Hopefully, this is a gaffe.
I’ll give the senator the benefit of the doubt and assume that he misspoke rather than having bought into Russian propaganda as so many in the Trump cult have.
He says “Our nation is united in its resolve to support the brave Ukrainian people and to punish Russia for its illegal war on aggression.”
Did he mean to say ‘punish Russia for its illegal war OF aggression?”
What did he mean? If there’s a war ON aggression, is that similar to a war on terrorism? If so, does he mean that Russia is fighting against aggression, meaning that Ukraine is the aggressor?
That kind of thinking would be aligned with the Russian lies, that they are invading Ukraine for de-Nazification.
Does Tillis have an ear for Russian propaganda?
After all, this was not live TV. It looks like he shot this video in an office and could have easily done another take, dropping off the last two words, “on aggression,” saying “punish Russia for its illegal war.”
If vax vs. anti-vax is the new big wedge issue, could it last for years?
Could it rise to the level of segregation, abortion, guns, gay marriage, Obamacare, trans kids in bathrooms, etc…?
Could vax vs. anti-vax stay with us (with all of it’s terrible consequences), into the next election and beyond, with the movement expanding such that more people think it’s cool to refuse other vaccines also?
Skipping the flu shot has always been a badge of honor for some, but could not getting that shot become comedy material for the likes of Tucker Carlson? The CDC and Dr. Fauci recommend flu shots, and those are Carlson’s targets — along with all others who belong to that highly educated group of people who devote their lives to scientific inquiry.
There’s plenty of anti-vax money being spent now in content marketing. During the Trump administration, $850,000 in PPP loans went to anti-vax groups.
In 2022, will we be seeing slick, well-funded, dark money anti-vax ads?
I hope that’s not what’s happening, but the Republicans have obviously exploited the enormous emotional charge that goes along with living during a pandemic. So many have experienced fear, disease, and death. Massive changes at home, work, and school have caused high levels of stress and depression. We’ve lost people, and we’ve lost routines and performance and travel, intimacy and connection.
Somehow, they’ve used very real emotional responses to life in the time of COVID and effectively created a strong resistance message. Resistance, of course, is Denial’s first cousin.
They’ve created a simple, fairly appealing message of faith in God and appreciation for personal liberty. I would call that a dishonest message, in light of the facts. I prefer concrete actions that embody faith and demonstrate real respect for liberty. But that’s just me. Faith in God and personal liberty as stand-alone beliefs seem to be more than enough for many people to proudly refuse the vaccine.
The messages of faith and liberty are predicated on people being in denial and being in denial about being in denial — but it works. Since Citizens United, politics has become such a big industry in the United States. The anti-vax message is obviously raising a lot of money.
It’s also a very effective message when the goal is to own the libs. In my view, “owning libs” is a cute way of hating certain groups of people that make-up the progressive coalition: college graduates, academics, scientists, people who live in urban areas, and black and brown people. But owning libs, as they say, is a powerful, tragic motivation to avoid the shot.
I admit I’ve been royally owned by many a proud unvaccinated person.
And I’m owned by this movement’s leadership — people like Rand Paul, Ron DeSantis, and Tucker Carlson. If their intention is to infuriate liberals, they have succeeded with me.
It’s almost like we have two new political parties emerging, The Vaxxers, who want less disease and a more stable, brighter future, with clean energy, quality health care for everyone as a human right, safe streets, good schools, reliable child care and elder care… all the good stuff progressives work for. And there’s the party of no, the Anti-Vaxxers, who have dark money and Proud Boys on their side. They don’t believe in carbon and they don’t believe in COVID — and they don’t believe a lot of other things we liberals say. They do enjoy the fact that they can keep us from having a future that’s organized around the idea of making life better for everybody (which they don’t believe is possible).
In reality, viruses do not belong to political parties and neither do vaccines.
But Republicans have chosen to make this into another iteration of how-stupid-far-right-can-you-get politics. It’s an important faction to that party, and it seems to get most energized when the stakes are life and death: guns, health care, abortion, and now the vaccines for COVID.
The question is, will this die out, or could this swell? Could this be like guns, wherein the right to form a militia somehow gets twisted into the right to allow easy murder and mass shootings by selling weapons of war to any person?
Could this continue through future election cycles and become a permanent political faction in urban, Republican areas and further degrade the health of Americans, and the stability of American hospitals, by letting more preventable diseases have their way into unvaccinated segments of our population?
