Thursday, Oct. 5, 9:15 a.m. — "I’ve always had a centerpiece of what I do is fairness, and factual. We don’t believe in tellin’ tales, and we believe in being fair to everybody that comes before the board, or any other encounter; and I think that’s the key to what I do, is fairness, is the main thing. And a lot of people don’t feel that way about government, or about anything else…"
Speaking of fair, that’s a pretty fair slice of what our initial endorsement interview with Grady Patterson was like. I say initial, because a few days later he called to request "another bite at the apple." The second interview was much like the first, only much shorter. One other difference — the second time he did come without ever-present aide Trav Robertson, shown looking anxiously over his boss’ shoulder in the photo at the end of this post.
There is a great contrast between Mr. Patterson and opponent Thomas Ravenel that is visible, audible and palpable in the very atmosphere of the room. I’ve put up a couple of short video clips that I believe convey this to a great extent.
The Republican challenger is young, cocky, brash, and fashionably ideological, exhibiting a rich man’s contempt for the usefulness of government. The observer finds it hard to trust his motives for running. The incumbent is elderly, uncertain, unassuming, and harks back to a time when gentlemen conducted their affairs on a basis of personal relationships and mutual trust.
And yet we endorsed the former over the latter, because the first one seems more capable of keeping up with the demands of the job.
Mr. Patterson was generally incapable of expressing why he should be re-elected. He said he had come to tell us about "some new projects" his office was undertaking, but he could only cite the fact that he and his employees check the markets "every day." (See the video.) I asked if that was what was new, and he said that previously they had checked almost every day, but now they checked every day. That was it.
"He doesn’t speak the truth," Mr. Patterson said of his opponent. "He makes up stuff." We asked for specifics, and he said, "Well, … a bunch of it, but I don’t have a list of it or anything." A moment later he made a vague reference to the spat between Mr. Ravenel and John Rainey, chairman of the Board of Economic Advisors. "That’s pretty good proof of what I’m saying, right there," he said.
At one point, he did a pretty fair job of making the perfectly valid point that Mr. Ravenel is an impractical ideologue rather than a pragmatist, but it took me a moment to realize that was what he was saying: "You know, when you operate a government, you’ve got to be factual. You can’t have these theories about it, you’ve gotta be factual. And uh, so, that’s the way I feel about it."
Inevitably, I had to ask him about his age. "I’m in awe of your generation," the ones who beat Hitler and Tojo, I told him. That’s true; I always have been. The time in which such men — Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, Reagan and the first George Bush — ran the country was a far better time than what we live in today.
But that time is past. I put it delicately. I eased into it. In fact, this was the point, if you hear the audio recording of the interview, when my own questions became halting, and his answers became firmer. I can play hardball with most people in politics — just ask some of them — but I was brought up to show deference to the elderly. Fortunately, I’ve reached an age at which most people running for office are younger than I am. So an 82-year-old aspirant throws me off my stride a bit.
Still, I slogged on. I asked him about his combat service, noting that my own father was too young for WWII (he went to Vietnam instead). And I’m now a grandfather. So we agreed that 1945 had been awhile back. I asked why he didn’t want to just take the rest he’s earned, and leave the rat race to the younger folks. That started the following exchange:
Mr. Patterson: "I enjoy it, and I think I make a contribution, and I enjoy coming to work every morning and uh, it’s a challenge to us. (Long pause.) And just because the calendar runs, you know, I’m not willin’ to say, ‘Well, I’m gonna quit.’"
Me: "Do you every feel like there’s gonna be a time when uhhhh…"
Mr. Patterson: "Well, there’ll be a time, some day.
Me: "Well, do you think Strom went on too long?"
Mr. Patterson: "I don’t think so."
Let’s just leave it there. No, I’ll end with this: "I’ve served nine different terms," he said. "And I’m proud of my service."
So he should be. But he should have retired before now. He’s earned it.