In The Know

Jennifer Palmieri: ‘Ever since I was aware of politics, I wanted to be in politics’

Sara Kestlinger/The Circus

Other kids might want to become astronauts or athletes when they grew up, but for Jennifer Palmieri, the pull was always towards politics.

“Ever since I was aware of politics, I wanted to be in politics,” says the author and longtime political advisor.

Long before she became the Obama White House’s communications chief in 2013 or communications director for Hillary Clinton’s 2016 White House bid, Palmieri looked on as her mom volunteered on Republican Trent Lott’s first congressional campaign in Mississippi.

“She would dress me up in like a Trent Lott sandwich board, and have me canvas, and put me in front of the grocery store with my friends passing out pamphlets,” Palmieri, 54, recalls.

Despite becoming a human campaign ad — or perhaps because of it — Palmieri yearned to one day land in the halls of Congress, saying, “I felt lucky that I always know what I wanted to do.”

When she eventually began working for then-Rep. Leon Panetta (D-Calif.), Palmieri had a chance to reflect on some of her first sandwich board campaign memories with Lott himself.

“He said something like, ‘How did you go so far astray?’” she says with a laugh.

Now Palmieri’s getting her political fix each week as co-host of Showtime’s “The Circus.” The show, which ITK can confirm for the first time is returning later this year, will air its sixth season finale on Sunday.

We wanted to know more about Palmieri and her enchantment with political life, so we asked her to answer these questions.

Grew up in: I was born in Pascagoula, Mississippi. My dad was in the Navy, so we were in Mississippi and South Carolina. And when I was in 11, I moved to California.

College attended: American University

Favorite hobby/activity: Writing and cooking. Cooking has always been a big hobby when I worked for both Clinton and Obama. And then after the Hillary Clinton campaign, I found that writing was a new outlet.

My cooking has sort of suffered because of writing, but I’ve found that writing has a longer shelf life than food.

Most liked/disliked thing about D.C.: I like the people that come because they really believe that they can make a difference and that they really believe that the system can work and want to make it better. I look to the monuments as a representation of it.

Least liked thing about it is, not the natives, but the people that come there and are too timid to contribute to making D.C. a colorful place.

I have a fear of: The country falling apart.

Although I feel like we have a second chance at democracy, and democracy was pretty well tested November through January.

Biggest accomplishment/most embarrassing moment: I feel like my biggest accomplishment is writing the two books that I wrote [the New York Times bestseller “Dear Madam President” and 2020’s “She Proclaims”] because it’s not something I had ever thought I would do. Had [Donald] Trump not won, I wouldn’t have done it, but I was so determined to have something positive come out of that experience. I feel like the written word is permanent and when you have to put thoughts on paper, it makes you think more deeply than you do in real life. And to have somebody read the book and say it helped them to see things in a new way or that people can relate to it is a very rewarding thing.

A recent mortification was taking up about two and a half hours of [Sen. Jon Tester’s (D-Mont.)] Friday afternoon because… our minivan got stuck in a couple feet of snow about a mile outside of Tester’s home [after a “Circus” shoot.] He had to get his tractor to come save us.

Pets? A Chesapeake Bay retriever, Rosebud.

My guilty pleasure is: Frosted blueberry Pop-Tarts.

Most surprising thing learned from living in a pandemic: How vulnerable we all are, how ridiculous it is for us to think that we have any control over our lives. Our American way of life is much more tenuous than we think. I’m struck by seeing how resilient and adaptable people are, you sort of know that in the abstract.

Favorite TV show: “The Circus” and “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel”

Something that few know about you: I live in Edgewater, Md. It made for a very nasty commute but being on the water is a very big deal. It’s totally worth it.

And I know a lot about birds, that’s something that would surprise people. My husband [Jim Lyons] works in natural resource policy, so he’s like very into that, but I can identify birds by their cries. I can tell what a heron is versus an eagle, versus a seagull.

Tags Hillary Clinton Jennifer Palmieri Jon Tester The Circus Trent Lott

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