them up maybe too much (laughs).

CS: Over the years — you mentioned when you came into office that people could still talk, even though things were just as divisive?
PS: Oh my gosh, can you imagine — impeachment?

CS: — with tear gas in the streets —
PS: Impeachment and the Vietnam War — you had demonstrators constantly, and you never knew which bridge they were going to take that day or which building they were going to come after. I mean so it was very, very tense. And Nixon’s people were —
I think the thing that used to make me very proud is that we would host a lot of visitors from other countries. And you’d take them on the House floor and they’d stand there and say, “This is just amazing. This would never happen in our country.” You can argue like this and then still go over and say, “Hi, how are you? I want you to meet (so-and-so).” How could you do that? And you just said, “Well that’s just how it’s supposed to work.”

And I remember several of my friends, they were trying to get former members — I couldn’t do it — but go to Iraq to talk to the new parliamentarians. And they came back, and we were talking and they were horrified because they said, “We would say to them, ‘If she wants this for her people, and you want that, and she won’t give up, what would you do?’ And they’d say, ‘Shoot her.’ No, no, no, that’s not what works. Let’s start over, and — ” And they were really seeing that. But we’re going to that.

CS: It’s getting really polarized.
PS: It makes no sense because you cannot run this country — this is not a country, this is a continent, and it’s so diverse and everybody’s got to give a little bit. No one’s ever going to get it 100 percent their way, it’s just not going to happen.

CS: What’s happened? Had things moved in that direction by the time you left Congress?
PS: Yeah. That’s half of why I left. When Newt Gingrich came, I could just see the handwriting on the wall. First of all, the Democrats didn’t quite understand it, which was making me crazy. They thought, oh well, this was a fluke and we’ll be back. Well, they weren’t back for 12 years — hello!
And secondly, it was just such an unpleasant place to be my last two years. You could get up every morning and you felt like you were in a food fight in a middle school lunch room all day. And my friends like (Maryland Republican) Connie Morella and (Maine Republican) Olympia Snowe — the Women’s Caucus was very bipartisan — if I was talking to them on the floor somebody would come over and tell them, “Get over there, you don’t talk to her, you don’t talk to these people.” So I could see that.

Well then of course along comes (Republican Majority Leader) Tom DeLay. Luckily I wasn’t there then, but then people start getting nostalgic for Gingrich because he looked like a softie compared to DeLay who has just beat them all up. And then it gets to the Senate, and the Senate goes just as nuts. It’s too bad. The Senate held out for a while but then it got just as — because it’s got those crazy rules.

CS: Do you think Republicans are going to come back in November and take control of the House?
PS: They probably — I have no idea. I mean I really — you know and I know that, what do we have, 38 days or something like that? — that’s a long time still in politics. (Sighs) I just can’t believe that people really think if they had 12 years to mess this up that it’ll be fixed in a year and a half. I mean I wish it could have been fixed in 10 minutes but —

CS: Do you think President Obama’s doing a good job?
PS: I think he is. I think you know, first I must say (laughs) I was frustrated because I think he believed his own rhetoric, that he could go and talk to them and work with them. And he kept doing that, and modifying things and saying, “Now will this work?” And of course they’d kick him like a soccer ball every time he walked in there. And I think he’s finally figured it out, but it wasted a lot of time.

CS: Do you think back on the days when you were running for president and what might have been?
PS: No, not really. I just think, oh my goodness, what an awful job that’s become. It really has become a very, very difficult job and it’s a very difficult time. I don’t think there’s anybody who’s got an answer totally. If they do, I wish they’d speak up (laughs).

CS: When you started in ’72 I think there were just five congressional seats in Colorado?
PS: That’s right.

CS: So you’ve seen the state grow quite a bit [Ed. note: Colorado has seven congressional seats now.]
PS: Yeah, absolutely.

CS: Do you think the tenor has changed a lot here — serving in Colorado and going back and forth (to Washington)? Do you think that the job has changed a lot?
PS: Well, when I was there — this is an interesting thing, because when Diana (DeGette, Schroeder’s successor representing the 1st Congressional District) came, I said to her, “I really think that you probably should move your family to D.C.” Because, my experience was, from Tuesday through halfway Friday we had Committee hearings and stuff and then you went home for the weekend. And I said it’s easier to control your time and see them here (in Washington), and here they’re just one more kid, nobody knows who they are, so people aren’t saying, “My dad thinks your mom’s a jerk,” or whatever.
So she did, and then after two years she called me and said, “You know, we’re going to go back to Colorado, it’s all changed.” I said, “What do you mean it’s all changed?”

