The Dan Schneider Interview 17: Patricia Schroeder (first posted 3/19/09)



DS: This DSI is with Patricia Schroeder, a former Democratic Congresswoman from Colorado (1973-1997) and, the CEO of the Association of American Publishers, although soon to be stepping down. Thanks for agreeing to be interviewed. Since we live in a new century where information that’s even a few weeks old can seem hopelessly outdated, let me not presume that younger readers out there will know who you are. While you were a ubiquitous presence on the Sunday Morning political talk shows of the 1980s and 1990s (part of the then-Usual Suspects), you’ve kept a relatively low profile in recent years. Could you please give a brief summary of who you are, what you have done, what your goals and accomplishments are, and why what you know still has relevance to readers of this interview, now and in the future?


PS: I represented Denver, Colorado for 24 years in Congress, taught at Princeton, and headed the book publishers trade association for 12 years. My goal is to make the world a better place.


DS: I jokingly referred to you as a former Usual Suspect of the Talking Head circuit, but let me get a bit more serious. There is, indeed, a list of Usual Suspects that appear on the cable news and Sunday morning talk shows: columnist George Will, economist Paul Krugman, and Democratic strategist Donna Brazile, etc., and one has heard them so often and so loud that I always feel, ‘What’s the point?’ One knows what a Will or Krugman or Brazile will say before they say it. It seems to me that there is a lack of true diversity of opinion represented in the media. Is this there flaw, or merely an extension of the Left-Right, Republican-Democrat axis that controls national politics, and kills small party chances? And, outside of the Beltway, who cares what the talking heads think? And why should they since rarely is anything truly daring or innovative broached?


PS: I guess cable news junkies like it….

I don’t pay alot of attention to it; I’d rather read.


DS: Also, was there a pecking order, within party circles, that said only senior members get to go on the talk shows? Does one have to pay one’s dues?


PS: No, the networks decide who they want.


DS: And, why do both Democrats and Republicans do their best to kill any real third party chances? To me, a viable centrist third party would be the best thing that could happen to this country’s electorate. That said, I think we get the leaders we deserve, and, by and large, the electorate is a lowest common denominator thing that always favors emotion over reason, which is why most political leaders are as unprincipled and corrupt as their electorate. The voter says, ‘Well, he/she’s a crook, but at least he agrees with me on the important stuff.’ The electorate actually enjoys being lied to, and lying to themselves. Comments?


PS: It is hard for a third party to take root because each of the 50 states control who gets on their ballot. It’s very expensive to get established in all 50 states.


DS: I also tire of those people who feel others should vote. I don’t want people who feel no desire to vote to vote. Let only those who care enough vote. Not voting is, indeed, a legitimate political act, especially if the options presented are all bad. Agree or not?


PS: Of course, that’s why voting is not mandatory in the U.S.


DS: Many of your views, politically and socially, are well known to folks like me; you would best be described as a liberal Democrat. But, please describe for me how you first got into politics- were you in the local PTA, then moved up to town councilman, state assembly, etc.? And, were there any other interests that you wanted to pursue, but gave up? Also, looking back, do you ever wish you had pursued, say, an Academic, business, or artistic career?


PS: I ran because they couldn’t find anyone else to do it in 1972. Never thought of myself in politics but it was an exciting, challenging career.


DS: A few brief probes into the personal side of life. Are you married? And how did you meet? Any children, and have they pursued politics?


PS: I’m married (47 years), two children. They are active in civil society, but haven’t run for office.


DS: Recently, you announced you would be stepping down as head of the Association of American Publishers. What was the reason behind this? Was it simply time to move on? Were you not challenged by the post? Or did you simply say, ‘To hell with this, it’s time to think of myself for a change.’?


PS: I had been there for 12 years and it’s time for fresh eyes and ideas.


DS: Please detail what that organization was about, what you did, and is there any relevance between it and the twin declines of the non-textbook publishing world (booksellers and newspapers)?


PS: We represented America’s book publishing industry.


DS: Your organization was mostly about the legal and marketing aspects of books, and mostly trade books- not fiction, creative stuff, nor poetry, correct?


PS: We covered everything, K-12, higher ed, scholarly, trade, children’s and so on.


