Schmoke speech writer gets White House job Macy departing to spin words for Hillary Clinton

January 20, 1998|By Jonathan Weisman | Jonathan Weisman,SUN STAFF

Christina Macy, a longtime assistant speech writer for Baltimore Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke, has assumed the mantle of senior speech writer to first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton.

It is quite a jump, from the part-time, No. 2 word-spinner in a mayoral office to the top speech-writing slot in the first lady's wing of the White House. Macy had been with Schmoke since 1988.

"I don't think it will be all that difficult for her as for the subject matter," said Harriet Scarupa, the mayor's chief speech writer and Macy's former boss. "But it's much more high-profile."

Macy, who turns 50 next month, spoke about her new job with reluctance, begging to stay in the background. She began work Jan. 4, replacing David Shipley, who has gone to the New York Times.

"It's an extraordinary honor, and it's thrilling and it's exhausting, and that's all I want to say," Macy said.

But if Macy cherished her low profile in Schmoke's office, she may lose it in Washington. The first lady's two-person speech-writing shop is under scrutiny. In August, the White House offered a $90,000-a-year speech-writing job to a former San Diego newspaper editorial writer only to rescind it days later. A background check of the candidate revealed that Joseph Holley had been accused in 1990 of sexual harassment. Holley denied the charges, which he settled out of court.

Four months later, Macy was tapped.

Before working for Schmoke, Macy had written in Washington for the liberal public advocacy group People for the American Way and for National Public Radio.

She said she and her husband, Pulitzer Prize-winning author Taylor Branch, have no plans to move with their two children to Washington.

"It's good not to live here," she said from her White House office. "I wouldn't leave Baltimore for a minute."

Branch has been close to President Clinton since 1972, when they ran Sen. George McGovern's presidential campaign in Texas. Macy said she has known Hillary Clinton for years, although she said she would hardly call the first lady a close friend.

Macy's mayoral speeches ranged from routine ribbon cuttings to TTC high-profile addresses to the CIA. Although she stayed outside the limelight, her role was pivotal, said Lee Tawney, director of international programs for the mayor.

"Whenever you're shaping words the mayor speaks publicly, it matters," Tawney said. "It's unfair to characterize her as not deeply involved in Baltimore politics."

To friends, however, she is just as famous for her herb garden, her dahlias, her hand-made stained-glass windows and her gourmet cooking.

Howard Lavine, a former Schmoke speech writer who now writes for Health and Human Services Secretary Donna E. Shalala, remembered Macy's work fondly.

Each year, it fell to Macy to write the mayor's speech commemorating the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday, perhaps because Branch is famous for his books on the civil rights movement. Each year, she groaned at the assignment, but Lavine said that each year she outdid herself.

Macy laughed at the memory.

"Because of who I go home to at night, there was a sense that I had added wisdom," she said. "But it wasn't true."

Pub Date: 1/20/98

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