And she said, “I can take the kids to school on Tuesday morning, make the plane and be home for dinner Thursday night and not miss a vote.” I’m like, “What?”

And they have — they have just so condensed it, and all these guys are living in their office. And really, the process has just been totally thwarted. Because you know, part of the process was to have hearings and understand what was going on and then go to Rules Committee and you battled it out again, and then you’d — and none of that’s happening. And Wednesday is just the day from hell on the Hill (laughs).

CS: Another result of that is that members of Congress don’t live together, don’t run into each other at the grocery store —
PS: They don’t know each other —

CS: Is that part of the difference?
PS: Oh, yeah. And then what they do is, they don’t want to be on the floor either, so now they cluster all these votes. I was talking to one of them the other day, he was furious. He said, “Well, they clustered seven votes,” so you do seven votes five minutes apart. And everybody — it was utter chaos on the floor. And he said, “I missed two votes just because it’s like, ‘OK, next one, OK, next one.’” It’s just a totally different way of doing business than we did it. So I feel like an old curmudgeon, but —

CS: I think we even see that at the state level, at the State Capitol.
PS: Uh huh.

CS: It used to be that there was a lot more socializing and talking across the aisle and getting to know your colleagues. And now, it’s different, it’s more of just business and —
PS: Do it and get out.

CS: Exactly, exactly.
PS: That’s what this is.

CS: And term limits has really affected that in Colorado.
PS: Oh yeah, oh yeah.

CS: It’s very different.
PS: Yeah. And of course, if you’re just going to vote no on everything, there’s no need to study it or understand it or go to a hearing.

CS: Right.
PS: Why would you go to — why would you give them a quorum to have a hearing or anything, because you know what you’re going to do, you’re going to vote no. So you don’t really want to know what’s in it, which is (laughs) — which is just nuts to me. But that’s kind of where we are.

CS: Do you think there’s any way to fix that? Is there any going back?
PS: Oh yeah, I think there’s — I mean that’s why I’ve been so active with Common Cause. I hate being a process liberal, I really do (laughs). I am much more into the substance, and I think everybody else is too. But I finally realized, the substance is going nowhere because of this stupid process, so it is time to put all my focus on the process (laughs), and then we’ll get back to the substance, because the substance is a waste of time right now.

(Common Cause has) got this bill that’s going to be marked up that’s public financing, basically. And I think it’s a very good bill. And they’ve got lots of other things, you know, they’re going to sue on the filibuster, they’re going to do a lot of things like that. And I think that’s very important. As I say, normally I would say, “Ah, it’s the least of my interests. I didn’t get elected to do this.” It’s like going to the Ladies Garden Club and spending hours on bylaws. But, oh boy, they’ve got to do something.

CS: What do you think the likelihood of it passing is?
PS: I think it’s much more likely than it was. Again, the Republicans will probably filibuster it in the Senate, so it probably wouldn’t get out. But, on the other hand, I think there’s going to be a lame duck (session), and it’ll be interesting to see what they do in the lame duck. I just don’t know what’s going to be in the lame duck, but I just can’t believe — I mean, people on both parties — I’m really sorry the Democrats adopted this, but I was talking about it yesterday (at the Colorado Common Cause fundraiser) — you have to pay dues to the party to keep your position. Diana was telling me, her dues are more than I ever spent on an entire campaign. So you’ve got to raise all that money just to give to the party before you start raising any money for your own campaign. And now you’re also supposed to have, if you’re senior enough, to have your own PAC, so you can help all the new people. I mean all you would do is raise money. I can’t —

CS: — or have it yourself, like Jared (Polis) or someone —
PS: Yeah.

CS: If you’re not self funding —
PS: If you’re not self funding, yeah, it’s really tough.

CS: But fortunately in the 1st (Congressional) District, it’s not as bad in terms of —
PS: No, the 1st District is wonderful in that, a) it’s compact, its not spread out all over. So it’s very easily serviced, you know?

CS: And the number of registered Republicans makes it a lot easier to hold on to.
PS: Oh, yeah. I don’t think Diana’s ever had a serious race, has she?

CS: When Ramona Martinez ran against her in the primary, which didn’t end up to be that — and that was about as tough as it got.
PS: Uh huh.

CS: It’s pretty hard for Republicans to get that kind of support.
PS: I think she’s probably safe. Probably Jared is safe.

CS: I think Jared’s safe —
PS: He should be.

