Please forgive my bias toward such personage, but it often takes a reporter’s perspective to best describe a legislative body seemingly bent on ruining a government’s integrity.
What brought this to mind, obviously, is the latest fiscal situation in Washington, where political partisanship in Congress took the United States to the brink of complete calamity before a sense of sanity prevailed.
While that mess was biting all of us where it hurts, a comment in a memoir I have just read — but written more than a decade ago — pretty well describes our “leaders” assembled in Washington today.
Jack W. Germond, who covered politics and politicians in our country for almost 50 years until his death at 85 in August, said in his 1999 book, “Fat Man in a Middle Seat,” that the “only hero I ever had in politics” was a “largely forgotten” member of the U.S. Senate from Alaska, Ernest Gruening.
Germond wrote this about Gruening: “What made him special was that he cared about getting something done, not just getting elected. There isn’t enough of that going around.”
A fixture for years on the weekend political talk-shows on television, Germond’s memoir describes in fine detail the highs and lows of many prominent political leaders. It takes no prisoners in naming them and describing their various foibles, as he saw them. It mattered not which party label they wore.
Germond ended his book this way: “I have not given up on politics, however. I still nourish the notion that one of these years (voters) will get it right and we will elect someone to the presidency who will bring out the best in the country. We might even find a leader willing to take an unpopular position occasionally because it is the right one to take, then set out to persuade Americans of that fact. That has been known to happen, but not lately.”
I realize that some people mistrust and despise newspaper reporters as much or more than they do members of Congress, state legislative members and locally elected officials. Having grown up in a newspaper building, however, I’ll take the side of an honest reporter who watches a governing body on a daily basis a lot quicker than I will that of the average lawmaker at any level of government.
Jack W. Germond was an aggressive, hard-boiled, cynical newspaper reporter who didn’t have much faith in a lot of the officials he covered. He also didn’t see much virtue in very many of his fellow reporters, so he tells on both groups. He covered government bodies for most of a half-century and decided in the end that many of them put themselves first, not their constituents, and that only a few actually have a concrete idea of what they are doing, before or after they were in office.
Germond and some of his cohorts were celebrated in the 1973 book by Timothy Crouse, “The Boys on the Bus,” a tale of reporters who covered the 1972 presidential campaign from June to November aboard myriad fleets carrying candidates across the country. Practicing the scheme of pack journalism, they teamed up on all the contenders and pretenders and put a lot of them, including President Richard M. Nixon, in lights that would surprise and shock the average voter.
Perhaps it was their kind on his mind when Thomas Jefferson once said: “Were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate for a moment to prefer the latter. “
The crisis in Washington is over, for now. Read the papers for the details.
Mac Gordon is a retired reporter who lives near Blakely. He is a former reporter for the Albany Herald. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.