It's no secret what reporters think of Gov. Rendell. We love him.
We love that he rarely experiences a censored moment and adores a microphone as much as a corned beef sandwich. Every day is open-mike night. It's the gift that keeps on giving.
This week - in our city! Thanks, Ed! - he said that Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano would be "perfect" as Homeland Security chief. "Because for that job, you have to have no life. Janet has no family. Perfect."
The next day, because Rendell's second career is responding to his responses, he told The Inquirer: "What I meant is that Janet is a person who works 24-7, just like I do. She has no life; neither do I."
Caution: Never read Rendell quotes while drinking hot coffee.
No life? Rendell has multiple lives. He's the Where's Waldo of politics. He's Governor Everywhere.
He works out at the Sporting Club at the Bellevue. On Sundays, he appears on Comcast SportsNet
after attending most home games. He's fluent in college basketball, frequents the Palestra. In the summer, he frolics at the Lombard Swim Club. He patronizes Philadelphia steak joints and delis, and Harrisburg's Da Pits Chicago Grill.
"We actually got together Sunday for the first time in a long time and watched some football at his house," says his former chief of staff David L. Cohen. See? That's a life. "We were sitting and talking, relaxing, but we were talking 100 percent business."
Rendell looks like he's having fun doing all the things that no one else has fun doing. He looks delighted at charity events. He loves attending county celebrations, even a few thousand or so. Astonishingly, he likes speaking to reporters. That, press secretary Chuck Ardo says, "makes my job both more difficult and easier." This week, probably more the former.
"He has tons of fun," says state policy director Donna Cooper. "That doesn't mean he has a life."
How come he's current on so many sports? "He goes home to the governor's mansion and reads work while watching sports and, sadly, PCN," Cooper says of the C-Span and Ambien of Pennsylvania politics. And, shockingly, the governor still doesn't get much sleep.
"He thrives on the life. He works all the time," says former chief of staff John Estey. "He calls from the Lombard Swim Club." The staff lives for Eagles Sundays, when, Estey says, "you know you have a couple of hours without calls."
Staff and former staffers doth protest too much. That's not a couple of hours but four or five, for 17 football-filled weeks.
Rendell plays with his dogs. He reads nonfiction, such as
Team of Rivals
(944 pages!), amassing dust on our bedside table, and
(768). He enjoyed
The Lord of the Rings
trilogy, 9.3 hours of viewing pleasure. See, the governor is a veritable renaissance man.
With Rendell, life is politics. Like Bill Clinton. Mayor Nutter revels in much of what comes with the job, too.
"Ed's gregarious. He loves going around and doing all these things," Cooper says. It's a chicken-and-Ed question as to whether he found politics because it suited his personality or he adapted because of his love for the work.
In two years, when Rendell's term is up and he could "have a life," no one imagines him slipping away quietly, the way his mayoral successor, John Street, has. "It's in his DNA," Estey says.
Rendell's dream, friends say, is to be baseball commissioner. What will we do without this gift, a man of such vitality who can fill hours of news gabfests? Ironically, Rendell was "loath to comment further," Ardo says, on the "no life" business and never phoned back.
Wait, Chris Matthews is inching closer to announcing a 2010 Senate run challenging Arlen Specter.
I'm telling you, there really is a Santa Claus.