Or will this issue “magically disappear,” like Trump said the virus would.
Inside the office of Governor Ron DeSantis. The Governor sits with two advisors. He’s reading his speech aloud from a piece of paper.
And God bless the United States of America.
(He looks up at his advisors).
I like this.
CHIEF OF STAFF
Thank you, Governor.
It gets right to the heart of it.
CHIEF OF STAFF
Well good. I’m glad it pleases.
Oh, it pleases. When there’s a million bucks on the table, by God, it pleases the shit out of me!
CHIEF OF STAFF
Michigan’s not fucking around.
What if we don’t raise that much? It’s fifty thousand per plate and there are twenty people coming. That should be a million dollars. IF they all show up and write the checks. Could some of it fall through? How many do you think will fall through? What do you think we’ll end up with?
CHIEF OF STAFF
Governor, it looks solid to me.
That’s not a strong look.
What? My nose? Should I tilt it this way?
I’m talking about your whining! You’re so scared of not raising a million dollars! Wha wha wha! Is that the way a tough guy talks?
Is that the way a big man talks?
Is that the way a big, tough man talks when he is on his way to kicking ass in Michigan and having a gigantic bag of money to take to Iowa and New Hampshire?
Don’t forget tough. That’s your mantra. Tough. Nothing else matters. Just tough.
Okay. I got it.
Look at my hair. I mean, it looks good — but it’s a little wet, you think? A little too much gel, you think?
CHIEF OF STAFF
It’s fine. We’re in Florida. People in Michigan know about the humidity here.
(touching his hair)
I don’t know.
CHIEF OF STAFF
It’s fine. Really. (to Political Advisor) What do you think?
You don’t like it.
I like it. For the screen, I like it. I mean it’s freaky as shit, a little terrifying, really — but it’s your calling card and it’s perfect. Remember, Governor, your hair is not yours, and it’s not hair. Strong leaders know how to conduct a freak show and they need freak show hair. Look at Trump. Hitler’s mustache. There’s no telling what kind of product Stalin used, but he used plenty of it. Your hair…it could be a little longer and go up — vertically — a little more. Like Gaetz. But that can evolve over time. It’s perfect now. With that distinctive squeaky-victim voice you do so well… these are the DeSanto brand.
Whatever. My point is that your stupid looking hair isn’t even yours. It belongs to the Trump base — and they are accustomed to a hell of a freak show, godawful hair included. They eat that gaudy shit for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. If you don’t up your game pretty soon, you’ll put ’em to sleep in five minutes. Your hair’s fine. You need more of it, but it’s okay.
CHIEF OF STAFF
We leave for Michigan in thirty minutes and I’ve got some things here about COVID that you need to know about.
COVID? I’m sick of COVID.
CHIEF OF STAFF
We all are. But it’s not sick of us.
You should give COVID a kiss every day for what it’s done for you. You would be nobody without COVID.
CHIEF OF STAFF
We need a response to the feds sending ventilators.
I already responded. I don’t know anything about that.
CHIEF OF STAFF
But even if you don’t know about it when you say you don’t know about it, after that, you know about it, so there needs to be something for the next time we’re asked about why we need so many ventilators.
But I don’t know anything about that.
CHIEF OF STAFF
But now you’ve been told about it.
CHIEF OF STAFF
You know about it.
I don’t know anything about that.
CHIEF OF STAFF
To them, you do.
CHIEF OF STAFF
The mayors. You’re bombarded with calls from hospitals.
I’m not talking to them.
CHIEF OF STAFF
I know that. But I am.
So I don’t know anything about that.
CHIEF OF STAFF
You still might need an answer up your sleeve, just in case…Newsmax or OAN could screw up and ask… you need something about the ventilators.
Maybe I could say something like, ‘My heart goes out to…’
You weak fuck! Shut up!
That was a joke.
Oh yeah? Then it was a bad one. Your heart goes out?
Seriously, I was just messing with you. That was a joke.
It didn’t sound like a joke to me. I’ve heard you tell jokes. And I’ve heard you cover your ass, which is what you’re tying to do. Listen, Governor, from now until November 2024, you ain’t got no heart. Understand?
I know that. No heart.
Fuck no! No heart! You may have an Italian sounding name, but your primary voters want somebody who is white. And I mean completely white. And Christian. And tough. If you think they want you to have a fucking goddamn heart, you’re out of your white southern mind!
