A press secretary with spice
The secret of Bear's Goat-Gap Texas Chili, which again this year beat out all contenders for the coveted Washington Chili Bowl Championship, is in the technique and the spices: superhot chili powder, seeded jalapeno peppers, oregano and masa harina. So it is with the press briefings of "the Bear," as Illinois-born James Brady calls himself. Even when he has nothing of substance to say, his witty affability can calm hungry reporters. At one point during the transition when he had no inside news to impart. Brady disarmed disappointed newsmen with a typical wisecrack: "I've gotten so bad on giving out information that the IRS has promulgated a new ruling. Lunches with me are not tax deductible any more."
Now that Brady, 40, has finally been named the new White House press secretary, after a lengthy search turned up no one better or more willing to tackle the job, his briefings will no doubt be known for meat as well as spice. Although not a longtime Reagan insider, he worked closely enough with the President-elect during the campaign to be assured of the access crucial for a spokesman. "The nature of Reagan is that he's an extremely open and accessible person." says Brady.
"I feel no access problem at all, because if I did I would not have taken the job."
Added Reagan when he introduced Brady at Blair House last week: "I've never run an administration in which people didn't have access to me."
When he launches into one of his droll, deadpan stories, Brady's Buddha-like face tries to conceal an impish grin, with all the success of a novice poker player hiding a royal flush. He relishes answering questions by formulating quotable one-liners and piling adjectives upon metaphors. Occasionally, when he crosses the line from irrepressibility to irreverence, Brady gets into trouble. Once, aboard the campaign plane as it flew over a Louisiana forest fire, he gleefully shouted: "Killer trees! Killer trees!" The reference to Reagan's campaign gaffe about the contribution of trees to air pollution grounded him for a week. Yet he asserts:
"I am never going to abandon a sense of humor. If you get so serious that you lose all perspective, you don't serve anybody well, particularly yourself."
It was reported, and vehemently denied by Reagan, that Wife Nancy wanted a press secretary who was "reasonably good-looking." Said the President-elect:
"Nancy couldn't be more delighted, and thinks he's absolutely handsome." Perhaps reasonably handsome would be more like it. The 6-ft., 235-lb. Brady has the type of balding, boyish looks that could best be appreciated as cute and huggable by, well, a Mama Bear. No doubt he was chosen less for his physique than for his professional credentials: in the years since he got his 1962 B.S. in communications and political science at the University of Illinois, Brady has worked for the late Illinois Senator Everett Dirksen, the OMB, the Pentagon, Delaware Senator William Roth and, most recently, Texas' John Connally.