Andrew Breitbart: That Enduring 'Excitable Boy' Spirit
I’ll never forget the first phone call I received from Andrew Breitbart. He just called me out of the blue, with this “excitable boy” sort of voice that caught me off guard.
“Hey. Liberty Chick?”
“Um, yes,” I answered hesitantly, completely unaware of who was actually calling me by the name Liberty Chick on the other end of the phone.
“Hey, LC. Andrew Breitbart. I love your stuff. I want you to come work with me.”
“He just called me LC,” I thought, puzzled.
That was then followed by a series of rapid-fire questions about what I was doing for my day job and where I had previously worked. It was when I mentioned that I’d spent some years working for LexisNexis, the legal and news research company, that Andrew became almost uncontrollably excited.
“Oh you have no idea. I’m in love with LexisNexis.” Yes, he actually said that. And he began rattling off lengthy LexisNexis search syntax strings to me, mingled with keywords like “Podesta” and “Andy Stern.” And I rattled some right back at him, as we tried to one-up each other in a battle of syntax skills like a couple of geeks. And we laughed our way through the whole thing.
We spent the next hour or so on the phone talking about our shared interests and similar backgrounds in digging into stories and he teased me relentlessly when he found out I used to travel around to Grateful Dead shows in college. That was brutal.
It was indicative of the sort of relationship I’d eventually build with Andrew over the next several years. (As a matter of fact, I was known to taunt him by singing "Excitable Boy" to him).
Andrew was one to call you when something came to his mind, not just in the middle of the night, but he’d call many times in a night for many nights in a row, each time with the zeal and energy of a little kid on Christmas Eve. Everything was an adventure with Andrew. And his passion was infectious.
As I got to know Andrew, I became immersed in his way of life when it came to work. Because working with Andrew was like no other arrangement on earth. For me, life with Andrew was never as simple as just doing research, covering protests and writing articles. When you take on the institutional left, you take on everything that comes with the territory. That meant that you were thrust into the trenches, and stood out front to endure every bit of vitriol that was hurled your way, whether you were prepared for that or not. You had to be willing to live that kind of life, and it was a kindred connection that you shared with Andrew when you did that kind of work with him.
Separate from all of the left in general (Andrew actually got along with quite a few liberals), it was bullies on the left that Andrew and I both despised. He loathed their smear tactics and false narratives, and their attempts to intimidate or silence those with differing views, or attacks on those who dared to expose the inconvenient truths. He disliked that some intended to force this country into their way of thinking and culture at any cost.
Andrew recognized that for many of us, we were literally putting our lives on the line. It’s why he called us warriors. Andrew was living, breathing proof of someone who endured the character assassination and the attempted dismantling of his reputation on a daily basis. Perhaps that’s why Andrew instinctively always put himself between his warriors and the oncoming fire. It bothered him to see his friends under attack.
Amongst those many phone calls I frequently received from Andrew, there were also pep talks and words of support. He’d remind me never to give up and walk away, no matter how rough the waters got. He’d call me a stealth fighter and remind me, "they attack you because you scare them; truth scares them." He'd encourage me to keep fighting, even when it seemed few others were. And that seemed easy to me, because I knew he’d be there to fight alongside me. And because Andrew always had a knack for knowing exactly how to handle a situation.
There was an endearing innocence about Andrew too. As strong a spirit as he was, Andrew was also sensitive and sweet in a charming way. While he had a firm grasp on the tactics of the bullying left, he still felt the sting of attacks in a very human way. He was not immune to the pain, yet he’d somehow come to learn how to deal with the ugliness, and a good part of his defense mechanism was humor. That was a trait that rubbed off on many of us who were close to him. He was a mentor without even realizing it most of the time. Andrew taught me how to fight back, while still maintaining my sense of self, and of course, my sense of humor.
It’s been a long and difficult time since Andrew passed. I’ve gone through my high points and my low points, and it always seemed the low points were that much harder to overcome without Andrew in this world. There is a void, to be sure. There have been times; I will be honest, when I wondered if it was all really worth it anymore. I wondered if I was really strong enough – maybe Andrew’s presence was the only thing that kept me strong.
But every time I even began to question myself, I could hear Andrew’s voice, almost as clear as day, telling me to get up and fight. And I’d get right back up again. This time on my own two feet.
It would prompt me to remember how my phone used to ring and I’d hear “excitable boy” Andrew on the other end of that line. I remember how I’d let him ramble on for twenty minutes at a time, at breakneck speed, while I’d quietly sneak away for a moment to grab a drink or a snack, and he’d still be going, having never skipped a beat. And I’d hoped that it would be the last call of the night, and it of course never was – there were usually four or five more calls before Andrew would be done for the night.
But here we are a year later now. And some nights, I lay awake, and I actually long for that phone to ring. And I imagine that it’s Andrew on the other line. And when I think hard enough about it, I can still hear him on the phone. It begins with that LexisNexis syntax silliness, and our geeky banter, and then he tells me, “Everything is going to be just fine, LC.”
Thanks to Andrew, and that enduring "excitable boy" spirit, I will always be just fine. That's the gift that Andrew gave me.