Joel Kaplan: Karl Rove's Replacement, Recovering Ex-Democrat
Considering that yesterday we posted an old resume of his and analyzed the Google results for his name, you might think that we're a bit obsessed with Joel D. Kaplan, who's replacing Karl Rove as deputy White House chief of staff for policy.
But we're not the only ones these days scrutinizing Joel Kaplan -- who, given the high-profile shoes he's filling, can expect to be placed under the microscope. Last night Jon Stewart had a riff about Kaplan on the Daily Show, discussing Kaplan's participation in the "Brooks Brothers riot" that contributed to halting the Miami recount in 2000. In today's Post, Al Kamen chimes in, noting that Sen. Frank Lautenberg is not a Kaplan fan (but that's not a problem for Kaplan's promotion, since his new gig doesn't require Senate confirmation).
The most interesting info about Kaplan is that he used to be a Democrat, in his college days. Back in 1990, he was elected as an alternate delegate to the Massachusetts State Democratic Convention. Who'd have thunk that a Brooks Brothers rioter and successor to Karl Rove was a Democrat in his youth? A college classmate of Kaplan has this to say:
I vaguely remember that he was an active Democrat, albeit a somewhat conservative one. He was a total politico: he represented Eliot House in the Undergraduate Council, and IIRC, he agitated for bringing ROTC back onto campus. I'll bet my last dollar he voted against Bush 41 in '88.
And there's much more to say about the White House's new policy guru. After the jump, an extremely detailed, "Single White Male"-style email from a law school classmate of Kaplan's, who has some highly specific recollections.
Here's the email:
Date: Apr 20, 2006 11:36 PM
Subject: Joel Kaplan's Law School Days
For what it's worth, I went to law school (HLS 1998) with Joel Kaplan. First-year law students are divided into "sections" which share most of their classes; Joel and I were in the same section of about 150 people. Joel won the "Sears Prize," which means he was one of two people in the whole first-year class with the highest grades. Ask any HLS person and they'll tell you that the Sears Prize winners are freaks of nature, never seen outside their rooms and without any social skills. That was certainly not true of Joel. He was an outgoing, friendly guy whom pretty much everyone liked. He was a regular attendee at the first-year tradition of Thursday night "Bar Review" (get it? hardee har har) and an all-around good guy.
Fun Joel Kaplan Law School facts:
* Watched "NYPD Blue" even when it wasn't cool any more
* Liked Egg Bagels with Lox Spread and Raw Onion
* Favorite movie: The Godfather
* Lived in the basement of student housing during his second and third years
* Parodied as "Joel Captain" in the school show his third year
Here's my favorite Joel Kaplan story: a bunch of law-school people were at a party in some dude's apartment, drinking crappy keg beer out of plastic cups. One of the women there was, um, vertically challenged. Joel (who, like all of us, was a little buzzed) bumped into her by accident, spilled a little beer on her, and said, "I'm sorry, little one." He meant it funny but she got pissed. Another dude said: Joel, to atone for that comment, you have to pour a beer over your head. And he did.
In all seriousness, though, most of the time Joel was an extremely substantive guy, deeply interested in good (if conservative) policy. The Bush White House is (in my view rightly) criticized for having no domestic policy vision. If they're as craven as I think they are, either Joel will have to change a lot, or there will be some shakin' goin' on in the years ahead. I guess we'll see.
P.S. Rachel Brand was also in our section. I keep meaning to check those White House financial-disclosure thingies to see who's getting paid more.
Seven Elected State Delegates [The Harvard Crimson]