Last week, after spending the Labor Day weekend in the mountains with Jimmy, Leo and Mark, Jeff returned to Washington and tried to catch up on all the work that had been piling up ever since he had become more involved with the AIDS issue.
At the end of the day he received an anonymous call from someone warning that the Reagan administration was trying to stall action on new AIDS funding until Congress recessed at the end of September for the 1982 elections.
Although brief, the call reinforced Jeff’s own belief that Tim and Susan’s efforts to cooperate with public health professionals within the Administration was misguided. After the next Task Force meeting he took them aside and insisted their bosses needed to quickly introduce a bill authorizing new funding for AIDS.
When Tim suggested $1 million, Jeff pressed for much more, arguing that would increase the likelihood of eventually getting something meaningful enacted.
Jeff also complained that the media outreach subcommittee of the AIDS Task Force wasn’t doing enough to focus attention on the problem. When he learned the subcommittee was essentially moribund, he agreed to take on that task as well.
But he insisted on a different outreach strategy, one that focused on the human dimensions of the disease rather than its technical details or the dispute over funding.
In particular, he argued that the strategy should focus on finding someone who could serve as the public face of the disease, much like the baseball player Lou Gehrig was the face of ALS. In turn, Tim questioned whether they would ever find a sympathetic poster boy for AIDS.
Many of Jeff’s gay colleagues agreed with that assessment, but one suggested a lot might depend on how the story was presented and encouraged Jeff to contact a reporter.
That led Jeff to talk to Tim and Susan again about whether they knew a reporter who might be sympathetic. Tim volunteered the name of a new reporter for the Washington Post’s Style section, someone named Tom Williams.
That led Jeff to wonder whether the reporter might be Tommy Williams, Jimmy’s best friend growing up. After discussing the matter with Jimmy, he decided to find out.
That’s where tonight’s chapter, which I’ve now posted, picks up. If you haven’t guessed already, we’re moving into the final stages of the story.
I realize it’s the holiday season and I thought about taking a break. But I want to finish up before The Orange One takes the oath of office here in the States so I can turn my attention to fighting his agenda full-time.
The bottom line is I’ll post the chapters as I usually do and you can read them whenever it happens to be convenient.