Posts Tagged ‘Democrats’

50 Years of Covering Bo Callaway

March 17, 2014

When I covered the late former Secretary of the Army Howard  Bo Callaway’s entrance into national politics in 1964, I didn’t reflect on how his actions were a part of a pivotal shift in American politics.  The Solid South was no longer “solid” for the Democratic Party and was moving toward being “solid” for the Republican Party.  Republican presidential nominee Sen. Barry Goldwater voted against the 1964 Civil Rights Law and carried five Southern states, including Georgia.  Bo Callaway switched from the Democratic to the Republican Party and ran as a “Goldwater Republican.”  Goldwater lost ,  but Bo won easily in his bid to become the first Republican U.S. Representative from Georgia since Reconstruction.

I first met Bo when I covered the 1964 3rd Congressional District election for WRBL Radio and TV in Columbus.  As far as positions on issues were concerned, I couldn’t tell much difference between them. Both Democrat Garland Byrd, a former Georgia Lt. Governor, and Bo were conservatives, and when I asked them if they were segregationists, neither seemed pleased that I asked the question, but both told me they were.  I wasn’t, but, then, I wasn’t running for public office in 1964 Georgia.

Timing is everything, the adage tells us, and, in 1964,  Bo Callaway’s timing was perfect. He went to Washington, but he only stayed two years, deciding he would rather be Georgia’s  first Republican Governor since Reconstruction.  He came close, but in the 1966 Georgia governor’s race that got national attention, he lost to arch-racist Democrat Lester Maddox in a convoluted election that ended up being decided by a Democratically controlled Georgia Legislature, because he got  the most popular votes, but not enough for a majority, which was Georgia law at the time.  (A plurality wins now.)  I reported that General Assembly election  live for WRBL Radio and TV from the Georgia House of Representatives.  What a show that was!

The Republican National Convention in 1973 that nominated President Richard Nixon for reelection was also quite a show.  I decided at the last-minute that WRBL Radio and TV needed to have some Georgia oriented coverage.  Owner and GM Jim Woodruff, Jr. thought it too late because all of the hotel rooms were taken.  I told him we would fly down in the morning and back that evening, that jets were fast.  He said he would call Bo Callaway, who was a member of the Georgia delegation, to see if he could cut red tape and get us some credentials so we could get on the floor of the convention. He did and Bo did.  When we got on the floor, Bo met us, gave me an interview, and took me over to the California delegation to introduce me to then Governor Ronald Reagan, who graciously gave me an interview.

I only asked Bo one question when he was forced out of his job as campaign manager for Vice President Gerald Ford when he ran against  Jimmy Carter for President.  He held a live prime time news conference in a WSB-TV studio in Atlanta, which was broadcast on TV stations all over Georgia.  Since I drove up from Columbus for the news conference, the WSB-TV producer of the program allowed me to ask the first question about the alleged conflict of interest charge reported by an NBC  correspondent.  Bo responded that the charge was false, but he resigned as Ford’s campaign manager in order not to make the election about him instead of Ford.

When he was sworn in as President Richard Nixon’s Secretary of Army in 1973,  a WRBL-TV news photographer and I flew to Washington to cover the ceremony.     After we filmed the ceremony,  he gave me an interview for the home folks.  A West Pointer, who had left the Army as a First Lieutenant after the Korean War, was then outranking all of the generals.

When I working at WTVM, I did a series of half-hour interviews for Georgians and Alabamians who have earned “A Place in History.”  When I interviewed Bo,  he candidly answered all of my questions about his personal and professional life without hesitation.  It was a fun interview with his telling me about such things as President Franklin D. Roosevelt coming to his parent’s Harris County home for cocktails and dinner when he came to nearby Warm Springs.  There was one question that caused him to pause before answering.  I asked him, “What was it like growing up as the son of the richest man in town.” Bo’s father Cason and his uncle Fuller, Jr.  owned Callaway Mills in LaGrange.  As best as I can remember it, he said, “Nobody has ever asked me that question before, Dick.  My father made it clear to me that being who I was carried a responsibility with it.  He said that I had to always conduct myself honorably and, if I didn’t, and he heard about it, I would have to answer to him.  I’ve always remembered that and tried to follow his admonition.”

You may wonder why I refer to him by his nick name. It’s not out of disrespect, but because  I consider that he and I were friends.  There are some people that you cover over the years that you can’t resist becoming friends with.  He is one and his political rival, President Jimmy Carter,  is another. I read where he and Bo eventually became friendly.   Recently, at the Rotary Club of Columbus where he was a member,  as he was sitting at the table next to mine in his wheel chair, necessitated by a stroke, he leaned over and patted me on the shoulder when I was among those thanked for participating in a Rotary Foundation fund-raising program.   That was the last contact I had with Howard “Bo” Callaway, who truly earned a place in history. .