So I should never say the word ‘heart,’ or just not reference having one in the metaphoric sense, as in…
No heart. No feelings. No understanding. No Harvard. No Yale. No empathy, goddammit! If you give one shit about anybody who is suffering, you’ve lost. Your base won’t tolerate that shit. These people don’t want red meat. They want raw red meat. Your heart? That’s like giving them a vegetable.
With the exception of one group. Mask haters. Especially parents. Empathizing with parents who hate masks is good. If you’re dying to pull your smiling public face routine, use it on them. But that’s it.
Okay. Let me give this a shot.
(He smirks and then sneers)
We don’t know about any ventilators. We don’t need any ventilators! Biden is letting Mexicans in and distracting you with ventilators — in my state. We’re a state of personal responsibility! If Floridians need ventilators, they can go out and buy their own and ventilate themselves!
CHIEF OF STAFF
Leave out that last part.
Was that tough?
CHIEF OF STAFF
He can’t tell people to go buy their own ventilators.
Works for me.
CHIEF OF STAFF
That’s like saying ‘let them eat cake’ and ‘let them die’ all in one stroke.
That’s why it works. And it also hits that trickle down purity message hard. Be rich — or die. Buy your own damn ventilator — or die. I love it. The libs will get a full news cycle of outrage out of that one. It’s brilliant, Governor. Retweet gold. Just brilliant.
CHIEF OF STAFF
Okay, so your good on the ventilators. They buy their own. What about the feds sending doctors and nurses?
I don’t know anything about that.
CHIEF OF STAFF
Now you do.
No I don’t. I never heard anything about that.
CHIEF OF STAFF
I just told you.
So I’m supposed to trust you as a valid source of data?
CHIEF OF STAFF
I am your Chief of Staff.
So what? Is that information verified?
CHIEF OF STAFF
But it’s a lie! It’s fake! Want me to tell you how I know?
CHIEF OF STAFF
Was it in the media?
CHIEF OF STAFF
It’s all over the media. The federal government sending in ventilators, nurses, docs…turning parking lots into tent hospitals, turning away people at hospitals and urgent cares, not sending ambulances… an all time record in hospitalizations with exponential spread… denying health care in emergencies… it’s all over the…
Media! The media! Aha!
CHIEF OF STAFF
Uh, yeah. the media.
Proof! It’s fake.
(to Political Advisor)
That’s a lot of media.
Well done, Governor. Well done. And it never would have happened if you had not gone to fucking court to keep those masks out of our schools and businesses and cruise ships.
You were right about that.
Of course I was right. No masks in school. Cruises with unvaccinated people. And now your brilliant suggestion to treat only the rich. You’ve got a ways to go, but your getting tougher. I can see it.
CHIEF OF STAFF
We’ve got to get going.
Do you think Trump will let me run?
Maybe. If you’re white enough.
He likes me. Don’t you think?
I hope he likes me.
(whining) Okay. Tough.
North Carolina does not rank well in the area of vaccinations, and with the exception of Georgia, we’re a much bigger and more densely populated state than the other low performers.
And it’s no comfort seeing the Rowan County numbers. We don’t do well compared to most other counties in the state. And this county is more populated than most of the other low-vaccine counties. We rank 21st in population.
With the Delta variant spreading very fast, these factors, and others, give us a vulnerability rating of â€œvery high,â€ which prompts a concern that there will be a lot of illness and death this fall and winter, when we’re spending more time indoors.
I’ve lived here most of my life. I was born here and lived in one house for my first 18 years, and then in the house I live in now (3 blocks away) for 35 years. So I’ve lived in the same neighborhood for about 53 of my 64 years.
I’ve worked as a teacher here. I’ve owned businesses here. I have family and friends here. It’s home, and I’m not planning on going anywhere else.
But I find our county’s 30% vaccination rate to be appalling, especially since it’s universally available and free — while other countries remain vulnerable to great suffering and can’t get vaccines at all.
Education, Republican style
For obvious reasons, our vaccine numbers mirror our educations numbers, and I’m not proud of what we’ve become in the area of education.
The county commissioners and state representatives used to be a mixture of Democrats and Republicans, and much less partisan.
We used to have a pretty good county school system and a highly ranked city school system.
But for the past 30 years, it’s been nearly complete Republican government — and many of these folks seem to have values that don’t align with competent leadership.
