Into the lobby of Terry Goddard's downtown campaign headquarters, someone has just lugged a canvas banner that is painted in new campaign colors. At the moment, Goddard is sequestered upstairs with television reporters and he cannot witness this event. His absence doesn't matter much, however, since he has become such a phenomenon by now that he doesn't need to actually be in a room for it to represent him. He is here at this moment, for instance, in the crowd of campaign volunteers who are well-groomed, well-educated, well-modulated women in low-heeled shoes, and who are either clustering around the banner or holding it up so that the other women can get a better look at it. He is here in the profuse way that they are exclaiming over the design. These professional-looking women are one sort of person who gravitates toward Goddard, and this is the kind of enthusiasm that he is capable of unleashing in them.
"Oh, I can't wait for Terry to see it," one of the women says, as a couple of the others tack the thing around the outside of the reception desk.
Eventually, he does see it. He lopes down the stairs wearing the same gray suit that he has been wearing out in public for years, or else one just like it. His pleasant, intelligent face wears its customary air of distraction, so at first he walks right past the banner.
"Did you see it?" the same woman asks him gaily, as he passes her.
"See what?" "The new sign. It's here." She points him back out into the lobby and he parks himself in front of the banner politely. His expression as he briefly scrutinizes it never changes.
"Oh," he says. He pauses. "I thought it was going to be different colors."
The woman has never stopped watching him as he is watching the banner. "But do you like it?" she wants to know.
"Yeah, it's fine," he says, in a voice that is very uninvolved, and then he strides out of the lobby.
"He likes it," the woman says to one of the other women. She says it with audible satisfaction, as though she has just received the thing she was looking for, even though Goddard gave her almost nothing.
A few days later, one of Goddard's campaign workers--someone who asks not to be identified--is ruminating on an aspect of the myth that surrounds Terry Goddard, an aspect that seems to shed some light on the banner incident. "Terry is somebody who personally you get very irritated with, because you know that he is capable of being a better person interpersonally than he is," the volunteer says. "But on the other hand, I find myself willing to do a million things for him. I think part of Terry's charisma is there is a sort of a sense of vision about him. But I also think that his supporters end up mirroring things we feel strongly about and attributing them to Terry."
It is as good an explanation as any for the sometimes fanatical appeal of this youngish, bookish man who has never been anything like fanatical. His fans pay gushing tribute to him, and his sizable cadre of political supporters work their butts off for him, and yet there never seem to flicker within him the kinds of passions and resolve that one usually associates with inspirational leaders. So perhaps it's true that, because his political theories are populist and his reactions to events are sometimes blank, the voters have been moved to partially invent him.
None of which is to say that he doesn't have strong feelings about being a politician. By all accounts, his devotion to public service is real and is, in fact, the very source of his personal identity. "He just doesn't know how to let go of his own perception of what he has to be--Terry Goddard the Mayor or Terry Goddard the Candidate or whatever. I have never seen him say, `We are not going to talk business tonight,'" says a City Hall insider.
He may also be possessed of what one of his political observers calls "principles in the corny sense," in that the Goddard mayoral administration was not scandalous. But even if it's true that he's a clean politician and a devoted one, many of those who've been associating with him for years still aren't sure what else he is, perhaps because he maintains an emotional distance from people and issues.
"What does he believe in?" asks a woman who has known him for a decade, echoing the question that has just been posed to her. "Who knows?"
"What does it take to know Terry well?" muses attorney Chuck Case, a friend since college who is also pointed out by others as one of Goddard's closest political advisers. "Oh, I am not sure I know Terry well."
Apparently, his ability to remain uninvolved is nothing new; he had already developed it by the time he had reached Harvard.
He majored in American History, but he says that what he really longed for was a course of study in hands-on politics. There was no such thing at Harvard. There were opportunities for political involvement that he passed over, since they weren't of the ilk he was seeking. The Harvard of 1969, the year that Goddard graduated, was one of impassioned protests. These protests greatly influenced him, and helped shape the political philosophies that he later practiced as mayor. And yet he held the events themselves at arm's length.