DS: I know, in your position as CEO, you worried over things like copyright infringement re: Google’s plans to digitize books. I wrote of that, and more, and attack what is a larger problem:In recent years the state of literature has been in manifest decline for a variety of reasons. Instead of seeking to ameliorate the situation, the people who run the publishing industry have exacerbated the decline with increased cronyism, the fostering of -isms and schools of bad writing, the refusal to publish real criticism, and having publishers, editors, agents, and critics refusing to do their jobs. Many bad writers who have benefited from this system have decried it, although always ‘safely’, speaking of ‘unnamed others’ who have ruined things. Never do they ‘name names’ of the offenders….’ In short, Cosmoetica is probably the only place, online or off, where readers can get informed, honest, and well thought out and written criticisms of art; including writing. So, isn’t the real problem with for profit publishing the fact that they simply are not meeting the public need for quality? There has been a race to the bottom, financially, rather than a striving for excellence. Books try to out-Hollywood Hollywood films, which in turn try to out-video game the video games industry. But, this blurring is what is at the heart of why book publishing is dying. It’s not the Kindle nor any other factor, simply bad quality wreaking its vengeance on the purveyors of the dreck wrought by cronyism, deliteracy, and editorial and marketing incompetence. Agree or not?


PS: I disagree. There are thousands of publishers and with the Internet and self-publishing, anyone can get published.


DS: In a similar fashion, this problem has acted even faster in the newspaper industry. In a few years there may only be a half dozen or so ‘national newspapers’: the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, the Washington Post, USA Today, and a couple of others. But, it is all their fault. Instead of seeking out the best writers, reviewer, columnists, editors, they have stuck with hacks and incompetents who, since the advent of the blogosphere, have not raised their game, but sunk to blog-level type writing. Thus, why pay to read a blogger when they can be read for free online, and their writing and analysis is just as good (really bad) as the ‘elites’? Of course, magazines are headed the same direction, but since they have always been more blatantly lowest common denominator, their erosion is slower. Comments?


PS: I disagree and bemoan the fall of professional journalism.


DS: On a tangent; in the 1950s there were only about fifty places for ‘serious’ writers to get published; now there are tens of thousands, yet the population of the USA has only doubled. There’s too much supply (and profoundly bad writing), not enough demand, and MFA writing programs (via PC and PoMo) have dumbed down critical and editorial skills to such a degree, that there is no viable way to make a living writing- as a journalist, much less a novelist without connections. The surfeit is too great. In the 1950s there were not enough good writers to meet the market’s needs, but today it is a joke. This is why this high quality and in depth interview is being published here, at Cosmoetica, online. 1) there simply are no print media left that can hire people even capable of asking such questions, 2) even if they could they’d claim that in depth stuff is too long and too costly to propagate, and 3) most people have been conditioned, already, to feel that paying to read things, quality issues aside, has to be free because there are so many other choices that the lowest common denominator is too entropic for any viable fiscal model (save pornography and gossip sites) to succeed online. Comments?


PS:There are many more things competing for people’s free time today; consequently people aren’t reading as much.


DS: I mentioned a neologism- deliterate- that I coined. It’s a term I came up with in opposition to illiterate. By deliterate I mean the willful choice to not read great nor compelling writing. To avoid the classics in favor of reading blogs. To write in emailese rather than proper grammar. Basically, I claim that deliteracy is far more of a problem than illiteracy is. Do you agree?


PS: I don’t know, both are big concerns.


DS: Let us detour into your background. You were born 7/30/40, not quite a Baby Boomer, but not really part of the Brokavian ‘Greatest Generation.’ You were too old to be hippy, so, as a youth, where did you fit in? Were you a bookworm, a nerd, the cheerleader sort, the gawky girl with no friends? What sort of child were you- a loner or center of attention? Did you get good grades?


PS: I learned to fly @ 15 and worked my way through college and law school adjusting aviation losses. Since I paid for my education I was a very serious student.


