In the studio, Morris is smooth, glib and smart. "I was in total denial," he says of the circumstances that caused him to leave his job as Clinton's adviser. He likens his behavior to "a housewife addicted to amphetamines or a businessman who drinks at night. They don't admit to themselves they have a problem."
Several people call in to tell Morris that they admire him.
"Mr. Morris, nobody in the world has the right to judge you," says James from Tallahassee, Fla. "So all these people who say bad things about you just need to get over it."
"I'm a big admirer of yours," says Ella from Wheaton. "You are a brilliant person and a kind human."
Later, sitting in her office, Rehm is asked if she was surprised that a number of her callers were so complimentary to Dick Morris.
She thinks for a minute.
"You know, the thought kept going through my mind that it's true that Americans are very forgiving," Rehm says. "Now, if he hadn't been somehow publicly humilated -- if he'd just snuck out the back door -- maybe the reactions would have been totally different. But I think the fact that he was caught flatfooted, that his wife left him ..." Her voice trails off. "I mean, it's remarkable, but people are forgiving."
Her words seem prophetic when, a week later, it is reported that Dick Morris, after a tryout on a New York radio station, will become the host of his own talk show.
All right. And we'll stop it right there.
Rehm's career was an accident. "I don't think I ever thought I really wanted a career," Rehm says. When her children were growing up, she was happy to stay at home, cooking and sewing and ironing perfectly her husband's shirts. For several of those years she didn't even have a car, a circumstance which to this day summons up a sense of isolation.
"It's enough to drive you nuts. I used to say to John, my husband, 'My friends have become the milkman, the diaper man and the electrician' -- people you could talk to when they came by," says the woman who now spends her days talking to the likes of Hillary Rodham Clinton and Archbishop Desmond Tutu.
But then something happened, something that millions of mothers can relate to: "My kids started growing up, and I just thought: What am I going to do now?"
In the fall of 1972 she enrolled in a continuing-education course aimed at helping women examine career choices. "My thought was I might be a fashion designer, but during these discussions in the classroom, one after another person said to me, 'You ought to go into broadcasting.' "
To this day, Rehm has no idea why her classmates suggested she seek a career in radio. Nontheless, she followed their advice.
She volunteered at WAMU, a university-affiliated radio station that drew heavily on volunteer staff. On her first day, the talk-show host, Irma Aandahl, was sick, and Rehm filled in with another substitute to quiz a member of the Dairy Council. "Sitting in front of a microphone just felt right," she recalls now. From there, Rehm went on to work her way up to producer.
After a stint as a medical reporter for television and radio, Rehm replaced Aandahl -- who left when her husband accepted a position in Princeton -- as host and producer of WAMU's morning talk show, "Kaleidoscope."
Even now, Rehm names Aandahl as the person who most influenced her radio style, citing "her graciousness on the air, her noncombativeness and yet her firm, understanding grasp of what was being discussed."
Aandahl, on the other hand, says Rehm had what it takes from the moment she walked into the studio: "Right from the beginning, Diane had that quality of approaching what she wanted to do very exhaustively and very carefully," says Aandahl.
In 1984, the morning program was renamed "The Diane Rehm Show."
4 Suddenly, the accidental career was no accident.
For a long while, Rehm was quite troubled by one thing: her lack of a college degree.
"It really used to bother her in dealing with people who had Ph.Ds and beyond," says John Rehm, who is a graduate of Harvard University and Columbia Law School. "It took her years to get past that. Now she can take on anybody, including the president." When John Rehm met Diane at the State Department, she was emerging from a difficult three-year period. Her mother had died at the age of 49, shortly after Diane's first marriage in 1956. Her father died within 10 months. Soon after, the Arab community was stunned when Diane separated from her husband, who owned a dry-cleaning store.
The marriage did not work, she says, because "his expectations of me were that I would continue in the role he expected of a young Arab woman. And that wasn't at all my sense of myself."