Anderson's problem is that whether he is on the House floor or on the campaign trail, most of the kind words for his presidential ambitions come from Democrats. Udall, who calls Anderson "an exceptional person," said that he "encouraged him to get into the presidential race." In fact, Udall almost wrote a fund-raising letter for Anderson to New England environmentalists, but finally decided it was too much of an affront to traditional party politics. Paul Findley, an Illinois Republican who wears an Anderson button on the House floor, said, "it engenders a lot of favorable comments—especially from Democrats."
Keke, that's why John is running for President, she's a kook," was the assessment of one House Republican. There is a glimmer of truth here. Keke Anderson, the daughter of Greek immigrants, grew up in Boston. She married John twenty-seven years ago, when he was in the Foreign Service and she was working for the passport office in the State Department. They have five children who, as she puts it, "range in age from the sandbox to Sartre." She is not only her husband's most devoted supporter but also the kind of feisty, independent political wife who gives campaign managers apoplexy.
At a dinner stop in Hillsborough, New Hampshire, a local reporter asked her, "Mrs. Anderson, what would you focus on if you were First Lady?" It is the inevitable question for a candidate's wife, and the answers are invariably innocuous—help retarded children, the arts, and so forth. Keke Anderson began, "I would work to turn our nation's psychology away from building more and more bombs. As a mother of five ... " and she went on from there, sounding more like an organizer for the Women's Strike for Peace than the loyal wife of a Republican presidential candidate.
Anderson chimes in, his voice thick with irony, "Careful, Keke, you're sounding like a peacenik. You know America has to arm to the teeth."
The reporter, who had recently interviewed a more traditional political wife, said, "Mrs. Bush doesn't contradict her husband."
"No dull marriage this," responded Mrs. Anderson.
Anderson took a puff on his Tiparillo and said, "It's about time the Republicans had a peace candidate. They had Gene McCarthy. I'm so sick of the people in my party who think in military terms."
The conversation then shifted to political wives in general, and someone volunteered that most of them are spontaneous as Barbie dolls. Anderson took another puff and said, "Well, I'm no Ken."
Despite his sense of humor, there is a stiff, almost priggish, side to Anderson's personality. He acknowledges it, even half apologizes for it. Listen to him explain why he is running. "As self-serving as it sounds, I guess a little bit pretentious, maybe pompous, you feel that you have learned something after twenty years' participation in national affairs."