When they speak about school funding, they never miss an opportunity to say that money doesn’t solve problems.’ Or they say things like you can’t throw money at a problem.’ From what I’ve read in the newspaper and seen online, they never seem to empathize with the needs of a kid who deserves a quality school in order to live a quality life.
They hold themselves up as moral leaders by spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on a losing court case, fighting for the right to say â€œin Jesus’ name we prayâ€ at the end of a prayer, before a meeting.
Just a plain ol’ â€œAmen,â€ or a nod to God, or nothing, or a moment of silent prayer — something that would have shown common respect to Jews, Muslims, Hindus, atheists, and all other religions who have equal standing under the constitution, was not suitable for this group. If they couldn’t pray in the name of Jesus at a public meeting, then they were excited to go to court and spend all their time and hundreds of thousands of dollars in order to try.
And yet, in the area of morality, Craig Pierce, one of the most pious of the lot, just got a DUI, blowing a .26 and, according to the police report, threatened a police officer in the process.
This hard right politician got drunk enough to reach across the aisle and drive in the left lane.
Another commissioner, one of the ones who spearheaded the costly lawsuit over prayer, a few years ago, showed up drunk, in the morning, to teach his eighth grade class. He was a decent guy who did get help, and he’s since passed away. But he also continued to serve after this happened.
I don’t respect the shaming of a person with a drinking problem and do not intend to do so. But I do question the ability of some people to lead. If a person exhibits enough lack of control to drive in the wrong lane or teach teenagers while under the influence — then maybe he should not make decisions about taxation, health care services, school funding, and other matters of public importance. Sure, he was elected. But…well…it’s obvious that he’s not capable.
Where do we rank?
Our vaccination numbers mirror what’s happened to our public schools in Rowan County over the past 30 years. We have failed, badly.
Where does Rowan County rank? Where does North Carolina rank? I don’t know. There’s plenty of data out there, great for drilling down and looking at a specific school’s numbers, but my Google skills are not sufficient to find school rankings. Perhaps that’s a thing of the past.
There are, however, a plethora of data available on various directory platforms with a certain social media flare. (ie. schooldigger.com, niche.com, or greatschools.org) This gives the ranking that really matters because actual people rank and comment and set the narrative. Whatever the actual ranking, according to the state’s testing and demographic data, yearly progress, and whatever other factors they use, a county’s social media reputation will have a much greater effect on what kinds of business and industry and housing and education and culture show up in that county.
Rowan County has a lower average income than each of its four surrounding counties. The poverty rate in Rowan County increased by 13% from 2010 to 2020.
And while Republicans have managed all of it, holding every political office for decades, they don’t seem to assume responsibility for the decades of economic decline. And the voters will not hold them accountable because they are told that taxes and government spending are evil, and they’re too distracted by this false morality and other irrelevant gossip to vote on the issues. Education is the issue. Competitive schools cost money. Our Republican commissioners have chosen not to compete.
When you get behind early, it makes it harder to catch up.
And we’re used to it. It’s what we know. If you’ve never seen a really nice, well-run, adequately funded school system, then it doesn’t exist as a possibility.
Years of proudly underfunding the school system has hurt our economy. We have two hospitals, three colleges, and Food Lion home office. That’s a lot of brainpower working in a small town in this county. These people who work in Salisbury used to live in Rowan County, and their children went to school here. Now, this class of people mostly commutes from surrounding counties with better schools.
It’s still a good place to live. Because population growth has been lagging behind our neighboring counties, some of which have real traffic problems, the roads here have kept up with the growth and it’s easy to get around.
How it started
Rowan was a Democratic county until the 1966 election, when it began it’s swing to the right. That year, Republican John Stirewalt defeated Sheriff Shuping, a Democrat, in an upset. Two years later, Earl Ruth, a popular dean, professor, and basketball coach at Catawba College, and member of the Salisbury City Council, changed his party affiliation from Democrat to Republican, got a big endorsement from Nixon, and won a seat to Congress.
The pump got primed in the 80’s, when we had some extreme right wing Reagan style â€œgovernment is the problemâ€ guys on the county commission. These self-made, non-college types sent their own kids to private, Protestant church schools and voted no to anything that had to do with public school funding. One of them told me, one time, that school funding was entirely the state’s responsibility and the county had no responsibility at all.