He remembers in particular a late night in the spring of '69, when distraught students ran through his dormitory and roused him out of a sound sleep. Setting off the fire alarms, they spread the news that police had invaded the campus and that, decked out in riot helmets and shields to the point that they looked like alien invaders, they were clearing out of University Hall the students who had occupied it as part of a peaceful sit-in.
Many of the students who were also awakened were so incensed or curious that they trekked down to Harvard Square to see the confrontation firsthand. Goddard did not.
"I went back to bed," he remembers. He was a dedicated athlete, a member of the crew team, and he was in training. Plus, "I was a little skeptical. I resented their running through the colleges and pulling everybody's fire alarms. They were trying to get me involved in a battle that was not my battle."
The students who had demonstrated that day were protesting a laundry list of concerns, from the presence of ROTC on campus to the landlord policies that Harvard practiced in Cambridge. Some of these issues interested Goddard--he was a politically minded Democrat, after all, and he had entered college directly out of prep school in order to avoid the draft--and the press photos that appeared after the brouhaha with police interested him even more. "It was as unnecessary as hell," he says of the decision to call in the police that was widely denounced on campus, and that resulted very shortly in a university-wide strike of students.
"There was nothing either monolithic or ultimately that unreasonable about the radical students. I did not agree with them; I did not like the confrontational methods they were using and did not want to be part of it. But I dealt with them every day, and they were not going to burn the place down.
"Harvard was clearly one of my early heroes. I could not imagine a more exciting, fertile environment. And yet it called in the cops on its own people, its family! And it happened all over America!"
He points to the incident now as a beginning for many of his own populist views. "The responsibility of my generation is . . . a matter of avoiding what happened at University Hall," he says. "The overreaction, the failure to understand what is happening and discuss it, the tendency to turn the opposition into an enemy because they disagree.
"I don't think that any other generation has had it so clearly expressed to them: Humanize the process!"
He says all this, but he went back to bed anyway. It is as though he is able to maintain a cool distance even from the ideas that stimulate him the most. There is no reason to disbelieve, though, that "humanizing the process" has become a consuming interest for Goddard. It was Goddard who spearheaded the public campaign that changed City Hall by ushering in, in 1982, true neighborhood representation in the form of the city council district system. (The districting plan itself was the brain child of the politicos who run the local firefighters union. They strategized the movement, they raised the money for it, and, knowing that it would fail if it was perceived in this conservative community as a union campaign, they recruited Goddard to be the smooth guy out in front who handled the press. Some of them have also continued to feel annoyed through the years as Goddard has made no effort to share with them the credit for the campaign's success.) It was Goddard who, as mayor, pushed for more citizen-input committees on a very broad range of city issues. He has implemented the lessons he learned during the Harvard strike, even though he is a dispassionate fellow.
And sometimes his dispassion has served him well with the voters, although it has not always endeared him to developers and some fellow politicians. Where many officeholders are swayed by friendship and loyalty, and the expediency of sweet deal making that means they'll rake in the campaign contributions, those emotional considerations have not seemed to faze Goddard. Political insiders will tell you again and again that, as mayor, he easily rebuffed friends who came to him for favors that would have cost the city money or required him to publicly support their projects. It is an ability that can make him appear to be beyond influence peddling.
These political insiders would also, depending upon their historical perspectives, phrase this tendency of Goddard's quite differently from one another.
"He double-crossed people all the time, consistently," says someone who worked with him at City Hall and asked not to be identified. The source says it was typical of Goddard to commit to back a project in private and then back out during a council meeting when he feared, for instance, that an aye vote would make him appear to be pro-development in his public's eyes. This was particularly typical when Goddard knew there were enough other pro-votes on the council to carry the project he favored, says the source. "He has no sense of loyalty. He has no true friends. You can't trust him," the source says.
Another political insider, someone close to Goddard, has a more charitable and complex take on this tendency, which he also acknowledges. "Terry is a careful politician and a difficult guy to read sometimes," says the source, who also asked to remain anonymous. "You may have been active in his campaign, and you walk in [wanting a deal], and Terry starts asking you a jillion-and-a- half questions, and you have to start justifying yourself. It ain't a slam dunk. Supporting Terry may get you access to him, but it doesn't get you support for your project." This attitude is such a dramatic contrast to the system of power-brokering politics that prevailed in Phoenix before the districting system that it can leave good ol' boys lamenting that Goddard knows nothing about loyalty, the source suggests.