DS: Do you feel the stratification of generations has only increased over the years? I mean, in the 1960s, there was the infamous ‘Generation Gap,’ but I think it’s gotten worse, what with the Tom Brokaw coined ‘Greatest Generation,’ then the Generation X that includes me, and then Generation Y, etc. It all seems so silly, yet, was part of your formation of self a part of your generation’s zeitgeist? And, as admirable as defeating the Axis Powers was, it was the Baby Boomers who defeated Communism, ended the unjust Vietnam War, promoted Civil Rights and the Great Society, while Generation X actually elected a black man President; so do you see an odd movement of stratification in this whole generational crap?


PS: I think this is a creation of advertisers.


DS: What were some of the cultural touchstones in your life, the things, events, or people who graced your existence with those ‘I remember exactly where I was’ moments?


PS: I remember the end of World War II and deaths of Kennedy and King.


DS: Do you still have memories of early television, the films that were big in your youth?


PS: A little, but I didn’t watch tv much.


DS: What was your youth like, both at home and in terms of socializing with other children?


PS: I had a younger brother. We were a close family and worked alot.


DS: Who were your childhood heroes and why? Where did you go to high school, and to what college?


PS: Amelia Earhart and Mrs. Roosevelt were my heroes. I went to high school in Des Moines, Iowa and the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis.


DS: Any siblings? What paths in life have they followed?


PS: A brother who became a lawyer.


DS: What of your parents? What were their professions? Did they encourage your pursuits?


PS: My mother was a first grade teacher, my father a businessman. They were very supportive.


DS: Were your parents political? Did they influence your political views, and if not, how and when did you come to them? Did you do any kind of social activism as a high school or college student?


PS: My parents had lively political discussions at the dinner table. I was involved in student government and the civil rights movement.


DS: What are your views on religion? Do you believe in gods or not? Are you an atheist or agnostic? What links do you see between philosophy and religion? Is myth merely expired religion, and religion myth alive? Do you see religion spawning from the same human wellspring as art?


PS: I believe in the separation of church and state, and religious views should be private.


DS: Do you feel that the Vietnam War basically killed LBJ’s Great Society, by sucking out all the funding for it, thereby making the failure of many programs inevitable; which led to critics to point to the failure as being endemic to the ideology, when really it was a failure of support, not ideology?


PS: Funding guns and butter is hard, but also Vietnam was a war in search of a cause.


DS: You grew up in Iowa, but were born in Oregon. Since reducing wasteful energy consumption is again on the table, politically, let me ask you about light pollution. As a child, far from the megalopoli of the coasts, you likely were able to look up at the night skies and see stars galore. Nowadays, that is rare in most places. To what degree do you think we may one day get back to reducing wasteful energy consumption, be it important things like greenhouse gases, or things merely for aesthetic beauty, like being able to look up at an unpolluted night sky?


PS: I hope soon and worked very hard on that goal, starting with the Carter Administration. Reagan shut all the alternative initiatives down.


DS: When you first got to Congress, the Arab Oil Crisis was in full swing. Yet, every Congress and every Presidential Administration, since then, has failed utterly, totally, and miserably, to curb runaway oil consumption. Democrats and Republicans share equally in the mess. By many measures, the Clinton-Gore years were worse for the environment than the Reagan-Bush years, although Bush-Cheney was the worst. Why this massive failure, and, had action been taken in the early 1970s, do you think we might have avoided the Global Warming Crisis? Do you recognize part of the failure as your own?


PS: Carter tried very hard to change the course and was ridiculed for wearing a sweater!


DS: Do you think President Obama will finally succeed where others have failed, in this regard? If so, why? And is part of the reason he might succeed due merely to the fact that it is now a crisis, not some faraway desideratum?


PS:He will only succeed with full public support.


DS: ‘Knowledge for all should never take a backseat to the problems of the few.’ Do you agree with that sentiment? If so, how do you reckon the fact that it’s been nearly four decades since a man walked on the moon (that’s before you even served in Congress)? The space program, which alighted the minds and hearts of young boys like me, is a hulk of its former self. Why is there no moonbase? Why has not there been a Martian Neil Armstrong? It angers me that there is always an excuse. In lean times it’s we can’t afford it when….And in phat times it’sthat’s just pork,’ or some such. I’m all for feeding the poor, and vaccinating babies, and this and that, but I see it as a false dichotomy. Again, Knowledge for all should never take a backseat to the problems of the few.’ Your take?


PS: We fell way behind in funding science and research AND letting folks politicize it.


