KT quit the Department of Defense when she got married. “I’d made my contribution,” she says coolly. It remains startling, the degree to which KT amputated herself from Washington and public service—and for so long; it almost seems a repudiation of life before, when, like so many others, she was determined to have a life different from her own housewife-mother. “After leaving Washington, KT taught Sunday school, served as a class mother, directed school plays, headed a preschool library, and sang in the church choir,” say her handouts, “all the while remaining active in national-security circles.” Mainly, she kept up subscriptions to a lot of journals. As a Social Register “married maiden,” she (and Alan) checked off an impressive list of clubs: in town, the Union, Racquet, Metropolitan, Brook, and the Colony. In the country—in Southampton—National, Shinnecock, the Meadow, and the Bathing Corporation.
John Spencer, member of Alcoholics Anonymous, calls this KT’s “cocktail crowd.”
Only in 2000 did she find her way into management at the Foreign Policy Association, which anyone can join for $250; there, she helps book speakers for the prestigious ladies’ lecture series.
Experience remains an exquisitely fluid concept on the Hill, where in recent years the most powerful guy was someone who’d killed cockroaches for a living (Tom DeLay). After 9/11, KT sent Colin Powell a memo on communications strategy, and he asked if she’d return to the District. She still had kids to pick up from school, she said. But now she saw herself as part of some as-yet-undocumented-by-Newsweek generation of back-to-the-workforce boomer mothers.
Her daughter Fiona wanted to fly helicopters as a Marine or F-18 fighter jets. Mom’s brow contracted, and there was silence. She didn’t seem too happy about it. A Marine colonel who’d once worked for her had been kidnapped and tortured in Lebanon. That tattered flag that hung above her head came from the USS Bache, commanded by her husband’s father and battered by kamikaze pilots. A stain on the flag had always fascinated her kids: Is that blood? they’d ask. Now KT’s daughter was willing to spill her own for her country.
KT said she was frightened, but insisted that “as an American,” she applauded her daughter’s choice. (“Alan tried to go to the Naval Academy, but he has very, very bad eyes, so he couldn’t pass,” she disclosed later—just in case I might be thinking what I was in fact not.)
Suddenly, she got a bit exasperated. “Why do you think I’m doing this?” she asked. (A fair question.) KT wants a say in things when her daughter receives her commission in June 2008. Which begged for some follow-up: If Fiona were at Yale, would KT now be running for office?
“Well, I mean, I probably would be doing something,” she said. Instead, it would be a summer spent phoning the cocktail crowd for money from a cramped cabana now shared with Ed Rollins and John Spencer. Somewhere, Hillary Clinton was grinning.