And in my case anyway, an unhealthy adoration for Richard Milhous Nixon. His library in Yorba Linda, California became my Mecca, so to speak. I even got lucky enough to meet Pat Nixon at a function there once. She is, was and will always be the classiest woman I ever met.
The best part of the Nixon Library was this room where you could ask the President questions. The curators rigged up a system where they took all of Nixon’s interviews and spliced them with a computer screen where you could pick a question and the footage of Nixon would come up on another screen – and like he was really talking to you – answer your question. I would spend inordinate amounts of time in that exhibit.
However, I did not want to grow up and be like Nixon.
I wanted to be Donald Segretti. He was, by far, the most colorful character in the entire Watergate saga. The man pioneered the campaign tactics we take for granted today: opposition research, disinformation, fake campaign literature, meddling in the opposition parties primaries so their best candidates would never be the nominee in the general election… a true visionary.
So between working for and meeting politicians across the political spectrum, I began to see behind the veil, so to speak. Our leaders are not deities by any stretch of the imagination. Some were honest, others clueless, there were naturals, scary ideologues and some who even had common sense.
You see a lot of odd stuff that goes into the “public persona” of a candidate/office holder.
There was John Ashcroft, who at the kickoff of his Senate campaign was on his hands and knees, taping the bullet points of his speech to the floor around him- meticulously spacing them so as to never appear to lose eye contact with the audience.
And while Kit Bond was throwing a keg party in a hotel foyer during a Lincoln Days gathering, Senator Ashcroft was dishing out ice cream while wearing a chef’s hat.
I always loved Ashcroft, although Bond was a lot cooler- even pumping and tapping a new keg, as it was needed. I counted six kegs being drained that night.
Democrats, for all their liberal ways, throw the worst parties.
Or as the saying goes, “Republicans party the hardest, because they can afford to!”
Among Kansas City Mayors, Dick Berkley was my favorite. I irst met him 20+ years ago and even to this day, last running into him at Costco, he always takes time for small talk and always seems genuinely interested in what I’m up to. Emanuel Cleaver was the hardest working and one of the best men I ever witnessed preach from the pulpit. He was also a tireless advocate for Kansas City, bringing in lots of business. A truly great mayor. Kay Waldo Barnes…meh. And Sly James, he’s really cool and quite the sports fan. But I do get the sense that he doesn’t like being mayor. I may be wrong and that’s just my hunch.
And for all the haters out there who bag on his son, Kyle, mayor James strikes me as a man who loves his son deeply and understands that he must find his own way in this life. And if that mean’s being an outlaw rapper, the mayor is not going to interfere with his son’s hopes and dreams.
There are two people in local politics who’ve taught me the most about the inner workings of politics, and they are both DEMOCRATS!
The first is congresswoman Pat Danner from the 6th District of Missouri. I had the honor of interning in her local office and doing constituent services while I was in undergrad at Park College. She was also running for re-election during that time and a few times, I got to drive her in parades, which is how you campaign in rural Missouri.
In those hours spent with Danner she let me ask her anything under the sun and would answer all my queries in great detail. She always represented her District- being pro-life and getting an A+ from the National Rifle Association that she wore as a badge of honor. She even refused to vote the wishes of then President Clinton, if it went against the majority of her constituents. They don’t make people like Danner that serve in the House of Representatives anymore.
The other is Luther Washington, the longtime consultant to Mayor/Congressman Cleaver. We somewhat bonded after my misadventures in running Clay Chastain’s mayoral campaign – where we were adversaries – but then worked together in the general election.
But over several glasses of red wine, he too would let me explore the inner recesses of his awesome political brain. Mr. Washington is, by far, the most brilliant of all the political consultants I’ve had the pleasure of meeting and working with. I wish I knew where he was today.
There is a method to this series of diatribes.