``No access!'' McEntee exclaims, referring to what he says labor experienced from the White House during the 12 years of the Reagan-Bush presidencies, 1981-1993. He says he entered the White House only once--when Lech Walesa, leader of Poland's Solidarity labor movement, was honored and insisted that American labor leaders be present.
So McEntee is spoiling for a fight. In 1992 union households cast 19 percent of the presidential vote. But lately, thanks to aggressive voter-turnout operations that Republicans successfully emulated in 2002, voting by union households has risen rapidly: In 2000, union households delivered about 26 percent of the turnout.
How does McEntee think Bush can be beaten? ``You have to get him partially or altogether out of the bubble he's been in since 9/11.'' Meaning? ``You have to have a campaign that is somewhat aggressive on the issue (of terrorism), that shakes him (Bush) out of his hammock.''
McEntee thinks John Kerry has the advantage of a distinguished war record. However, McEntee ruefully remembers that George McGovern was not protected by his fine World War II record: ``I was treasurer of McGovern's Pennsylvania campaign, and we raised $400.''
Dick Gephardt may have an advantage--with McEntee, if not with the Democratic nominating electorate's antiwar activists--because he burnished his national security credentials by helping to write and pass the congressional resolution authorizing the use of force against Iraq. And McEntee notes that Gephardt, who won the 1988 caucuses, ``has cooked pancakes in everybody's kitchen'' there.
Recently, McEntee says, ``I was driving on Pennsylvania Avenue, past the Ronald Reagan Building, and I thought, 'Where are you now that we really need you?' Bad as he (Reagan) was for our people, this crowd is way out there.'' The blunt-speaking McEntee, more perhaps than any other person, will pick the candidate for expelling ``this crowd.''