CS: And Ed Perlmutter? He should be, although you never know.
PS: He’s such an Energizer Bunny. I just love him! He’s wonderful. And Betsy (Markey) I worry about.

CS: I think that’s the one potential casualty. That’s the targeted race.
PS: Yeah, it’s a tough one.

CS: Do you know her well?
PS: Well, yeah, I’ve met her. But I wouldn’t say well.

CS: The big race, though, is the Senate Seat with Michael Bennet and Ken Buck. That one could go either way too.
PS: Yeah.

CS: It looks like it’s a dead heat right now. But can you believe, if you read in The (Denver) Post this morning, the story about the Democrats attacking Buck for pushing these abortion stances?
PS: Oh, those are terrible. —

CS: Does it strike you as odd that we’re still having these discussions 35, 40 years later?
PS: Yes, yes!

CS: And there’s this TV spot in which they’re talking, a woman’s talking about — with an OB/GYN talking. And it’s like, didn’t we do this decades ago?
PS: I know, it’s like I’ve seen this movie so many times. How many times do I have to see this movie? No, (Buck is) pretty retro. Well, just his comment about (Republican primary opponent Jane) Norton, that was enough to give you a real window. [Ed. note: Buck told a group of conservatives he should win their votes because he doesn’t wear high heels, a remark he later said was a joke.] He can apologize forever but it was a real window into his little soul on what he thinks (laughs). It’s not good.

CS: Were you surprised? Did you pay attention when Jane Norton was running, or no?
PS: Just kind of lightly, I wasn’t closely watching it.

CS: What about Scott McInnis?
PS: Oh my gosh. Well, I wasn’t shocked at all. There are a lot of people who are big McInnis fans but I never —

CS: But you remember him from those days?
PS: Oh yeah, I do, yeah. He was one living in his office, changing his hair color all the time, and he was so into it. He’s a strange duck, I thought, but —

CS: Things change — a year ago he was the likely nominee.
PS: Oh, I know.

CS: He could have been governor — even three months ago.
PS: Isn’t that something? The other thing that so amazes me is how the Right takes care of their own. I mean could you imagine someone giving you $300,000 to write an article?

CS: Yeah, and then not even writing it.
PS: And then not writing it on top of it? I mean, you show me a Democrat that’s retired, somebody’s throwing them $300,000 to write an article. I mean that, to me, is just ridiculous. And I don’t know any journalist who ever get $300,000 for an article, or even as an advance for their book unless they’re (bestselling author) Michael Lewis or somebody (laughs).

CS: Right, right. It’s interesting too, because I think back when I started at The Statesman, which was the late ’70s, it was before the Internet and all the new technology. Do you remember the way we used to do things?
PS: Oh my gosh, yeah.

CS: It’s like these kids now — that’s what I call them — I mean they have no idea what it used to be like to campaign, without all the computers and the instant stuff where you can play things back on YouTube and catch them —
PS: I will never forget, one of the worst days of my life was one of the earliest campaigns, I can’t remember which one. We had some intern, and you had to deliver press releases. You’re going around and you deliver them. And so this intern had the addresses and the press releases and took one of the cars — I’ve forgotten whose it was — and she swiped 12 cars in a row. I have no idea how she did it, it was like, oh my God, I’m going to commit suicide. But yeah, no, you had to have somebody out doing it, it was —

CS: — and it was before the fax —
PS: Exactly, and you had to jump out of the car and go in and there was no parking. It was just a nightmare, yeah.

CS: That’s the way it was.
PS: That’s the way it was. Of course, now the problem is, nobody can get through all the stuff that comes at them.

CS: Oh, I know.
PS: In a way that was a sorter (laughs).

CS: Are you familiar, like do you do a lot of work with a computer?
PS: I work on the computer.

CS: And Facebook?
PS: No, no, I don’t do that.

CS: You don’t tweet?
PS: Oh my gosh, no. I just get so many people who just, “wicked old witch from the West” — why do I need that? I don’t need it. I got enough of that as a public official. I think I got more hate stuff than anybody and I figured, done with that.

CS: Do you miss it, though? Do you miss campaigning or do you miss —
PS: No, no.

