What were you thinking?

When you don't just shoot yourself in the foot, but take an M-16 to it.

What were you thinking?
Makeup? What makeup? 

19 years ago, I had the great fun of covering the Republican and Democratic presidential conventions in New York and Boston respectively. Of course, these quadrennial confabs led to the Bush versus Kerry race that fall. And I promise, these memories will lead to an observation about today's political cluster-f**k. But being me, I have to ramble first. I promise though, there is a point. Because, one interview stood out for me.

The nice thing about these things is that they set up all the radio blabbers on a "radio row" where you set your gear up in a small booth or table, and the various political wannabees, hopefuls and established crooks just make the rounds for 10 or 15 minutes each. You also meet supporters and other media types like Ann Coulter, who stopped by my booth in New York to extol the wonder that was George W. Bush.

In this Feb. 12, 2011 file photo, Ann Coulter waves to the audience after speaking at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in Washington.
The lovely Ann Coulter.

She is perhaps the single skinniest person I have ever seen outside of a prison camp, and certainly the most unpleasant. There's a lot of talk lately about being on "brand." Well, her brand is snide and when she turns the snark switch on, it's impossible to turn it off. Believe me, I tried.

I met New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg who was perfectly pleasant and would have to stand on a chair to be considered short.

He was standing on a riser. Really.

Don King stopped by to promote his love for Bush with the decibel level turned up to screech. And I met Wyoming Senator Alan Simpson, a guy even the most diehard Democrat couldn't dislike. He walked up to the booth while being interviewed by a young reporter from the LGBTQ channel on XM radio. He was a bit too eager and when he realized he had found a genuinely moderate Republican who didn't give a flip about his sex life, he tripped all over himself to get a million questions out.

Alan Simpson (American politician) - Wikipedia
My favorite Republican.

Simpson is an affable, and very funny man and showed great patience. When the young reporter left, he turned to me and said, "Well that was a squirrelly little dude. I'm not really sure I figured all that out." And he says it in that laconic, Gary Cooperish tone that just makes you laugh out loud. I later got to know him when I worked in Wyoming for 4 years and my admiration has not dimmed.

In Boston, we had the usual gaggle of Texas Democrats, what's left of them anyway. I watched documentary filmmaker and liberal gadfly Michael Moore shamble through the media center with a bunch of reporters in tow like pilot fish following a shark for the occasional dropping of food.

In case you wondered, this is not Michael Moore.

And yes, he is a slob. There's no other way to put it. The actor Richard Dreyfuss stopped by and we had about a 5-minute conversation until the DNC wrangler who moved the celebs around, realized we were from Tyler, TX and figured it was too small a market to bother Mr. Dreyfuss with, and pulled him away. He was very apologetic and confused, but at least I had a chance to pull my JFK ploy.

Yes, I recommend this movie.

I read years ago in an interview with the playwright Tennessee Williams, that when he first met President Kennedy, Kennedy was effusive in his praise of the play "Summer and Smoke." Well, that was one of Tennessee's few flops and he said there is nothing more endearing for an artist than someone who appreciated a work that others hated.

I told Dreyfuss, truthfully as it happens, that my wife and I adore the film "Always." It was a Stephen Spielberg remake of a WWII film "A Guy Named Joe" and to be fair, it is generally disregarded by critics. It starred Dreyfuss, Holly Hunter, John Goodman and Audrey Hepburn in her last performance. I recommend it, and I recommend mentioning it if you meet Dreyfuss. It was his one stab at playing a romantic leading man and his smile was wide and genuine when I brought it up.

I don't know what he said to his DNC handler when she pulled him away, but I hope it was something like, "I know it's a small town, but dammit, he likes "Always."

But, OK, enough of the reminiscences. I could do a couple of articles on conventions I have covered. But there was one interview I remember, and am proud of at the DNC in Boston. It was with former South Dakota Senator and failed presidential candidate, and that is an understatement, George McGovern.

A decent man. Rare today.

McGovern ran against Richard Nixon in 1972 with the primary issue being his opposition to the Vietnam War. Now, there were those who tried to paint him as some sort of weak sister, a peacenik without the cojones to see the conflict through. Those people apparently didn't read his biography.

