I haven’t felt so much disappointment since the final episode of the Mary Tyler Moore show three decades ago. But my favorite TV series has concluded. The Republican presidential primary season is over—at least for all intents and purposes. Rick Santorum ended a quest this week to become the nation’s first Pope and impose his interpretation of moral standards on the rest of the country. Condom makers and birth control pharmaceutical companies can now celebrate.
Serial adulterer Newt Gingrich’s presidential aspirations died months ago, though the stink still lingers. Congressman Ron Paul will probably hang around for as long as he can play the TV role of crazy uncle. That means Republicans are left with animated department store mannequin Mitt Romney and his constantly changed faces depending on the audience.
Speaking of changing faces, charisma-challenged Bobby (Smarty Pants)Jindal has now endorsed Romney. The Louisiana Govenor’s endorsement reeks of hypocrisy, given the fact that he was the first to throw his support behind Rick Perry after the Texas Governor entered the race to provide comedy relief during the debates. But when the Lone Star clown was laughed out of the race, Smarty Pants re-read the Bible, making note of the promise by Jesus that the last shall be first. So he became one of the last of the far-right conservative politicians to endorse the former Massachusetts Governor.
Jindal is the perfect running mate. Get him the hell out of Louisiana before he does anymore damage. Together, he and Romney can conduct a losing campaign to privatize American government, beginning with getting corporate logos on national landmarks such as the Washington Monument and Lincoln Memorial. No need to allow all that white space to go unused.
Jindal, whose motto is anywhere but Louisiana, joins a sizeable number of hypocrites—that fringe group that spent the primary campaign criticizing Romney as a phony. Eat it Fox “News,” Limbaugh, Hannity, etc. etc. But enough about politics.
Because I can’t think of a smooth transition. I will simply change the subject. The death of Mike Wallace reminded me of seven glory years in Baton Rouge when I was known as a mini-Mike Wallace.
In the process of winning two Peabodys and numerous other major national awards for investigative reporting, I was asked the same question that was directed many times to Mike Wallace. How did I manage to convince people to agree to on-camera interviews, knowing that I planned to search for their warts. Maxi-Mike and I in my role as Mini-Mike, shared a talent for arranging sit-down interviews that elicited embarrassing and sometimes, incriminating answers from the targets of our exposés. I think we were both considered nice guys—that is until the cameras rolled.
In my case and I’m certain in Maxi-Mike’s as well, we knew most of the answers before asking questions—a result of a lot of pre-interview research. Once we corrected somebody on-camera a couple of times for trying to be evasive, it became easy to elicit relatively honest responses, including surprising answers to questions that were beyond our knowledge. Nobody wants to come across as being a pathological liar. So there was a tendency to say, “Yep, you’re right. I’m a crook.” Or words to that effect.
I always tried to maintain my nice guy persona during and after interviews. Indeed, I was able to sneak out the door on many occasions before some of the folks I interviewed said, “Good God. What did I just say.”
My ability to get people to talk stems from skills that had nothing to do with journalism. The best training I received was during my days as a door to door salesman of Bibles, books and Fuller Brushes. A Boston TV critic once described my personality as being akin to a friendly insurance salesman. I guess that is better than being called a con man.
Maxi-Mike and I shared another characteristic. According to Wallace’s Sixty Minutes colleagues, he was haunted by insecurities caused by his lack of early journalism training. He was a TV pitchman and game show host for much of his early career.
I also worried about my lack of journalism training. I got into the broadcasting business to be a disc jockey. Never got to spin a single record. After ten years as a mediocre radio newsman and news director, I literally staggered into investigative reporting following a failed skid row audition. And despite dozens of awards and accolades, I never felt I lived up to my reputation as a Mini-Mike. However basic journalism skills learned in a tiny town, combined with interview experiences running a talk show, decent news instincts and a line a bullshit carried me for thirty years from a 250-watt radio station to my final job as CNN’s Senior Investigative Correspondent.
The only time I met Maxi-Mike was in 1978 at a convention of Investigative Reporters and Editors in Boston. Throughout my career, though, his kind of reporting became a model I tried to emulate.
I did good. But on a mini-basis.
My memoir, Odyssey of a Derelict Gunslinger: A Saga of Exposing TV Preachers, Corrupt Politicians, Right-Wing Lunatics…and Me is available at amazon.com, soft-cover or Kindle and at independent bookstores like the Cottonwood in Baton Rouge. It offers $19.99 worth of laughs and much more. The book is an account of my illustrious (I choose the adjectives) investigative reporting career.