Meanwhile, schools were just starting to get computers, and Cabarrus County (which was fairly close in population to Rowan County at that time), had a technology budget ten times the size of the Rowan County’s technology budget.
While these Reagan extremist commissioners were considered heroes by some, getting cheers each time they used the word waste,’ many people thought of them as crackpots. While the 80’s foreshadowed what would happen in Rowan County and North Carolina, there were still smatterings of reasonable Democrats and Republicans in the mix — both in the county and in the city.
We began the full right turn on July 4th, 1991, when a very popular President Bush came here in order to play softball in Faith. The national news focused on the fact that there were no black residents of Faith. Locally, it was a huge rally for the Republican Party, and it also brought a lot of young people into that party. I remember kids in bands being pretty excited about playing for the president.
In 2003, Elizabeth Dole, a Republican from Salisbury, who had already served as a Cabinet Secretary in the Reagan and Bush administrations, became a U.S. Senator. She was and still is the wife of Bob Dole, who was the Republican Leader of the United States Senate.
So Rowan County became not just a red county, but an early adopter, well-entrenched red county.
By now, demographics ensure we would be a Republican county anyway. Trump got 68% of the vote in Rowan County in 2020. The parties now have a stark urban/rural divide over the entire country, and Rowan County residents like country living. Biden had a good showing in Salisbury and won 10 precincts. But Salisbury has not grown as fast as the county and now contains 24% of the county’s population. Trump won the precincts outside of Salisbury and Spencer and East Spencer by 40 to 50 points — so there’s almost no hope for a Democrat to win an election here for anything other than the municipal non-partisan races.
A case, yes. But is it a hopeless case?
My point is that we had a few years head start on the era of austerity, and we’re paying a heavy price for it.
It shows up in many ways — income, educational opportunity, employment opportunity, technology, safety, and quality of life.
It may also show up in hospitals this winter, with more COVID.
You can’t start working to solve a problem until you recognize the problem. In the case of Rowan County Republicans versus Rowan County Education…well… there is no real case. But it seems like there has been.
There should be a different kind of case in the other direction: Rowan County Education, and lost hopes for prosperity, versus The Rowan County Republican Party.
It’s a clear case. Thirty years of solid Republican domination in local politics has overseen 30 years of decline in education standing. And 30 years solid Republican County Commission has overseen 30 years of decline in economic standing.
You would think a strong Democrat could make that case and be a viable candidate for at least one seat on the County Commission. But, at this point, with county-wide voting for each of the five seats, with party loyalty being what it’s become, even one seat to a Democrat would be a huge upset. Even with a great candidate, a well funded campaign, a strong grass roots following, and a massive, localized get out the vote operation — it would likely end in an embarrassing trounce.
The text below is a copy of a comment I wrote on Facebook. Eric Hall posted a question to the ‘You might be from Salisbury if…’ Facebook group. He asked”What is the story of how Salisbury came to be your home town?” The answers are quite interesting. Life is such a serendipitous phenomenon. My comment, below, is mostly accurate. There may be a few minor errors that could be fact checked by listening to some oral history tapes or questioning my siblings. But it’s about right.
My grandparents (Sam and Anna Zimmerman) immigrated here around the turn of the century. He was from Austria. She from Latvia. He didn’t speak Russian and she didn’t speak German — but they both spoke Yiddish.
In Europe, my grandfather was trained as an architect. Here, he was a peddler, working the South. My grandmother somehow found her way from Rochester to New Jersey and then to live with a sister in Orangeburg, SC. I think. She may have lived other places. I don’t know. I think they met in SC.
Somehow they wound up in Morganton, NC, where they had a store and started a family with two children.
The store was close to the law office of Sam Ervin, who would become a senator. They knew each other. I know this because, even though my grandfather died before I was born, I had the opportunity to ask Senator Ervin if he remembered my grandfather, Sam Zimmerman — and he said, â€œYes, with the store.â€
During the depression, they moved to Marion, VA and then, in the mid 30’s, to Salisbury. They had been able to live in a house in Morganton and Marion, but times were tough and they rented 110 N. Main St. in Salisbury, where they could live upstairs, above the store. The building had been vacant. My mom said, when they moved there, that the previous business had been a type of farmers’ market. She said there was handwriting on the walls — stuff like â€œEggs,â€ Tomatoes,â€ â€œOkra,â€ — with prices.