CS: — being in the fray?
PS: I mean, I enjoyed it when I did it, but I don’t miss that angry finger in the face, you know? The NRA coming at me with both guns loaded, that type of thing, no. Or the Bureau of whatever, meeting me at the airport, telling me they just arrested somebody that had the plans to my house and, you know, I never miss that (laughs). That I could do without. Bricks through my window (laughs) —

CS: I remember stories about when you took Jamie to work and when you were on the Armed Services Committee, they didn’t have a seat for you and —
PS: I had to share a chair. I mean it was really — it was awful. I mean, you go in and you think oh, this is great, I’ve won, you know? Uh-uh, these old bulls were not about to make room. And I do think that’s part of the Tea Party thing too. As I say, I listen to their rhetoric and I can’t understand it. “We want our country back.” Well, nobody invaded it, you know? Who took the country over? Well, I think we know (laughs). People they don’t consider full citizens, ones they would give a half a chair like my chairman did (laughs).

CS: What are your thoughts on Sarah Palin?
PS: Well, I just keep saying, I fought all my life to open doors for women and once you open the door you don’t get to pick who runs through, so — I just (sighs) — I just always wish the women who — it’s kind of like, the one in my generation — oh, what was her name? from Southern Illinois, she’s still around, it drove me crazy on the ERA. Why am I drawing a blank? Anyway, she would be classic, because I would argue against her all the time on the ERA and all of these things.

CS: Right. We were just talking about that. That was a big issue back then.
PS: And I would say — she ran for office, she was a lawyer, she had all this—
Hello, dear! [Schroeder’s husband, Jim, walks up to the table.] Do you remember Jim? Jody —

CS: — Strogoff from The Colorado Statesman.
Jim Schroeder (JS): Hi. You know, some things change but some things never change (laughs).
PS: It’s wonderful.

CS: How are you?
JS: Good. I’m going to be outside doing a crossword, having an espresso, smoking my pipe.
PS: (Laughing) You never change either! You said it well, dear. [Jim heads for the door.]
But you know, I would sit there and I would say, “You’ve run through every door that I’ve laid down in front of trains to get opened for you, and you never say thank you or anything else and just keep screaming.” And I figured — and she’ll keep running through every door someone else gets opened but yell at the people who are trying to open them. But what can you do?
— Phyllis Schlafly. There we go, Phyllis Schlafly.

CS: Is she still around?
PS: She is. She was furious — she thought she should have been Secretary of Defense under Bush. I couldn’t believe it.

But this woman — we literally were in a restaurant one time in Washington, Jim and I and another couple. And the maître d’ came over and said, “I don’t know, I’ve never had this happen before.” And I said, “What?” And he said, “Well, Ms. Schlafly’s over here and she’s insisting that you move.” And I said to him, “Well now what do you think about that?” And he said, “Well, I think I should tell her if it’s bothering her she should move.” I said, “So do I.” So yeah.

CS: Isn’t that something? Amazing.
PS: Like I was contaminating the air space she was in. But this is the polarization that’s so crazy. And you keep saying, “Phyllis, you couldn’t even have been a lawyer, you know, if women hadn’t worked very hard to open this. You couldn’t have done it. You couldn’t have run for office, you couldn’t have done any of this. You couldn’t have voted, you couldn’t — ”

CS: Yeah. When you look now at the young people who probably aren’t as familiar with the fight for women’s rights — now things seem so much more taken-for-granted. But it was a fight back then.
PS: And it still is.

CS: — it still is — the Lily Ledbetter (Act, named after a woman who sued for equal pay).
PS: Yeah, Lilly Ledbetter, equal pay. To think that we’re still arguing about equal pay in a time when you’ve got so many single moms that are the sole source of income. And also, you’ve got a lot of families where the wife’s income has become 10 times more important in this recession. They certainly ought to be paid equally, it just doesn’t make sense.

So anyway. I Just keep thinking all those things we thought we won and that were permanently ingrained were kind of like nothing but beachheads. And if you don’t keep working on it, it all just erodes away. Someone was telling me — I don’t know if this is true, but I was in shock yesterday — someone said that Buck had given a speech in Colorado Springs and called for more hegemony in the military services. Did you hear that?

CS: Yeah, it was at the (Sept. 17 Senate debate in Colorado Springs). He said our armed service should be homogeneous.
PS: Homogeneous.

CS: Yeah. He was talking about (his opposition to) the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell repeal.
PS: Well, good for him. (Laughs) It’s stunning. He’d probably do away with women and everybody else too.

CS: Were you supporting Andrew Romanoff (in the Democratic Senate primary)?
PS: I don’t support anybody in primaries, yeah, no. No, I didn’t.

CS: Do you know Michael Bennet much?
PS: I’ve met him, he’s a very nice guy, I met his wife. I don’t know Andrew very well because he kind of came after I was there. But, no, I mean getting into primaries is just — unless it’s something like the guys in Medicare fraud or something (laughs).

