For me politics in the United States of America has always intrigued me. From a very early age I was aware of it via the Kennedy’s in the 1960’s. I was only a couple of weeks old when John Fitzgerald Kennedy was assassinated. I do remember his brother Robert being assassinated in 1968 and the story was on the pages of the Australian Women’s Weekly. His coffin draped with an American flag left a deep impression on a young mind, (Years later I would see the graves of both brothers at the Arlington National Cemetery and receive a signed photo from younger brother Ted after I had written to him in the late 1990’s) Then as I grew through childhood, President Richard Nixon was of great interest. The Vietnam War and Henry Kissinger (of who I would later meet many years later in Washington DC) and how they tried to end it peacefully. I remember Richard Nixon’s speech announcing the withdrawal of US Troops. Then the Watergate Scandal which I didn’t really understand until later.
Come the late 1970’s and early 80’s and it was the bumbling Jimmy Carter (of whom I met in New Orleans many years later) who thankfully was voted out of office and Ronald Reagan took over. The first time I really knew or saw anything of President Reagan was in a film my media teacher screened to us “The KIllers” in which he played a convincing mobster. My friends would make fun of him during the 1980’s, yet in my shallow years of youth I couldn’t comprehend the amazing work he did in ending the cold-war with Russia. It was a very real concern to all in the world that mutually assured destruction in the guise of Nuclear War could become a reality. Reagan and Gorbachev realized the serious nature of this issue and thankfully they were able to resolve their differences and the Cold War came to an end.
The 1990’s weren’t as interesting although there was the Persian Gulf crisis and later Bill Clinton and the Monica Lewinsky scandal provided plenty to discuss.
My ambition to cover US politics really began to build in the late 1990’s when I would watch the Jim Leher Newshour on PBS. I really enjoyed Margaret Warner’s work. So much so I wrote her a letter and she kindly wrote back with some tips on journalism, to this day I try to apply. She put some nice words on a photo of her she sent to me.
In 2004 I began writing about the 2004 U.S. Presidential campaign that was run between George Bush and John Kerry of whom I dubbed “The Undertaker” because of his grave nature. He teamed up with John Edwards in 2004. I got to see Mr Edwards talk in Iowa in 2007 and wasn’t impressed. No-one knew at the time that John Edwards was sleazing on his cancer stricken wife in an extra-marital affair with campaign worker Rielle Hunter of with whom Edwards conceived a child.Edwards would get up on stage and accuse Republicans of being George Bush’s on “steroids”, yet the man pointing the finger was despicable behind the scenes. Thank goodness he disappeared from American political life.
Come 2007 and I really got involved in reporting and it began in the wondrous political wind-tunnel that is Iowa in Middle America. The Primary Season is a wonderful opportunity to see candidates up close and personal as they trot out their wares to the people of Iowa. In 2007 I met the future President of the United States in Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, Mitt Romney, Chris Dodd, Bill Richardson, John McCain, Joe Biden, Fred Thompson. It was an incredible experience to see these folks talk about their ideas and hopes for their country. Some good, some bad and some complete waffle. Obama was a polished speaker and it was clear as day that he would win the Democrat nomination. I was impressed with Hillary Clinton and her eye for detail (strange as that may sound today) I got to meet her twice. On the second occasion, I asked her about the 2007 Australian election result. She knew exactly what had happened and had her head around the subject. I know she is going to run in 2016, but she will find it hard to win due to several political misdemeanors and just how unpopular the Democrats have become under President Obama’s administration.
As you may gather I am an opinionated journalist who supports the conservative side of US Politics. It developed as I covered the campaign trail. I found Barack Obama’s press staff to be arrogant, rude and a sense of privilege emanated from them. It was so unbearable, that on principal I walked out of an Obama / Oprah Winfrey event held in Des Moines. A rude Obama staffer told me to move my small camera to make way for in her words “the mainstream press” and that I was in her bullying words “Not important” I never forgot that day.Time has proven me correct in this awful Obama administration. Arrogant, out of touch, anti American. No wonder the Republicans won the biggest half-Senate election in November 2014 since World War II.
Whilst I may be conservative that didn’t stop me running into klutz’s from the right. Michele Bachmann may have been a decent lady, but her campaign staff in Iowa in 2011 were pushy, rude and amateurs. I was covering a public event and was filming a Michele Bachmann press conference when this burly woman asked me who I was, (she didn’t identify herself) and requested I stop filming. I didn’t have my Iowa Straw Poll Media Pass with me as I was in a hurry to cover the event. I told her I was a conservative, and she told me she’d been told over the “radio” that I was a certain “someone” Huh??? it was absurd vetting, I showed her a National Press Club pass and other conservative credentials, to which she finally backed down. This behavior was present at many Republican events where the vetting process was too controlled and at times laughable. The problem was it cost them. In many situations such as in Las Vegas where Republican candidate Sharron Angle led controversial Democrat Senator Harry Reid in the opinion polls. Problem for Sharron was she was averse to publicity. Instead of taking hold of an opportunity to hammer home the message, she allegedly told her staff to be on the look-out for any media, with staffers speaking in codes with the infamous phrase “time to water the plants” when a journo was spotted. Reid won back his seat, Angle lost. An act of utter media stupidity.
Another Republican candidate we found interesting was Herman Cain. He was very popular the day we observed him speak to the folks in Ames Iowa. His campaign was undone by a scurrilous smear campaign run by Democrats that alleged he’d been unfaithful. Where were those voices during John Edwards campaign? or in the 1990’s with the cigar toting President Bill Clinton re: Lewinsky Scandal. We managed to ask Herman Cain a couple of questions in Gilbert, Arizona after a Ronald Reagan memorial dinner
Republican Tim Pawlenty didn’t have any such attitudes as he attempted a presidential run in Iowa in 2011. I found the former 39th Governor of Minnesota to be a decent, approachable fellow. He was only to happy to say hello and answer questions. It was a real shame he didn’t go further and one hopes that if the Republicans win in 2016 that he can contribute to a new administration.
IN 2011 I got to cover the Republican Straw Poll in Iowa.There were several candidates clambering for position. Mitt Romney, Ron Paul, Tim Pawlenty, Rick Santorum and Texas Governor Rick Perry. I saw Rick Perry speak at the Iowa State Fair. He’d “gatecrashed” the Republican Presidential race and stormed into town with true Texas bravado. “Let’s tell the government to get out of the way” proclaimed Perry at a stump speech at fair. As he walked to the stage that day we observed him giving some advice to prospective voters kids and he told them to study. Shame that Mr Perry didn’t do his homework later on as he made gaff after gaff and fell from favoritism very quickly such is the volatile make or break nature of the presidential campaign trail.
In 2009 I began covering Tucson politics in the grand state of Arizona. As Rush Limbaugh always states the concept of “drive-by” media, meaning a shallow or passing view of the world. I decided to follow politics in Tucson, which was compact and had a healthy political environment. During that time I met with Martha McSally, a former US Air Force combat pilot. Martha is determined as they come. She lost in Republican primaries and a US Congress election in 2012. However in the mid-term elections of last year, Martha won her place in Washington by defeating sitting Democrat member, Ron Barber by a wafer thin margin. It was a remarkable achievement and an illustration of just how determined and intelligent McSally is as a politician.We predicated as such and wrote in 2012 “On a local level, Martha McSally has a bright future ahead of her, if she chooses to continue a career in politics. Her name will definitely pop up, if Jesse Kelly is unable to win the upcoming special election”. On that note stay tuned we hope we can cover the race in 2016. US Politics has it all, drama, color, pageantry and intrigue that importantly shapes the free world.