DS: As someone who spent years as a politician, your job involved much dialectic. So, let me ask this philosophic query on the art of dialectic: which do you find to be a more intractable position- arguing with people who are shown to be clearly factually wrong, or people who are wrong ideologically or philosophically? I suspect the latter is more difficult, because in all my arguments on art (online and off) the one thing that enrages people is not to see that you are right, but to be shown they are wrong, and as philosophy is something that often gets personalized- more so than facts, I think philosophical wrongs are harder to swallow, thus harder for opponent to battle. In short, people are willing to forgive you if you are wrong, but not if you are right. Comments?


PS: You are probably right; ego is a strong force.


DS: I recall you participated in the Fred Friendly Seminars, on PBS, in the 1980s. Was that an enjoyable experience? Did it give you any insights into the views of those you disagree with? What were you opinions and memories of the seminars, and Friendly?


PS: I liked Fred and enjoyed the give and take.


DS: What are your views on such current politicized matters as euthanasia, abortion, gay marriage, and stem cell research?


PS: I think the government should stay out of all of these.


DS: Back in the early 1980s, I escorted a girl to an abortion clinic and we were assailed by assholes who threatened her, and snarled at her, and when we left, several of them ran up the stairs of the building to continue their barrage, and I kicked the first obnoxious bastard down the stairs and on to his fat ass. I still recall the look of the other anti-abortionists. They were stunned that someone actually stood up to them. Yet, in the years since, I have been angered at the cowardice of many people on the Liberal/Progressive side, for not standing up for their values. They use cowardly weasel words like pro-choice rather than pro-abortion. I am pro-abortion. Saying you are pro-choice means what? Pro-choice for free congoleum for all? No. You are pro the right to abortion, therefore pro-abortion. So, say it. By using a weasel word like pro-choice you are tacitly and de facto ceding the idea that there is something so wrong with abortion that even the use of the word is something to be avoided. In short, one only garners respect for oneself or one’s ideas if one stands behind them and up for them. Any thoughts on liberal cowardice being a greater impediment to freedom than Right Wing oppression?


PS: No, it makes me crazy.


DS: Before voting for Obama, I voted for Ralph Nader for President in 1996, 2000, and 2004. I could not vote for the Republican candidates, and, in ’96 I felt Clinton betrayed the working class. In 2000, Gore’s arrogance and association with Clinton turned me off; and in 2004, Kerry, to me, was a passionless corpse, without vision. As I type these questions, early into the Obama administration, I find more and more I like about him- he is centrist and pragmatic, with liberal social values and conservative leanings when it comes to fiscal matters. This, to me, is the best of all worlds. But, I am still an Independent (I was raised a Democrat) because I find Senate Leader Harry Reid a small man with small ideas, and House Leader Nancy Pelosi to be shrill, disingenuous, and divisive. Here is my thesis for why Republicans (pre-Obama) dominated national politics for most of my lifetime (I was born in 1965). Post-LBJ, the Democrats became reactive and not pro-active. They did not stand for things, but against things, and when they did stand for things, they did so half-heartedly (see the use of ‘pro-choice’ above). I believe that voters, of any ilk, will always prefer to vote for something than nothing. So, even if one can argue that many Republican ideas are downright evil, the Democrats offered nihility, a black hole, emptiness. Thus, an evil something trumps the sound of silence. Thoughts?


PS: Everyone has their own take.


DS: I got really angry over the Democrats blaming Ralph Nader for Al Gore’s 2000 election loss to Bush. 1) Gore won Florida, but decided not to fight for his victory. 2) That was with Florida Governor Jeb Bush’s racial discrimination blocking thousands of blacks from voting. 3) The U.S. Supreme Court really did select the winner. 4) Gore lost his own home state, and his sitting President’s, both of which, if won, would have made Florida moot. 5) Even if the above were not true, it presumes that somehow people like me, who decided that neither the Republican or Democrat were worthy of our vote, ‘owed’ our vote to Gore simply because he wasthe lesser of two evils.’ It’s this sort of astounding arrogance that really sticks with me from the 2000 election, not who won or lost. I think the lesser of two evils model is actually why so little gets done in politics. People vote against the other guy rather than for their guy (or gal). Comments?


