This article appears in the May 2011 issue of LouisvilleMagazine. To subscribe, please visit loumag.com.
Being of reasonably sound mind, and as susceptible to a John Wayne moment as the next guy, I find there are days when I actually feel the urge to run for high political office.
The cause seems just and noble, the moment certainly right. Then I picture the television commercials — sly, loud, misleading messages characterizing me as being out of touch, out of control and out of my mind. I see my campaign yard signs — red, white and blue images of a tall guy conquering a steep slope: “Bob Hill — He’s On Top of the Game.” I see all the necessary fund-raising, when I’d rather hunt rattlesnakes with a seven-iron.
Thus the urge — along with learning to ice skate and backpacking my way up to Dharamsala, India, to visit the Dalai Lama — quickly melts away. Who wants to work that hard just to join a club in which no one talks to one other anyway?
And yet we all owe this country something, and after 40 years of journalistically skewering politicians from afar, perhaps it’s time — à la former LEO owner/columnist and now U. S. Rep. John Yarmuth — to put down the pen and pick up the fund-raising podium.
I am not a natural cynic. At the very least I would like to witness the political process up close and personal for at least two weeks. I have long wondered what happens to politicians of either party who seem reasonable, lucid — even likable — when met in one-on-one conversations, but then become part of a vengeful pack of narrow-minded, self-serving idiots when gathered together in some distant quorum.
If elected, I, too, could then be part of some money-massaged state legislature — think Kentucky — that not only would allow optometrists to perform critical eye surgery, but with enough financial coaxing might also allow them to perform brain surgery and birth babies.
Color my politics as leftward-leaning flaming moderate; I often can see some truth in both sides of an issue and get more and more fed up with the regimented crackpots at both ends of the political spectrum. As we see, hear and read every day, it’s just so much easier to be opinionated than informed.
Casting all humility aside — a bitter lesson learned in high school when I graciously cast a vote for my opponent for senior class president and lost the election by one vote — I am certain my political credentials are equal to many who have run for office in Kentucky or Indiana.
I am generally kind to strangers and my household’s two cats. I, too, feel the outrage of the dispossessed common man, share his perpetual desire to take back the country from whatever band of morons he just elected to office about six months ago, and — yes, it must be said — I once possessed a three-point jump shot equal to any ever hoisted by Richie Farmer.
Although never before 23,500 screaming fans and potential voters.
I know holding political office wouldn’t be easy. Consider the problems faced by the Democratic legislators in Indiana who for five long and difficult weeks had to find just the right motels in Illinois from which to conduct Indiana’s business.
Yes, some problems are better viewed from a distance, but talk about making tough, gut-wrenching political decisions: Smoking or non-smoking; twin beds or king-size; HD TV with Wi-Fi or settle for a cheaper place with minimal cable coverage and no Godiva chocolate on the nightstand.
And then there is Kentucky — Land of the Special Sessions & Veto Overrides, a state whose government too often works under one guiding premise: “We’ll take our time and your money.”
I survey the national political landscape and wonder what has become of the problem-solvers, the men and women who can look at a proposed $1.645 trillion deficit for 2011, find common ground and announce that a fair and balanced solution is relatively easy: Less spending on the military, very incremental raising of the age qualifications and taxes on Social Security and Medicare, better management of Medicaid and a redo of the totally skewed tax codes to eliminate unwarranted subsidies, corporate handouts and rich-guy loopholes.
There, now that the nagging deficit problem has been solved, let’s all hold hands and sing “Kumbaya.”
Yet change does seem possible — however reluctantly engaged. Consider Harold Rogers, the Republican chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, who in the past sent earmarked money back to his Eastern Kentucky hills like Bernie Madoff at a Ponzi-scheme convention. Now the poor man — the Tea Party at his heels — has been told to cut $38.5 billion from the budget. Geez, only about $1.607 trillion to go.
Or maybe they could all hold their breaths until they turn blue — or red — and threaten to shut down the federal government.
Kinda makes you want to run for political office, doesn’t it?