Wed to the Fed
He’s a saver and knows where his money is, every penny. She’s a generous soul who loves to shop and lavish presents on goddaughter Lauren Hunt (daughter of pal Judy Woodruff). She’s been lobbying for a chocolate Lab since the Clinton Administration; he’s been vetoing the dog idea for just as long. And at the movies, says NBC News chief foreign affairs correspondent Andrea Mitchell, she and husband Alan Greenspan, chairman of the Federal Reserve Board, are of two minds: “I like Merchant Ivory, and he likes car chases.”
Whatever the equation, it works. Together since the mid-’80s, Mitchell, 58, and Greenspan, 79, are “one of the great love stories,” in the words of NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams: “They beam at each other like two high school seniors locking eyes across the dance floor while Stairway to Heaven is playing. Hardened adults say it’s cute, and it’s true.”
In her memoir, Talking Back…To Presidents, Dictators, and Assorted Scoundrels, out this month, Mitchell writes not only about her career in TV news but also about her marriage to the taciturn economist whom she calls “my biggest fan.” It’s a high-wattage partnership that, ironically, has never been the stuff of gossip columns. Part of the reason, Mitchell tells a visitor to their art-filled home in Washington, D.C., is that Greenspan is so self-contained. “He could be off having an affair,” she says, laughing, “and you wouldn’t even know it.”
The bigger factor may be that the two spend so little time on the social scene. Greenspan says he prefers to spend off-hours with a book and “a good deal of Johann Sebastian Bach” (or, Mitchell reports, working happily on abstruse mathematical equations).
And as for conflict-of-interest issues that might trigger unflattering headlines? “I haven’t had any access to secrets, because Alan is so experienced in keeping them,” reports Mitchell. Turning to Greenspan, she says, “You’re a sphinx!” (Greenspan’s response: “We’re both professionals.”)
Greenspan is, in truth, his wife’s biggest supporter; his mantra, says Mitchell, is “your work comes first.” It’s hers too—she chose not to have children, she explains, because her career required such singleminded devotion. “In those days,” she says, “there just weren’t women in TV news who were able to succeed without making a lot of sacrifices.”
When they’re at home, both Mitchell and Greenspan are often working: He rises by 6 a.m. to attack paperwork while soaking in the tub. (“Everyone in the office has learned to read smudged writing,” he says.) When she was crafting her book, “I’d work a full day and then [write] till 3 in the morning,” she remembers.
“I saw it,” adds Greenspan. “I could no sooner create something at that hour than run a two-minute mile.”
Modesty aside, the chairman is seen as a kind of inside-the-Beltway superhero by some: When he, Mitchell, Woodruff and her husband, Al Hunt, went to a Washington Nationals game, fans greeted him like “a rock star,” says Woodruff. “People were asking him to sign their tickets, pose with their kids.”
As Mitchell tells it, it was Greenspan who did the waiting on their first date, in 1984. Acquaintances who’d spoken when she contacted him as a source, the two planned to meet for dinner at the elegant Le Périgord in Manhattan on Dec. 28. After finishing a late-breaking story and trekking across the city in a flash snowstorm, Mitchell made it to the restaurant a half-hour late. But “the moment I sat down with him, the evening was transformed,” she writes. “This shy man known for convoluted explanations on economic trends [was] funny and sweet and very endearing.”
Even then, the two had much in common: Both born in New York City—Greenspan’s father was a stock-broker, Mitchell’s the owner of a manufacturing business—they shared a love of music. The future Fed chairman (whose only marriage, to painter Joan Mitchell in 1952, had been annulled after 10 months) had studied at The Juilliard School and played in a dance band before settling into business school. For her part Mitchell (who was married in 1970 and divorced five years later) had had years of piano and violin lessons. Add to that a mutual passion for baseball, and the deal was practically sealed.
Not that they rushed things. Only after a decade of solid coupledom did Mitchell and Greenspan wed in a small ceremony at the Inn at Little Washington in Virginia. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg presided, and the couple spent their honeymoon in Venice “tacked…onto a previously scheduled monetary conference in Switzerland,” Mitchell writes.
Okay, so it wasn’t all glamor. But it was everything that a trailblazing international correspondent and her übereconomist groom could have wanted. As Mitchell puts it in her book, “How many brides get to listen to German chancellor Helmut Kohl give a luncheon speech on their honeymoon?”
Of course, some of the pomp and circumstance will be muted after January, when Greenspan is set to retire. But Mitchell, one suspects, will still be a happy woman. “She loves her work,” says Judy Woodruff, “and she loves her husband.” Cue the Led Zeppelin.
Michelle Green. Melanie D.G. Kaplan in Washington, D.C.