Mom said she did not like Salisbury at first. She would walk home from Wiley School, embarrassed for anyone to know she did not live in a house, but above a store. Her English teacher, the legendary Helen Jenkins, would walk with her and say “Rose Hannah, Salisbury is not so bad. You’ll do fine here.”
They turned it into a small store. My grandfather was a handy guy who could build shelves and make clothes. He spent a lot of time during the day at The Friendly Cue and at night at Purcell’s Drug Store, which was a gathering place for men who would gather round the radio, in the early 40’s, and listen to news of the war.
They lived upstairs. Mom said they had one dresser with four drawers, and each member of the family had one drawer, which kept all of that person’s clothes.
During the Depression, my grandmother made as much extra food as she could afford in order to give out plates to hungry people who knocked on the back door.
My father’s parents immigrated from Russia. He grew up in NY and was a student at Columbia. After Pearl Harbor, he quit school, changed his name from Pozarick to Post, and joined the Air Force.
After the war, his aunt gave him a job managing a furniture factory she had somehow acquired, in Mocksville. There were no restaurants or movie theaters in Mocksville. My dad lived in Salisbury because there were three movie theaters downtown. He rented a room from George Rusher on Mitchell or Maupin or Wiley (not exactly sure which).
In 1948, he was walking down Main St. and my grandfather was standing outside the store. They struck up a conversation and my grandfather invited my father to dinner, where he could meet a Jewish girl, his daughter. My mom was in college, in Greensboro, and home at the time. Maybe it was a weekend, holiday, or summer — I don’t know.
They got married and my father paid for her last year of college. Then they moved to NYC, stayed a year, had one child, and moved back to Salisbury in 1950.
My father and my uncle focused on the family business, Zimmerman’s, and having more children and raising families. Zimmerman’s had no employees in the 30s and 40s. It grew in the 50s and 60s.
They raised families here. So I was born here.
Last week, I read this article in The Salisbury Post:
It occurs to me that Catawba College should buy the whole thing and have a downtown campus with offices, classrooms, and dorms.
This could bring Downtown Salisbury to life.
I live beside the college and we’re always squabbling about zoning.
We, who live here, want to keep the neighborhood intact, and nice.
But more and more homes are being acquired by investors who are connected to the college.
These homes are being converted from family housing into dormitory, frat-style housing.
And, every couple of years, Catawba seeks to rezone residential property in our neighborhood to college/university zoned property.
What’s clear is that Catawba, a great institution that Salisbury is lucky to have, wants to grow — and they may need to grow in order to compete. And they have every right to grow.
But the neighborhood sometimes gets in the way of the college’s desired plans to grow.
Ironically, not having a neighborhood around a campus may diminish the character and charm of that campus.
Having an axillary campus downtown, across the street from an amazing theatre, might open up opportunities for expanding Catawba’s theatre department, arguably one of its best and most renowned programs.
Some business courses might benefit from meeting downtown the way some science courses might meet on the nature preserve. They would be surrounded by dozens of small, functioning businesses.
Young people need places to hang out, and there are several unique, wonderful restaurants just around the corner.
While it will remove that space as a location for potential tax revenue from new retail, restaurants, and offices, imagine how much it will help the stores and restaurants that currently exist in the downtown.
The downtown’s population increase could cause a real, sustained, economic stimulus for the entire downtown area.
Because college students have parents, and those parents often live out of town and visit Salisbury some weekends in order to visit their children, it could also benefit local tourism.
Leaving a neighborhood around a campus intact, as a neighborhood, adds character and charm to the campus.
A downtown campus could also have lots of unique character and charm. Some students (not all of them, obviously) may be attracted to a more urban vibe. It would be different, of course — but it would still have its own kind of character and charm.
And it would provide economic benefit for both the college and the city.
My father called me, just a minute after 9pm, on February 27, 2006.
He would pass away the following evening.
I ‘m two blocks away, at Port City Java, drinking coffee and running my mouth about a movie we were getting ready to make, a sub-professional gorilla film effort, with shooting scheduled to begin in a couple of months — and we were talking about the cast and the script and locations and stuff.
I’m planning to see my father anyway, in a few minutes. During that time in my life, almost all of my late evening hours were spent with him, sitting and watching Larry King, generally followed by a college basketball game.
My mother, a newspaper reporter/columnist, worked late — and I would keep my dad company until she got home. I lived, with my wife and children, only 3 blocks away.