CS: Except you did record an ad for Jared Polis (in his three-way Democratic primary in 2008), didn’t you?
PS: I did, but he was my (congressional) page. He was like my kid. I couldn’t believe he was my page. I have two pages that were unbelievable — Jared, I’ll never forget picking up the New York Times and seeing on the front page that he — I was like oh, my. And my other page is Shana Goldberg, who’s got a whole new show again coming out tonight. But she wrote Friends. [Ed. note: Shana Goldberg-Meehan was a creator of the NBC sitcom Friends and is the creator of the new ABC sitcom Better With You, which premiered Sept. 22.]

CS: Oh my goodness, right.
PS: Jim keeps saying to me, “How come your pages make so much more?” (laughs).

CS: But Jim’s written a lot of books —
PS: He’s written one. [Ed. note: Confessions of a Political Spouse by James Schroeder, a memoir recounting his experience as “Mr. Pat Schroeder,” was published last year by Fulcrum Publishing.]

CS: Just one? OK, I thought it was more than that.
PS: He had fun this last week. The Australians called him — he’s been on all these radio panels talking about being a spouse because they’ve got this very unique thing. [Ed. note: In June, Julia Gillard, who is unmarried but lives with a man she calls her “significant other,” took over as Australian prime minister.] And he keeps saying to them, “Well no, you’re way ahead of us. We haven’t had anybody with a significant other.” (Laughs) So I don’t know what the rules are for significant others. They’ve got this whole new wonderful woman prime minister — who’s got a significant other. Nobody knows how to handle it.

CS: Does he still feel like he’s Mr. Pat Schroeder?
PS: I don’t think so — I mean that’s one of the nice things about living in Florida, some place different. Far away from where you were.

CS: Are you involved in politics down there at all, or kind of observing?
PS: Not very much. I love the congressman — I’m so worried about him.

CS: Which one is that?
PS: (Democrat) Alan Grayson.

CS: Oh, you’re in Grayson’s district —
PS: I’m in Grayson’s district, and I think he rocks. I mean, he is totally fearless. But they’ve always had a Republican until he came and a Republican that’s been kind of —you know, had a profile belly-high to a snake, that never did anything, no one even knew who they were. They were just kind of anonymous and they just — no one ever ran against them because they just assumed it wouldn’t — and then here comes Grayson, you know, all horns blazing, I’m telling you. And so I’ve been trying to do what I can do to help him because I just don’t know, it’s going to be very hard.

CS: It’s going to be interesting to see what happens in six weeks —
PS: Um-hmm. Yeah, it will be (laughs).

CS: Do you anticipate getting back to Colorado?
PS: Oh yeah, yeah. You know, we’ve looked at places here. We came very close to buying a place two years ago. It was a riot — my son got a job here, he was ecstatic, they were out here, they were looking for houses. We all came out, we did this big thing — we had realtors, we were going for it. He’d been here like one week, and where he’d worked before called him and said, “No, we really want you.” And he said, “No, no, no, I’m perfectly happy.” “No, no, no, we really want you. What would it take?” So he — and then they called back and said, “OK.” (laughs)

CS: What does he do?
PS: Well, he’s now decided he didn’t like that job after all (laughs) and changed again. He’s now working for a non-profit. He’s like the CFO of a non-profit on the east coast. So that’s great, so he does lots of —

CS: And he’s OK living in New Jersey?
PS: Well you know, it’s one of those things where his wife also has her MBA and works and it’s a little hard to figure out how — those dual career things make it a little tougher. But so we really had it all laid out. In fact I think the Rocky (Mountain News) had come and covered it, and we said, “Oh my gosh, this is great.”

Well, so and then they decided they weren’t coming, they were back to where they were. And then last year we were all ready to do a place in Montana. I thought OK, well my daughter’s going to be here. And we could not get the plans we wanted in the city, it wouldn’t work, and we didn’t want to live outside, and on and on and on. And then we were there in December and it was 20 below for five straight days. I said, “There is no flaming way I’m going to live in this place.”

So, we will get back here and find a place when we kind of exhale. First we’ve got to get through the election and then my daughter and her family are coming to live with us for six months next year because her husband’s going on sabbatical at the university.

CS: Oh my goodness —
PS: So that’ll be great fun and then next summer we’ll have more time maybe to think about what next. But life keeps happening very fast.

Jody@coloradostatesman.com and Ernest@coloradostatesman.com