60 Minutes Does it Again

September 24, 2012

I have been watching 60 Minutes since the first program aired in 1968.  It is heartening to see that it remains so effective after all of these years.  Tonight’s interviews with President Obama and Governor Romney gave me the best insight into these two candidates for President so far, especially in the case of Governor Romney.  After observing the president for almost four years, I feel that I know him pretty well, but I didn’t feel that I knew his challenger.  I feel I do know him better now. 

Who will win? If the election were held today, I think the president would keep his job. Anything can happen between now and November 6th.  The debates could make the difference. We’ll get a better idea about that in ten days when the first one will be held. 


September 11, 2012


Since a couple of readers of my blog asked me why I haven’t posted anything for a while, I guess I’ll take the time to post something.

Moving and settling into my new digs have taken most of my attention for the past few weeks, and doing  things like going to Savannah for a weekend has also played a role in my lack of blogging. I have been doing some really short Facebook posts. It’s a lot easier to post things on FB. 

Both of the Republican and Democratic nominating conventions took place since the last time I posted. The event that stood out the most to me  was the speech by former President Bill Clinton.  He is probably the best political speaker to  come along in the last thirty years.  He knows how to phrase sentences in a direct, simple, human, and highly effective manner. He lied about Monica Lewinsky when he was president, but he didn’t lie about anything that I know of when he spoke last week. He appears to have gone to great lengths to get his facts right.  

What’s interesting, also about him, is that he apparently has been forgiven for his personal trespasses during his last years in the White House. He has an approval rating  higher than either President Obama or Governor Romney.   He is still  “the comeback kid.” 

The speech that stood out  the most to me at  the Republican convention was the improvised comedy routine performed by movie star Clint Eastwood. The image of his talking to an empty chair representing President Obama remains the most vivid one  of the GOP gathering. Economist Paul Krugman said Eastwood symbolized the Republican base:  old white men. 

When Pat Hart and I co-ficilitate a current affairs class called “What’s Happening?” for the Columbus Academy for Lifelong Learning for the Fall Quarter we are going to ask class participants to anonymously write down who they think will win, not who they hope will win.  We’ll compile the percentages to see how well they guessed when the election is over. You’re invited to do the same thing here. Just click on the “comments” button and write either Obama or Romney, and we’ll see how close our prognosticators come.

Newt, Elvis, and Me

November 28, 2011

Of all of  the candidates in the Republican presidential primary, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich is the only one I have met.  I interviewed him a number of times when I was working as a broadcast journalist.   The fact that, even though I was rarely on the same page politically with him, I was fair when interviewing him was evidenced the last time I interviewed him.  When he was still Speaker of the U.S. House, before he got caught  in his marital hypocrisy which revealed he was conducting an adultrous affair at the same time he was working to impeach President Clinton for doing the same thing, and before he had to pay a $300,000 fine for alleged House ethics violations, and eventually was forced to resign from Congress, he came to Columbus for some event.

When WTVM News requested a live 6 p.m. news interview with him, I was told that he would do it if I conducted the interview.  Seems my good Republican friend – I even voted for  him – Mac Collins, who was Georgia’s 3rd Congressional District representative at the time, had suggested that to Newt.  Anyway, I did interview him live that evening.  I was on the news set at the studio and he was at  the Trade Center.  It was one of those split-screen set ups.

I don’t recall  any of  the content of the interview so he must have basically  behaved himself and wasn’t in his nasty mode.  He can turn that on and off.  I do remember a little of what he said when I went up to Washington to interview him not long after he had become Speaker of the House.  I threw some soft-ball  questions to him about what it was like to be Speaker of the House, but eventually got around to the meaty stuff, things like, Why were the Republicans trying to cut school lunch money for the needy?  He said that charge by Democrats was misleading, that they were not trying to cut the school lunch  budget, just an increase in it.

The reason I decided to ask WTVM to pony up the money for a flight to Washington for me and my photographer was that when a Georgian reaches a position of that national importance, we needed to interview him in that environment.  Not only did WTVM do that, it made a deal with CNN for me to use their facilities to feed back a live report from D.C. to Columbus on the 6 p.m. news.  I also taped interviews with Rep. Mack Collins and my Democratic Party friend Rep. Sanford Bishop of the 2nd Congressional District, which includes South Columbus.  (Mack liked Sanford, and said his only problem was he was a Democrat and he should switch parties, and later, according to Sanford, even asked him to do it, but Sanford said he couldn’t do that.) After the taped interviews, both of them had said they would try to show up for the live shot that night, but neither did. Seems they had to stick around the House for a vote.  That  meant that, at the last minute, I realized I had to, as we said in the business, tap dance by myself.  I was glad I managed to get through the ad-libbing without hyperventilating.  We ran the taped interviews with all three of them over the  next few days when I got back to Columbus.

