Take Note of Bob Graham

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Al Gore may be Washington's best known control freak, but when it comes to minutiae, he has nothing on Bob Graham, who these days appears on nearly everyone's short list of possible Gore running mates. The Florida Senator has been filling notebook after notebook--close to four thousand of them to date, color coded by season. He has kept a running account of his every waking moment for the past 23 years--14 in the Senate, eight in the Governor's mansion, even his days in the state legislature. Graham writes down every meal, every meeting, every person he meets. No item is too small. "I would rather have more detail than less," Graham told TIME. On the September day in 1994 his daughter Cissy gave birth to a son, his notebook read:

8:25: Awaken at MLTH (Miami Lakes Town House)

8:45-9:35: Kitchen, family room. Eat breakfast, branola cereal with peach

9:35-9:40: Complete dressing. Watch Meet the Press

9:25-9:50: Drive to ABC studio

9:50-11:00: Makeup and prepare for interview

11:00-11:20: Taped interview with Bob Zelnick for ABC Sunday News

11:35-11:40: Talk with security

11:40-12:05: Drive to MLTH. Discuss Nicaragua

12:05-12:20: MLTH bedroom, bathroom, change to red shorts

12:20-1:20: MLTH kitchen, family room. Eat lunch (tuna salad). Watch Ace Ventura

12:50: Cissy thinks she's going into labor

1:15: Cissy preparing to leave for Baptist Hospital

1:20-1:30: MLTH. Bedroom, bathroom. Dress in blue slacks

1:30-1:45: Rewind Ace Ventura

2:00: Adele ready to go. Drive to Baptist Hospital

2:15: Stop at [video store] to return Ace Ventura

6:00-7:05: Cissy in examining room, delivery room, watch ABC News. Cissy commences preparation for labor

7:05-8:40: Drive to Bennigan's Restaurant with Adele. Listen to New England Patriots-Miami Dolphins (39-35)

7:20-8:25: Bennigan's. Eat supper (ham and cheese sandwich). Return to hospital

9:05-9:10: Waiting room. Read NYT, mingle

11:00-12:45: Waiting room. Watch CNN, CBS News

12:44: It's a boy!

"I use [the notebooks] as a working tool," Graham says. "I review them for calls to be made, memos to be dictated, meetings I want to follow up on and things people promise to do. I would be reticent to be too open in describing personal feelings and emotions."

Yet the notebooks are vital to understanding Graham's outlook on life. His half brother Phil married Katharine Meyer, whose father owned the Washington Post, and the couple were at the epicenter of the Washington social whirl of the 1960s. But at 49, Phil, a manic-depressive, killed himself. Bob Graham was 27 at the time. "Phil's legend was both inspiring and intimidating," says a person who knows Graham well and asks to remain anonymous. "After you see your brother commit suicide, one of the things you seek is control. No wild behavior, no profanity, no risk, loudness or recklessness of the kind Phil exhibited. Be self-disciplined. A form of it is that notebook."

Graham is an able if not exactly charismatic Senator with a good track record on education and environmental issues. This isn't his first experience as a potential running mate. Gore aced him out in 1992. In 1988 Michael Dukakis came calling but discovered Graham had played an adulterous husband in a Jimmy Buffett video called Who's the Blonde Stranger? Graham confessed that he had perhaps shown poor judgment. But that wasn't the problem. "They were concerned I hadn't listed any payment on my financial-disclosure form," Graham says. "But Jimmy never paid me a dime."

Graham does have a weakness for music. Friends and relatives roll their eyes when he breaks into one of his favorite campaign ditties: "I'm a Florida cracker, I'm a Graham cracker." "He'll sing it at the drop of a hat," says historian and Truman biographer David McCullough, whose son Bill is married to Graham's daughter Cissy. When grief-stricken Miamians took to the streets two weeks ago as news spread that Elian Gonzalez was returning to Cuba, Graham began composing a sympathetic operetta, setting the little boy's saga to music. In a mythic scene, Elian's mother emerges slowly from the ocean, her gown drenched, and softly, in a voice that gradually grows louder, she sings of her loss. "She's like the commentator in Evita," Graham explains, humming a few bars. Can he work in a Tennessee waltz?