To be absolutely fair, Richard Nixon, as a Quaker, could have been deferred from service in WWII. But he joined the Navy and did indeed serve, albeit in desk jobs both in Washington and the Pacific Theater. Absolutely nothing wrong and a lot right with that.

But, for those who dismissed McGovern as some lily-livered Democrat, when the war broke out in Europe, he interrupted college and began private flying lessons. And when Pearl Harbor was attacked, he then enlisted and after extensive training became a B-24 bomber pilot flying out of Italy. It was also the plane that actor Jimmy Stewart flew during the war. McGovern flew 35 missions over Europe and received the Distinguished Flying Cross for several acts of heroism, along with the Air Medal with 3 Oak Leaf Clusters. They are extensively chronicled in the best seller "The Wild Blue" by renowned historian Stephen Ambrose.


It was not an easy plane to fly, as I found out in an interview with a B-24 pilot, Roy Fulco, while we were actually flying in one. He told me that when he was shot down and in a POW camp in Germany, his guard asked him what his plans were when the war ended. He said he was going to buy an old B-24 and put it in his back yard. When the guard asked why, he replied, "So I can go out every morning and piss on it."

Suffice to say, the caricature of George McGovern was wildly off the mark, but never mind, it was enough. He was, to use a technical political term, slaughtered in the election. He carried only 1 state and won a grand total of 17 electoral votes. It was a Custer-level defeat.

So, when I interviewed him at the convention, he was 26 years over the whole thing. He was good-humored about his defeat, and humble about his war exploits. But then we talked about Watergate. Of course, that's when President Nixon decided it was worth the risk to spy on the Democratic Party Headquarters in the Watergate Hotel complex in DC. And, frankly, after all this time, McGovern still couldn't explain it.

"I really have never figured out why he did it. Why risk it? To be honest, he was beating the hell out of me. It just didn't make any sense."

This brings us to the subject of self-inflicted wounds, and of course, Donald Trump. The Donald is facing an avalanche of indictments on everything from aggressively hustling a former fashion model, fudging the tax books to pay a porn star for a quickie, to trying to steal an election. And if his supporters are honest, all of this could have been avoided. These are the very definition of self-inflicted wounds.

Look, Gore, Hillary, and Kerry all thought they should have won, but they ultimately conceded. Biden found he had some Presidential records at his house as well, so he gave them to the national archives without a squawk.

Hillary Clinton | Biography, Politics, & Facts | Britannica
"Yeah, OK. I lost. Buzz off."

So, you're pissed. You don't think you should have lost in 2020. But you did. Recounts show you did. Your colleagues say you did. And now those pecksniffs at the national archives want their records back. So what do you do? You want to run again because you're personally insulted that you lost, which is fine. But instead, back in 2021, you rant about a stolen election, try to get phony electors into the certification process, amp up your followers, and put the arm on your VP to fudge everything.

What!? Just lick your wounds, and get those followers amped up for 2024. It could have been so easy. Then, when you have records you shouldn't have, give them back. Who cares? Why lie? Why hide them? As McGovern said, why do it? Come on, man. Bob's your uncle. Problem over, move on to the next one. None of this had to happen. I'm not going to delve into why the hoi polloi think that a guy who sits on a gold crapper has their best interest at heart, but they do. And voila, you made it all complicated?

So, now we have a giant American political crisis. Now we have to figure out if a guy can be elected President from prison. How do you have Secret Service protection in the joint? Why can't you stay off social media and why the petty, childish insults? Why the thin skin? Obama was called everything but a nice guy and still stayed off Twitter. Why did all this money have to be spent to prosecute you? Why are you being such a Richard (see nickname) about all of it?

Again, it simply never had to happen. George could have told you.

Roger Gray has toiled at the journalism trade since 1970 and his first radio news job at KTRH in Houston. Over those woefully misspent years, he has worked in radio, TV and written for magazines. He was twice elected President of the Texas Automobile Writers Association and was elected to the Texas Radio Hall of Fame. He covered the first Persian Gulf War, the fall of the Berlin Wall, the reunification of Germany, Oslo Accords in Israel and peace talks in Ireland. He interviewed writers, actors, politicians and every President from Ford to George W, and none of them remember him.
Now, he is part of the Texas Outlaw Writers, and if this doesn't pan out, the outlaw part will still work as he will indeed resort to robbing banks.