FOX News political commentator and former White House Press Secretary Dana Perino loves Bluffton.
Not just conversationally, either, though I’m sure it comes up when people ask her how her weekend was.
For Perino, who lives in New York City, Bluffton is a reminder that quietness exists.
It is where she comes to clear her head after a busy week co-hosting “The Five,” a roundtable show that airs at 5 p.m. weekdays, and “I’ll Tell You What,” her popular podcast with FOX News politics editor Chris Stirewalt.
It is where she wrote her first book, “And the Good News Is ...: Lessons and Advice from the Bright Side,” about her time as spokesperson for the White House under President George W. Bush.
Most importantly, it is where she finds respite — usually on the porch of her Palmetto Bluff home with her dog, Jasper, by her side, or while bicycling around the neighborhood with her husband, Peter McMahon.
And it was truly love at first sight.
After attending a wedding here in 2011, Perino and McMahon found themselves taken by the area and, like many others, were soon in the office of a real estate agent.
“We kept looking at each other saying, ‘This place is amazing,’ ” she said in a phone interview Tuesday.
They love the scenery, the vibe, the food, but mostly, it seems, the people.
“We have made really, really good friends,” she said.
Perino and I chatted about more than just her impressions of the Lowcountry, of course. This past weekend, her podcast debuted as a TV show on FOX News. It’ll air at 5 p.m. Sundays through the election.
It is an unusual type of spin-off — going from audio to TV — and it is the first new programming since FOX News founder Roger Ailes resigned over accusations of sexual harassment, which means some are looking to this show, which came to life in just 10 days, as a possible sign of changing times at the network.
“What I liked about our first show on Sunday,” Perino said, “... the tone was what I was hoping for, which was smart, funny and kind.”
Smart, funny and kind are also words that describe Perino. In fact, her nickname from President Bush was “Sweet Dana.”
But the president also noted her toughness, possibly knowing that “sweet” is what Washington, D.C., eats for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Perino comes off as a thoughtful optimist, someone who knows there’s bad in this world but who still makes it a point to notice the good. She is empathetic and can be brought to tears by the lower points of the human experience, but she bears the strong steady voice of someone who powers through to tell the tale.
Like the podcast, Perino and Stirewalt’s show is unscripted, sometimes tangential and free from the talking points typical of Sunday political programming. It goes for the deeper dive on issues, seeking to explain rather than harrumph.
And it capitalizes on the hosts’ chemistry as politics nerds — as a child, Perino set an alarm so she wouldn’t miss “60 Minutes,” and Stirewalt brought a briefcase to school Alex P. Keaton-style.
“(Stirewalt) has more knowledge about presidential trivia than just about anybody I’ve ever met,” Perino said, “except for maybe Karl Rove.”
Which is probably why their show includes a news quiz.
“What we try to add in,” she said about the quiz, “... is a little bit of ‘patriotic grace.’ And what I mean by that is a little bit of a reminder that we’re all in this together as a country. And everything is going to be OK no matter who wins. Our country is not defined by who our president is but who our people are.”
Mostly, though, her show is one Perino hopes families will watch and that will inspire them to talk about politics, much like she did with her own family growing up.
As a girl, she bonded with her father over his love of news, politics and debate. They would read the papers together, and she’d choose two news stories to discuss before dinner.
At first, though, her choice trended more toward the prehistoric than current events.
“I used to pick out a lot of articles about dinosaurs,” she said.
Years later, though, after grad school and working on Capitol Hill, after becoming the White House press secretary, Perino was able to bring her father’s love of politics to even greater heights.
She invited him to the White House for an official dinner honoring Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi.
For hours, Perino didn’t see her father.
He was busy.
He chatted with the president. He sat with Vice President Dick Cheney and his wife. He took in the scene.
At the end, on their way out, Perino turned to her dad.
She didn’t want to brag, but she had to acknowledge the moment.
“It’s pretty cool, huh?”
“Yeah,” her father said, “it’s cool.”