These same good ol' boys often simply misunderstand Goddard, according to this source. Because they are accustomed to simpler terms for gaining approval, they hear a commitment where none was intended. "You go in, you take your deal out, and Terry tells you he likes it. That doesn't mean he is there yet," the source recounts. "It means, `I like it, and I'm going to see what it is.'
"He is there when he signs on the dotted line. A commitment is difficult to get from him."
What else has Goddard revealed about his personal values since he first took public office? There are those who would tell you that he has revealed that he is a spoiled brat--a rarefied prince of the city who is claiming his legacy of influence as part of a leading Arizona political dynasty, who expects that allowances will be made for him. They would tell you that, in this way, he has not made good on the part of "humanizing the process" that has to do with discussing things calmly and not seeing the opposition as the enemy.
"I think you could feel heard and understood if you were talking about something that you both agreed upon," says former councilmember Duane Pell, who worked with Goddard at City Hall for six years. "If you have a different perspective than him, you definitely would not feel understood and heard." Another longtime associate says that when you differ with Goddard, you feel "dismissed." A third says, "He is amazing! When he didn't get what he wanted in City Hall, he'd be jumping up and down in the same spot and yelling! I swear to God he would!" ("That just didn't happen," says Goddard of the jumping-up-and-down comment. "I do have a temper occasionally, but I keep it under control, and I have frequently either changed or picked up new perspective from discussing an item with people.") And there are plenty of people who would tell you he has proved that, far from being a chronic activist who knows how to bring folks together, Goddard has been unimpressive at the task of forming coalitions that will support his programs, at least partially because he cannot prioritize. A councilmember who served with him and asked not to be identified remembers that, "invariably," Goddard would be trying to garner support for his projects on the way to the Tuesday afternoon council meetings, instead of working ahead. "He was off cutting ribbons and wasn't taking care of business," the councilmember says. "He would say, `I have got to talk to you.' I would say, `Terry, you're about a week too late.'"
These naysayers point to the three major battles Goddard waged as mayor--for Rio Salado, for Valtrans, for the enormous bond initiative that did pass nearly intact--and say his failure to succeed with the first two means that, when it comes to leadership, he doesn't have what it takes. (They neglect to mention that he had whatever it takes to stand out in front of two vastly unpopular propositions and go to the mat for them, a sign of the sort of conviction we complain is disappearing with the new breed of finger-in-the-wind politician.)
But there is even a third view, and it's an important one during this election, when everything about Arizona power seems to be in transition. It's the view from a behind-the-scenes politico who has watched Goddard struggle with the rapidly changing face of Phoenix politics and try not to be immobilized by it. This insider, who asked not to be identified, points out that, while the analysts are dissecting Goddard's performance in office, they don't consider that the old Phoenix power structure has fallen apart, and that, with the disappearance of the power brokers, it is far more difficult to accomplish anything in Arizona than it was before. They haven't been noticing that Goddard is the first major Arizona politician who should be judged according to new standards, but that he won't be the last.
"There was a day that if you could walk into [former legislator] Burton Barr's office, you had the deal done," the source says. "That is gone."
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This observer and others say that, because of the city and state's burgeoning size and the competing interests that numbers bring; because of the leadership cadre that left town with the savings and loans failures and the downturned economy; because of the emergence of the Religious Right as a political force; because of the districting system; because of these factors and others, it is no longer a simple matter to get a political deal transacted here. "Terry's inability to form coalitions has more to do with the way Phoenix is than who Terry is," the source says. "You don't know who to call anymore to move the process along, either on public votes or individual, special interest issues."
It is precisely this environment--one that is not dominated by a few--that Goddard and others were after when they moved to open up city government with the districting system. But it is also an environment that makes politics a matter of true salesmanship, the source says. Given all of that, he says about Goddard's record of success on major issues: "One out of three ain't bad."
"Oh, I can't wait for Terry to see it," one of the women says, as a couple others tack the campaign banner around the outside of the reception desk.
"Terry is somebody who personally you get very irritated with . . . but on the other hand, I find myself willing to do a million things for him.