I also remember the time I interviewed Newt at the Republican National Convention in New Orleans in 1988.  That was the one when President George H. W. Bush made the ‘No new taxes!” pledge.  The fact that turned out to be an empty promise helped Bill Clinton beat him in Bush’s reelection bid.   My crew and I stayed at  the same hotel as the Georgia delegation, which included Newt.  I remember that he spotted me in the lobby the first night we were there and yelled hello.  The next day as we were walking to the  Superdome where the convention was being held,  I spotted him walking very fast behind  us. As he caught up with us, I told him I wanted an interview, and he said, as best as I can recall, “All right, but it’ll have to be later. I’m in a hurry right now because ABC wants to interview me.” That was understandable.  The WTVM audience was certainly no match in size for ABC’s.  He did, as he said he would, give me an interview later.

Now, he’s back in the  national spotlight big time.  Can he possibly get the nomination  and be elected with all  of  the political and personal baggage he is carrying?  At first blush,  my answer is certainly not.  But, in politics you just never really know.  As one famous movie producer, whose name I can’t remember, said, You should never overestimate the American public.  That is so true. Just think of some of the people who have been elected President.  Which reminds me, I just saw a really entertaining movie called Elvis Meets Nixon. It was so funny, and, as Dick Cavvitt said, “for the most part, true,” that I watched it twice.  By all means, rent it the first chance you get.

Another Democrat Wins an Important Columbus City-wide Election

December 1, 2010


Her political foes tried to paint Teresa Tomlinson as a Democrat. Well, she is. She is a member of the Muscogee County Democratic Party.  But, she was in a non-partisan election so she didn’t emphasize party.   Since she didn’t just win, but won in a landslide, she obviously knew what she was doing.

To win that big she had to have gotten a lot of Republican votes.  Fortunately, people don’t always vote because of party affiliation. Her husband Trip said that while he and Teresa have supported some Democrats, they have also supported Republicans, depending on who was running for a particular office. And, I do admit that I have, over time, done the same thing.

According to the Ledger-Enquirer story about her win, she told well wishers at her election headquarters last night to look around. She wanted them to notice the diversity of the people there, and she said that is the way Columbus is now, and that a new day in politics has been born.   Let’s hope it gets a good upbringing. I’m sure she’ll work to make that a reality, but, as she will soon learn, she’s just the mayor. Council and the City Manager will have a lot to do with raising that baby, also.

Democratic Air Force is Smaller but Faster

November 1, 2010

Democratic candidate for Governor Roy Barnes deplanes

When Republican candidates flew into Columbus this morning they had more planes.  However, the most impressive plane was the one Democratic gubernatorial candidate Roy Barnes arrived in this afternoon. Barnes came in a Cessna Citation Excel jet.  Carol Porter, who is running for Lt. Governor (disclosure: she’s my cousin),  came in a King Air,  like the ones Lt. Governor Casey Cagle, and Senators Johnny Isakson and Saxby Chambliss came in earlier.  

Who cares? It’s the politics I should be discussing. Right?

Democratic candidate for Lt. Governor spots me, her cousin, taking her picture as she deplanes.

 Sorry, but I just love airplanes.

While Republicans pointed with pride at their past record and promised to keep up the good work,  Barnes and Porter viewed their record with alarm and feared for Georgia’s future if they stay in the saddle, citing the damage done by lack of proper support for education, for one thing. 

Carol Porter and her four sons, all Eagle Scouts, at Columbus Airport rally

Roy Barnes being interviewed as Mayor Jim Wetherington and Columbus business leader Jim Blanchard and Mrs. Barnes look on

What was intesting about both rallies was how fit the candidates appeared.  Flying around the state in one day ,  from Atlanta to Savannah with lots of stops in between, to hold airport rallies had to be grueling, but, they really didn’t look tired to me.  They appeared to be enjoying it.  I guess people who love to be in high stakes politics get a big rush out of playing the game.

Fly-around Time

November 1, 2010

Statewide candidates continue the tradition of flying into airports around the state to hold last-minute rallies and news conferences.

On Monday, November 1, a whole bunch of Republicans including gubernatorial candidate Nathan Deal and senatorial candidate Johnny Isakson are scheduled to land at the Flightways FBO terminal at Columbus Airport at 9 a.m.  On the Democratic side, Lt. Gov. candidate Carol Porter and gubernatorial candidate Roy Barnes are scheduled to land at 2:00 and 2:15 p.m.  

In case you plan to attend any of these, be advised that the planes don’t always land on time, but they could. That has been my experience. Take something to read.

Flap Over Juan Williams is an Unfortunate Distraction from all of the Good that Public Broadcasting Does

October 30, 2010

If you are among those watching the political debates on Georgia Public Television Sunday evening, you might want to reflect on just how important a service that GPTV is providing viewers in Georgia.  And you might want to reflect on how important it is not to let the controversy over the dismissal of political analyst Juan Williams by National Public Radio affect your support of PBS, NPR, GPTV, and GPR. It certainly hasn’t affected mine. Just because a PBS executive makes a decision that I consider ill-advised, doesn’t mean I am going to throw out the baby with the bath water.  

