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My maternal granddaddy was a Southwestern Virginia mountain man, raised in the Blue Ridge. The only time he ever left his beloved mountains was to fight in World War I.
He despised most elected officials, particularly Presidents, with the exception of Harry Truman.
His measure of a President was simple. “I want a President who is someone I can sit down over a bottle of beer or a cup of coffee and talk about the affairs of the world.”
Of the Presidents of his lifetime, only Truman, in opinion, fit that bill.
Walter McPeak, my grandfather, died in 1974 — 38 years ago — and if he were alive today he would look at the crop of losers who vie for the top job in Americans politics and say something like “there ain’t a damn one I would sit down with over a beer.”
Eddie Mahe, a political consultant who taught me the ins and outs of politics, used to tell candidates that the bottom line in an election was whether or not the public felt comfortable sending them to Washington.
“If they like you, they’re gonna vote for you,” Mahe said. “If they don’t, they won’t. It’s a simple as that.”
Mahe would sometimes use “trust” instead of like but trust is hard to come by these days when it comes to government.
That’s the problem. We no longer trust political candidates or elected officials. We accept the fact that they lie, that they break promises that they shade the truth for political expedience.
So we rationalize our choices and pick the dogs with the least fleas.
Does it have to be that way?
Is there a better way?
There should be.
Do I know a better way?
Wish the hell I did.
I’ve spent most of my life as a journalist: 16 years in newspapers (1965-1981), nearly 18-years (1994-now) as publisher of Capitol Hill Blue and the last eight years again working for newspapers (first for Media General and now for Warren Buffet’s World Enterprises).
I spent more than a decade working inside the government and political system. I served three Congressmen and — for five years — ran what was then the largest political funding operation in town — the political programs division of The National Association of Realtors.
I taught aspiring political operatives for the American Campaign Academy, lectured on political campaigns for the Washington Center for Politics and Journalism and wrote numerous articles on what was right or wrong with the American political system.
With that background, you’d think I’d have some idea how to fix the problems of the American political system.