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Reporter's Notebook: The Harriman Funeral

WASHINGTON (AllPolitics, Feb. 13) -- Today's memorial service for Democratic doyenne Pamela Harriman was an elegant, extraordinary event, one iota short of a state funeral and "the perfect capstone for Pamela," says TIME's Christopher Ogden, author of a biography of Harriman.

Harriman

Ogden's impressions:

"What came through was what she meant to the president... He said, 'I wouldn't be here' -- meaning president -- 'if she hadn't been there.' I think he definitely feels she really elevated him.

"What she did in the early '80s when she started this political action committee, she asked him very early on to be one of the board members.

"He had just lost his re-election bid as governor of Arkansas. He joined the board, and he used to come up to Washington, and she basically introduced him to this entire circle of major players in the Democratic Party.

Clinton

"Reagan was in the White House, the Democrats were as far out on the edge of the power circle as you can imagine, but as they were trying to rebuild, she brought him into the middle of that.

"She raised a lot of money for the party, and of course, she raised a lot of money for him. She raised, in one day in 1992, $3 million for him out at her estate.

"The president felt that she involved him and got him into the warp and woof of the whole Democratic Party...

"He said picking her to be ambassador to Paris was perhaps the easiest pick he had of all the jobs. And he said having been over there to visit her, he then realized that she probably got a better job than he did.

"It [the memorial service] was by the book, very high book. It was extremely elegant. It was perfect for Pamela. The right people were there. The hymns were the right hymns...

"In a way, it was perfectly calculated -- and I think elegant and calculated and extremely well done is Pamela's story. It was the perfect capstone for Pamela."

TIME contributor Christopher Ogden is the author of "Life of the Party: the Biography of Pamela Digby Churchill Hayward Harriman."

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