I wrapped the coffee shop and went to my father right then. This was 2006 and Jon Stewart’s Daily Show was at the height of its Bush/Cheney comedy output. For me, at that time, this was an opportunity for big entertainment.
My parents were huge Ted Koppel/Nighline fans — so they didn’t care about watching Jon Stewart. But my Dad knew I would be interested, and I was. He also knew that if he called me, I would come right over. And I did.
Like so many millions of people around the world, watching this show is something my father and I enjoyed doing together. I also watched many Larry King Lives with my wife, children, and mother.
Larry King was such a great interviewer.
I heard him say, in the middle of the night, one night, on his radio show, that he never wrote down any questions and generally only had one ready, as an opener, if he needed it.
He trusted his instincts and was authentically curious.
That’s not to say he didn’t prepare.
On the radio, where I first became a fan, he would interview less celebrities than he did on TV.
He often interviewed writers — and he had always read their latest book that day and often many of their books. It was obvious that he spent his days studying the world of that night’s guest.
I had never read Robert B. Parker until, one night, while I was up late stringing a tennis racket (a side job back in the day and the perfect companion activity to Larry King’s radio show), I heard Larry interview the mystery writer. That was a particularly great show. I still remember Parker’s story of how he got started, what else he did, who influenced him, etc. And I started reading one Spencer novel after another.
I distinctly remember a caller asking him what he would ask Jesus Christ, if he could interview him.
Mr. King, who was born and raised Jewish, with a different name, was not religious as an adult. He said he didn’t know what he would ask, but he’s pretty sure his first question would be “Are you the son of God?”
Twice, I called in the radio show and received the greeting: “Salisbury, North Carolina, Hello.”
I remember being a little stunned that I was on the air and hesitating for a split second, hoping to get the question out coherently.
The callers were the show — he was always clear about that — and he had no patience for hesitation.
“What’s your question!” he barked.
The guest was Scott Meredith, the literary agent, who had written a book I enjoyed and admired. I can’t remember what I asked. I do remember being quite pleased with myself for saying something that got a viable response from Mr. Meredith. Of course he had to say something.
The other time I called, also on the radio show, was in order to ask a question of Bud Collins, the tennis announcer.
I asked him why Borg was never able to win the U.S. Open.
Looking back, I would say that was a pretty stupid question. Borg didn’t win The Open because he didn’t win the most points, sets, and matches. Winning a grand slam tennis tournament is a massive achievement that few have done. The reason Borg didn’t win it is because other people did. There is no why.
Which is basically what Collins said. However, he was a brilliant tennis announcer and gifted wordsmith, so he added a little color, describing how New York fans adored Connors and McEnroe, giving them home court advantage.
When I read the obituary this morning and saw the CNN special tonight, I was struck by how many of those shows I vividly remember. I guess that’s because he interviewed the most memorable people in the world on a daily basis.
When you watch a show with newsworthy people saying things they’ve never said before, you’re watching history in the making. So we all remember it.
CNN played a clip, since he left that network, saying he still had a show but missed being on live TV. He said live TV offered him a thrill that’s not available with his online, podcasty, post-CNN show.
He was a great play-by-play news guy (ie. Bronco chase), and great talk show host.
But his most endearing quality will be the way he never included any of his own judgments or assessments in his questions.
In fact, I remember listening to a fascinating show (also radio), wherein he interviewed Mortimer Adler. I had recently spent a weekend getting trained, by Adler and some other professors, on how to lead Socratic seminars for middle school students. At the time, I was a middle school teacher.
Larry King and Mortimer Adler were like two peas in a pod. Both of them were experts in the rare art of asking questions they did not already know the answer to.
Larry King interviewed celebrities and scholars and artists and politicians and scoundrels exactly the same way — letting them talk and respecting his audience enough to let them form their own opinions.
It’s hard to imagine, now, a talk show host without opinions.
He was big on learning.
The guy who did not get the higher education loved to learn and talk about learning and engage others in it.
Comparing this kind of talk show with what’s available on cable now, well… it sort of shines a light on the kind of media craziness we’re experiencing today.
I’m not saying there aren’t a lot of great journalist out there now. There certainly are many, many fine ones. I’m actually rather hopeful that journalism will eventually sort out the mess that’s occurred while trying to adjust to digital communication.
That is me having opinion. Making a prediction about something that’s impossible to know and something I don’t know much about. Par for today’s course.