PS: This is a huge, diverse country. In fact it is a continent, not a country. This makes it very difficult to be too ideological.


DS: Why do you think so many Right Wingers claim to long for one income family households, yet do everything possible to kybosh that outcome- from trying to lower wages to trying to kill sex education and birth control? I recall when Reagan killed the CETA program. I was volunteering at a Senior Citizen’s Center my mom worked at, which employed CETA kids. This was a damned worthy program. Then, a few years later when drugs and drug crime rose, people asked, why? Comments?


PS: I think they liked women in the kitchen and seeing themselves as boss.


DS: What is your view on the idea the9/11 changed everythingapproach to geopolitics? Do you think this led directly to the downfall of Bush and the American Right? And what of the Patriot Act?


PS: It led to the re-election of Bush and losing alot of our civil liberties.


DS: Do you believe in the Jeffersonian ideal that sometimes democracy needs to be renewed in blood, etc.?


PS: No.


DS: What are your thoughts on school vouchers? I oppose them. There’s no evidence they work, and the few schools that report ‘success’ do so only because they have the right to pick and choose students, therefore to measure their ‘success’ means comparing the results of an elite and chosen class vs. the masses. Ideas?


PS: I’m against.


DS: What are your ideas on taxes? Do you support progressive taxes, a flat tax, consumption taxes, abolishing the IRS? Why?


PS: Progressive.


DS: Do you believe in the concept of a public commons- those goods and services that all of us benefit by? Why?


PS: No- someone has to deliver those goods and services and they need to be paid.


DS: After all, not even Microsoft nor Walmart could finance the building of railroads and roads to move their goods about. They are as ‘dependent’ upon the ‘system’- financed by the taxpayers through the government, as any ‘welfare mom is. No? So, why do so many people have this ridiculous notion that paying taxes is somehow the government ‘stealing’ from them, rather than the reality of them giving back to the system that allowed them to make the money in the first place, so that others can achieve what they have? Are they just ignorant? And, if they are, do they really believe that, in a feudal or totalitarian society, they could achieve such wealth as allowed by our current system?


PS: The Right Wing is against government and convince many taxing = taking your money.


DS: Re: taxation, I’ve always felt that the rate of taxation is far less important than the rate of return per dollar paid. I.e.- if I pay only 5% in taxes, I’d better not want for much, but if I pay 50%, I have a right to cradle to grave coverage for a host of social benefits. Do you agree?


PS: Interesting- our biggest return is wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.


DS: In last year’s Presidential campaign, John McCain, late in the race, tried to paint Barack Obama as a socialist (after the terrorist gambit failed), and played upon the old wealth redistribution meme. Yet, in reality, in the public commons, every time a corporation is granted tax relief, wealth is funneled and redistributed upward. Early Twentieth Century policies, such as the Wagner-Steagall Act, and men like Robert Moses, who actively engineered the breaking up of integrated urban neighborhoods for the express purpose of ghettoizing blacks and other minorities, redistributed wealth from the working class to the rich, but no one ever calls itclass warfarewhen the rich prey on the poor. This is so obvious, with any even cursory glance at history, so why has the Right been so successful in bamboozling the poor and working class into voting against their interests? Do ‘values’ on abortion, guns, and homosexuality really trump that?


PS: It amazes and confounds me- I always thought people voted their pocketbooks.


DS: You hear so much about wealth redistribution, but not its initial distribution nor ‘predistribution;’ such as when companies get huge tax breaks, or when loopholes allow rich individuals to hide assets offshore, or corporations to give out bonuses to board members and executives, to reduce ‘profits,’ and make it seem like they lost money, therefore lessen their tax load. Again, why do you think this is- especially given the oft-heard, and laughable, rubric about the Mainstream Media being ‘liberal’? After all, the mega-corporations that control the networks, radio stations, and major newspaper chains are all Right Wing. Who cares if the average beat reporter leans Democratic. I use the old plantation analogy- who cares if all the slaves lean Left if Massuh is a hard Rightist?


PS: Unfortunately, political campaigns cost a fortune and the tax code is filled with favors to the big donors- sigh!


