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Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Lawrence O'Donnell's Many Lives



Lawrence O'Donnell has lived an interesting life for someone who has not even seen his sixth decade on the planet. O'Donnell, or "L.O.D. as the libertarian comedian Penn Jillette likes to call him, started in politics after graduating from Harvard as a legislative aide to the late, great Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan and the Democratic Chief of Staff of the United States Senate Committee on Finance, which moynihan chaired, from 1993 through 1995. Among Moynihan staffers -- some of the brainiest on the Hill -- LOD was known as "the golden boy," on account of his close frindship with the Senator's wife, Liz. Lawrence was also in the thick of the knuckles-and-elbows battles of the Clinton health care plan debates and once said, acidly, of those days, "The Senator never liked Bill Clinton." The Senator did, as it happend, like and endorse hillary for his former seat after retiring. Moynihan and Clinton went on to clash over Welfare reform. Arguably, the worst fears didn't come true (although it is still early in this recession). In 1992, LOD served as Chief of Staff of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works. If there ever was a picture in the dictionary depicting the word "wonk," it would be a portrait of O'Donnell. He understands how shit gets done in Washington at the microcosmic level.

And yet, despite his formidable political resume, LOD has also been at the thick of some of the best television entertainment in recent memory (and we are not talking about his verbal fisticuffs with Pat Buchanan on McLaughlin Group). He created a wonderful but unheralded show about the ideal US Senator called Mr. Sterling. One wonders what the legendary Senator would have thought of that (although another protege, Tim Russert, had quite a career as a broadcaster as well). LOD plays Lee Hatcher, the Henrickson family attorney in the HBO series Big Love,

But my favorite incarnation of LOD was as a writer for the NBC series The West Wing. He gave us the President that we wanted (and, quite possibly got). Lawrence gets the 10 pm post-Rachel Maddow slot on MSNBC.

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