Libertarian Chuck Donovan and Democrat Michael Thurmond on GPTV debate, Sunday, Oct. 24 (Courtesy: Georgia Public Television)

During last weekend’s debate featuring the candidates for U.S. Senate, Republican incumbant Johnny Isakson, Democratic challenger Mike Thurmond, and Libertarian challenger Chuck Donovan, were asked if federal tax dollars should no longer be given to PBS, as has been called for by conservatives who claim PBS leans liberal.

Donovan said the tax-dollar funding of PBS should stop, but he made no mention of the Williams controversy, or the claim that PBS leans liberal. It’s just a matter of Libertarian principal with him. He likes public broadcasting, saying, “I happen to enjoy public broadcasting, but it is inappropriate particularly for a government that is broke to be involved.” 

Thurmond thinks taxpayer funding should continue.  He said he grew up in a rural community and GPTV made a big difference in his life. He said, “City folks may have other resources, but when you live in rural Georgia you need a resource like Georgia Public Broadcasting to educate our children and inform our population. It is a good expenditure. It’s not even an expenditure. It’s an investment in the future of this state and the future of this nation and I will continue to support it.” He also made no mention of the Williams controversy.

Isakson sidestepped the question by not even addressing whether taxpayer funding should stop or whether PBS leans to the left.    He used the question to plug a budget reform bill he is sponsoring in the Senate. He said, “The Isakson biannual budget requires oversight and justification every  even-numbered year, then things that we should appropriate that we can afford we would and those we could do without we would not.”

Tactically, I thought the dismissal problematic.  It played right into the hands of some conservatives who want stop taxpayer dollars for PBS.  However, it wouldn’t bother me for PBS to not have to depend on tax dollars.  I would even be willing to increase my annual modest donation.  I think PBS provides a marvelous service, something you can’t get anywhere else, and I don’t want it being controlled by partisan politicians.   Though, I do think it’s fine for the government to pay for the classroom educational programs. They are especially useful, as Thurmond says, in rural areas.

I have no problem with it being liberal, if the definition of liberal is a person with an open mind who is willing to listen and weigh both side of an issue.  I think it is liberal in that sense. You do hear both sides of arguments on PBS. I know some professed liberals who think PBS is way too conservative. Well, I have no problem with it being conservative, if the definition of a conservative is a person who wants to conserve the freedoms guaranteed by the United States Constitution.  I think it is conservative in that sense.  When the extremists on both sides claim you favor the other side, you know you are doing something right: you are being fair and balanced.

Oh, about those Sunday evening debates.  There will be one at 6 p.m. for those running for Commissioner of Agriculture, one at 6:30 for the candidates for Lt. Governor, and one at 7:00 for governor.  I have set my DVR to record all three.

Buying the House isn’t Cheap

October 29, 2010


“We have the best Congress money can buy.”

– Will Rogers

 Newsweek reports that as of October 25th,  U.S. House candidates had raised $733,647,242.31.  Just think of the things you could buy with that kind of money.

Barnes Rally in Columbus is Upbeat Despite Polls

October 27, 2010

Retired Columbus state Rep. Tom Buck III greets Gov. Barnes at Columbus Tech rally as Columbus attorney Ken Henson looks on.


  I was impressed with former Georgia Governor Roy Barnes appearance at Columbus Tech this afternoon.  Given the polls that show him losing to Nathan Deal by up to ten percent (the most recent poll, one taken for WSB-TV, shows the Deal lead down to 6 percent now)  and rigors of a statewide campaign at  his age, I expected him to look haggard. He looked, to me, better than when he first started running.  That’s good for him because he just might have to continue campaigning after Tuesday. There is a distinct chance that he and Nathan Deal will end up in a runoff,  thanks to Libertarian candidate John Monds.

During his Columbus rally he again presented his plans for creating  jobs, doing the things it takes to attract more industry to Georgia by improving

Columbus state Rep. Calvin Smyre introduces Gov. Barnes at Columbus Tech rally

education, transportation, and water problems, and his ideas sounded sound and plausible to me. But it appears those issues may not determine the outcome of the election.  According the Emory University Political Science professor Merle Black  his problem lies with the fact that white Georgia voters don’t like President Obama.  Polls show that only 24 percent of white Georgia voters approve of President Obama, and that the white approval rate for Barnes is 25 percent. Black says a statewide race cannot be won without a better showing than that among white voters.  Who knows, maybe he’ll win over some of those white voters by next Tuesday.   

Democratic Party candidate for governor Roy Barnes addresses supporters at Columbus Tech rally