DS: I see here that you participate in the online site, Politico, so you clearly seem to be ahead of the game, politically, vis-à-vis newspapers. Yet, a site like that, or Powerline, clearly wear their political leanings on their sleeves. Newspapers rarely did, at least over the last fifty or so years. What I find laughable, as stated, is the claim of a liberal bias in the media. For example, the New York Times is always cited as a liberally biased newspaper, yet they were amongst the strongest supporters of Bush’s war in Iraq, and, having grown up in New York City, no working class folks ever read the Times- it was the paper of the rich, Long Island Republican sorts. Clearly the liberal bias claim is BS, but how do you think such a wrongheaded notion got started?


PS: The Right Wing labels the media ‘Liberal’ so, when they criticize their ideas, they can just respond, ‘so.’


DS: I mentioned Robert Moses and the federal government intervention of the mid-Twentieth Century, wherein ghettos were created by destroying vital neighborhoods- i.e.- the lack of good jobs, supermarkets, and outrageously high gas prices. Yet, if one just looks at the World Bank example of fighting poverty abroad, their greatest success comes not from trying to legislate civil behaviors, but by giving money directly to the poor to start businesses, and empower the poor that way, by cutting out the middlemen. Yet, in this country, that has rarely been tried; instead trying welfare alone, which led to a cycle of dependence. My belief is that, contra to their claims, many whites wanted this, so that blacks could not economically compete via businesses. Do you agree with this, and do you favor such ‘bottom up’ seeding of economies as has been successful with the World Bank?


PS: I am a huge supporter of microlending.


DS: A few less intense queries. That old chestnut- name a few folk from history you’d like to break bread with, and why?


PS: Abigail Adams and Eleanor Roosevelt- two strong women.


DS: Name some of your favorite works of art- novels, poems, films, paintings, etc. And, aside from your like or dislike of them, what books or works of art do you deem as most influential? On my list of most influential books in my life, I would include Alex Haley’s The Autobiography Of Malcolm X; Walt Whitman’s Leaves Of Grass; Loren Eiseley’s autobiography All The Strange Hours; Leonard Shlain’s Art And Physics, and the Betty Smith’s novel A Tree Grows In Brooklyn.


PS: I have shelves and shelves of favorites.


DS: As these interviews are part of a series, there are a few queries that I like to put to most interviewees, to see the parallax of responses from people in different fields, groups, ages, etc.  The first is: a few years back I co-hosted an Internet radio show called Omniversica. On one show we spoke with a poet named Fred Glaysher, who- in arguing with my co-host Art Durkee, claimed that, in art, change does not come until some giant- or great artist, comes along, and buries the rest of the wannabes. It’s akin to Thomas Kuhn’s The Structure Of Scientific Revolutions. Is the same true in political thought and/or action?


PS: It’s very interesting how many huge political shifts were started by one person: Ghandi, Rosa Parks, etc.


DS: I started these interviews because so many interviews, online and in print, are atrocious. They are merely vehicles designed to sell a book or other product- film, CD, etc. One of the things I’ve tried to do with these interviews is avoid the canned sort of responses that most interviews- print or videotaped, indulge in, yet most people find comfort in hearing the expected. Why do you think the readers and the interviews are so banal? Where have all the great interviewers like a Phil Donahue, Dick Cavett, David Susskind, or Bill Buckley gone? Only Charlie Rose, on PBS, is left.


PS: I don’t know; it’s very sad.


DS: To what do you attribute the general lack of introspection in modern society? Is American or Western culture simply as shallow as man of its detractors claim? In the arts, PC and Postmodernism have certainly aided in the ‘dumbing down’ of culture. Thoughts?


PS: I think technology has given us all a dose of ADD.


DS: Do you view religious morality (that imposed from without) as different from secular ethics (that immanent), which is based on deeper, common human values? And where do ethics fit on this spectrum? After all, some moralities justify the killing of infidels, but no ethics do. And, between ethics and morality, where does legality fit?


PS: Since I believe in separation of religion from the civil sector, I’m for ethics based rules.


DS: Are not all rights manmade fictions? Useful fictions and beneficial ones, but nonetheless fictions. After all, if they were not fictions, a real alien species would be bound to respect our ‘rights.’ At the center of the discussion is the fact that a right is only as strong as its mutual grantors consent it to be, correct?


