Honesty, compromise still too rare in politics
by BRIAN GRAVES Banner Staff Writer
Aug 13, 2014 | 400 views | 0 0 comments | 15 15 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Real and raw honesty is a rare thing in politics these days.

But on Friday, there was one candidate who decided enough was enough, and said what he meant and what he felt.

Some would call it being a sore loser. I call it honesty.

Of all of the thousands of words spoken this election season, I give the most points for honesty to Weston Wamp.

Wamp was a candidate for the U.S. congressional seat in the 3rd District against the incumbent, U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann.

Wamp is no stranger to politics, having run two years ago for the same position his father once held, so he’s been around the block and seen just how bloody the process can be and has become.

I have to be honest myself here — I like Wamp a lot.

We had several conversations — both on the record and off — as the campaign progressed, and I found we had the same thinking about the state of politics today.

It should be no secret to anyone who has read any of my columns how I feel about the need for bipartisanship in Washington.

And, I have written about the “good old days” when much was accomplished over a shot of bourbon and a poker game.

It was a time when being an “R” or a “D” didn’t mean you couldn’t speak to each other or even be friends.

Even two polar opposites such as former Democratic Speaker of the House Thomas “Tip” O’Neill and President Ronald Reagan of the GOP found the time to bury the partisan hatchet when the fight was done.

O’Neill would say the two were friends after 6 p.m., which caused Reagan to answer the phone with, “Tip, is it after 6?”

MSNBC host Chris Matthews, whose name rankles plenty of conservatives, used to work as an aide to O’Neill.

In his recent book, “Tip and the Gipper,” Matthews recounted the speaker’s visit to Reagan’s hospital room after the assassination attempt on Reagan’s life.

“He walked over to the bed and grasped both the president’s hands, and said, ‘God bless you, Mr. President,’” Matthews wrote. “Then, still holding one of the president’s hands, the speaker got down on his knees and said he would like to offer a prayer for the president, choosing the 23rd Psalm.”

Matthews, who I can’t honestly say I find a lot to agree with, amplified how the two worked together in an interview with the website Politico.

“There were rules in those days,” Matthews said. “Tip would say, ‘I’ll cut a deal on Social Security if you let me focus on taxing the wealthier people.’ There was always a deal. It’s not that they always found common ground, it’s that they each got something out of every deal. A lof of times it was just getting something from the other guy.”

He also said the two didn’t suspect the worst of each other.

“Reagan was fond of Tip and completely believed that Tip wanted to help the little people,” Matthews said. “He just disagreed about how to do it. There was a respect for each other and a respect for institutions.”

That is where I found a commonality with Wamp’s thinking.

His campaign stressed the need to be able to talk to the other side and find common ground.

Fleischmann made that idea seem almost traitorous and said during one of their debates he wasn’t sure of Wamp’s actual party affiliation.

The congressman apparently has not learned that politics is the art of compromise, but he is true to his word.

According to the website govtrack.com which records legislators’ voting records, only 2 percent of the 95 bills Fleischmann co-sponsored in 2013 were introduced by someone other than a Republican.

Those numbers are telling when those same statistics show the congressman introduced no bills in that year which became law or even got a committee vote to send to the House floor for further consideration.

Reading those numbers makes me even more sympathetic to Wamp’s concession phone call to the congressman.

“Congressman, this is Weston Wamp. You successfully deceived tens of thousands of Tennesseeans and you won. I concede,” he told Fleischmann before what was described as “briskly hanging up the phone.”

Much to Wamp’s credit, he confirmed that was the way the phone call went.

He didn’t try to sugarcoat it. He manned up and admitted his frustration with a campaign that demonized the idea of working together to find solutions.

And in doing so, even though it was after the election was over, he gets my award for the most honest statement of Campaign 2014.