Mickey Kantor won’t be moved.
The attorney and former presidential Cabinet member sat behind his desk in the 25th-floor office of downtown’s Mayer Brown, where he is a partner, and wouldn’t budge despite several requests from a photographer to step into the hallway in search of a better angle.
“I don’t like things that are posed. Just take the picture,” Kantor barked. Though he followed up the command with an impish smile, it was clear the veteran negotiator drives a hard bargain.
Though Kantor, 77, has had arthritis for decades and suffered a seizure seven years ago that left him in an 18-day coma, his refusal to accommodate the camera had nothing to do with age or health. He was quick to bounce out of his chair and navigate the law firm’s long passageways to track down parking validation for a guest.
Kantor served first as a United States trade representative under President Bill Clinton, a tenure that included negotiating parts of the controversial North American Free Trade Agreement, before becoming secretary of commerce after then-Secretary Ron Brown died in a plane crash in 1996.
Brown’s death was not the first time Kantor’s life was changed by a plane crash: His first wife, Valerie Woods Kantor, died in a commercial airline crash in San Diego in 1978. His teenage son also lost his life in a car accident 10 years later. Kantor has been married to broadcast journalist Heidi Schulman since 1982.
“Everybody has tragedy ... everybody has challenges,” he said. “If you say someone had a perfect life, it’s not true. But I’m constantly grateful for all I’ve been allowed to do.”
Kantor, who joined Mayer Brown in 1997, was a name partner at West L.A.’s Manatt Phelps Phillips & Kantor between 1975 and 1993, when he left to work for the Clinton administration. The Nashville, Tenn., native also served as chairman for Bill Clinton’s first presidential campaign.
Though he ran her husband’s campaign, Kantor was not involved in Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential run.
“When I’m in politics, and I’ve shared or run 18 campaigns in my life, I’m in it seven days a week,” he said. “I don’t think you can do politics, at least in the roles that I’ve played, some in and some out. That’s just my personality. It’s probably a dumb thing.”
He also stood back from commenting too much about the election, except to call the result disappointing.
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