PS: Probably right.


DS: Do you believe, as I do, that, socially, the power of real liberalism/progressivism, is inexorable (sans a nuclear war)? By that, I mean if one looks back at history (especially American history) in quarter century chunks, every quarter century that passes sees the opening up of society into a freer way of living. 2009 is freer and better than 1984, which surpassed 1959, which was better than 1934, etc. Going back in times sees shackles being added- from Jim Crow to Suffragism to child labor to slavery, etc. And this takes into account the cyclical nature of things. Yes, at a given moment, the culture may be a bit less liberal than a decade before, but it’s still significantly more open and progressive than the most conservative nadir of the prior cycle. The same is true that the liberal upswing of society always goes higher with each acme of the cycle, no?


PS: Never guaranteed. Look at Iran, it went from being progressive to….


DS: How do you feel President Obama’s term will affect things as diverse as the wars, the labor movement, global warning, the Middle East, etc. Are you more or less sanguine about the near future, on all these fronts, than you were before President Obama’s election?


PS: I’m hopeful he can make changes but he needs congressional support and a stronger economy.


DS: So far so good with Obama. If he can keep things going he’ll be the best President of my lifetime. Here is how I would rank those in my lifetime:

LBJ: good domestic policies kyboshed by Vietnam. Overall, a terrible President.

Nixon: great intellect but inner demons destroyed him and Presidency. Vietnam and Watergate make him a terrible President.

Ford: his legacy as President will be haunted by pardoning Nixon, just as Congressional career will be stained by Warren Commission coverup. A failure.

Carter: his noble aims were destroyed by lack of leadership skills. A failure.

Reagan: trickle down destroyed economy at home and wasteful military spending led to Iran-Contra. Terrible President who lucked out in being the man who got credit for Soviet Union’s fall after decades of Presidents before him sowed the seeds. Overall, a terrible President.

Bush the Elder: fiddled while Rome burned. Gulf War success, but overall, a failure who was, like Carter, unable to lead.

Clinton: great potential, but after early losses with healthcare, was more concerned with retaining power (and blowjobs) than exercising it (power, not his penis). Overall, a mediocrity, but the best of my lifetime till that point.

Bush the Younger: 9/11, the worst domestic slaughter, was preventable, botched Katrina aftermath, the economy, and the Iraq War as a massive failure, despite the spurious The Surge worked,’ claims. Overall, a terrible President.

  So, of the eight Presidents, pre-Obama, in my lifetime, four were outright failures: LBJ, Nixon, Reagan, and Bush the Younger; three were plain failures: Ford, Carter, and Bush the Elder; and the best- Clinton- soared into mediocrity. Would you agree with my rankings and assessments? If not, please give your own, with comments.


PS: I would give Carter and Clinton higher marks.


DS: I am, by nature, a political centrist and moderate, so where have all the Teddy Roosevelt Republicans gone? And what took so long to get a good centrist like Obama from the Democrats?


PS: Don’t know.


DS: You have quite a few notable quotes listed online. You are most noted for this one- ‘He’s just like a Teflon frying pan: Nothing sticks to him,’ about President Reagan. Yet, this is the one that struck me as most cogent: ‘You measure a government by how few people need help.’ This seems perfectly in synch with the conservative ideal of a government providing only those services that a citizen cannot provide for himself, yet, then the Right Wingers turn around and disparage government. Having worked for government and corporations, only Big Business is more wasteful and poorly run than governments, yet this is who the Right has faith in. Why is that? And why do you think you’ve been so quotable over the years?


PS: In our busy society I think you need to create ‘word pictures’ to get your ideas across, so that’s what I tried to do.


DS: Let me close this interview by asking, at this point in your life, have you accomplished the things you wanted to do? If not, what failures gnaw at you the most? Which of those failures do you think you can accomplish yet? What is in store, in the next year or two?


PS: I feel I gave everything I tried to do the best I could do. I’m now on to composing the rest of my life.

DS: Thanks for doing this interview, Patricia Schroeder, and let me allow you a closing statement, on whatever you like.


PS: Sorry. Very busy closing down two offices, two homes, moving and preparing for next steps. Good luck to you and thanks.


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