The landscape has changed such that today’s cable news and radio talk is not even recognizable when held up against the kind of shows Larry King created.
It would be great to have prime time venues today for that kind of humility and authenticity.
RIP, Larry. I listened some and watched almost every night, for many years, and really enjoyed it.
As you were eager for us to do, we learned.
Your death triggered a memory I have of being with my father.
My father knew I liked Jon Stewart. I knew he liked college basketball. The thing itself — the watching of the TV — is not important. The things that connect people, whether it’s a TV, a turkey sandwich, or a set of tennis, don’t matter.
What matters is the life we get to have when we’re connected.
I was just telling my wife that I talked with a woman who voted for Trump and is now regretting it.
But she did not like Kamala Harris.
She didn’t know her name or what her position had been or what position she was going to be in. She just had reservations about Biden because of â€œthat woman who’s with him.â€
My wife responded: â€œPeople should have to have a certain amount of education to vote.â€
And that’s what gave this idea:
What if social media were used to educate people properly?
It could be an incredibly powerful tool for education. It already is.
You can see it happening. People are learning about the electoral college, with all the nuances and formalities.
I knew that sometime between Election Day and Inauguration Day Congress did something — something they were bound to do, such that it’s barely even mentioned — but I didn’t know that the Vice-President presides while Congress certifies votes and that objections are possible but very rare.
Now every knows these things.
I know that the Supreme Court doesn’t have to have 9 justices, and in the past, it has not had 9.
I know lots of stuff about executive orders and confirmations and filibusters and budget reconciliation…
So, you can see — just like everybody else — I’m learning some civics.
Of course I do also know that I know very little and am full of shit, but I digress.
In early November, 2000, I gave a big screen presentation to a 5th grade class, using a computer to show different possible electoral outcomes. The purpose was to use this new equipment the school just got, and I picked out that topic because it included an interactive map. Back then, displaying a computer image on a large screen was a complete novelty and fairly high tech.
The class was a dud. Right when I was getting fired up and ready to go, showing how Bush could win the popular vote and Gore could win the election, and vice versa, the classroom teacher stopped me.
â€œMr. Post,â€ she said. â€œIs there anything else you could show the kids. They aren’t interested in this.â€
A week later, everybody would be very interested, for the first time in decades, in the electoral college.
And the rest is history.
Now we find ourselves immersed in a great new super media, wherein people are learning new things every day.
But, alas, the guys in charge are computer guys, involved in an intense battle for clicks. They are not social workers or historians. They are not concerned with civics. They are in the click business. Period. Clicks and dollars. Dollars and clicks. It’s a brutal competition, and the folks at Facebook and Twitter and TikTok are the best in the world at it.
The algorithms are not producing more misinformation than anything in the realm of valid education.
But what if…
Imagine if they were like some musicians and wanted to change the world. Or if the industries (including TV) were regulated enough to weed out the bad information. That would diminish its size, since weeds are now a large part of the garden. But imagine if you could trust news sources.
They could still have opinions. They would simply preface the opinion by saying it was an opinion.
But imagine being able to trust the media. What would that be like?
It’s quite possible. These are powerful tools and could make the world a well-informed place.
But the kids who built these tools are no longer kids, and they were doing something that’s never been done, with consequences the were not predictable.
Now we’ve all learned — and some of the negative consequences have become clear.
Let’s hope the Biden administration, along with Congress, works with these companies to pass regulations that provide educational value to all of us and save democracy for the world.
His numbers in that leaked phone conversation are phooey. But the enthusiasm for overturning an election was there. Just imagine if Trump had had that same enthusiasm for dealing with COVID.
If he had gotten obsessed with PPE production and distribution, mask-wearing, social distancing, financial relief, and vaccine distribution, he would have saved lives and won the election.
During the debates, he barely mentioned Operation Warp Speed. He dismissed it, in a split second. It just wasn’t exciting enough. But it was a valid accomplishment he could have spent some time bragging about.
He spent more time on one call with the Georgia Secretary of State, trying to steal rights from Americans, than he spent on speaking constructively about COVID in a year.
This is just to say that if he had been slightly normal — just a little — we would be stuck with him for four more years.
Alas, he was no where in the same universe as slightly normal, ever, either in public or on leaked phone calls. And now he seems to be galaxies away from normal.
Meanwhile, most congress folks in his political party (if you could call it that), are just la dee da, please let me now take my oath of office.