Watergate broke shortly after I turned ten. Other related scandals would unfold over the next few years–domestic spying among them. Most of it was beyond my immediate understanding at the time, but whenever such political meltdowns involved politicians my father had a well-worn saying:
“They’re all a bunch of lying bastards.”
The late Wyman K. Eddington never got past the 8th grade, and his only real travel experience was to California during World War II, where he served as an Army MP. His job was helping keep cargo secure on Liberty ships during their voyages to Australia and other points in the southwest Pacific, and guarding the tiny number of Japanese prisoners of war on the trip back to California. Once it was over, he came back to his hometown of Springfield, Missouri, married his childhood sweetheart, got the first in a series of blue-collar jobs, and started a family. He was the quintessential parochially-minded American.
So far as I know, my dad never voted in a single election, much less followed politics or, heaven forbid, worked on a political campaign. As I made my way through high school and college, my focus was politics–or at least the study of it in a foreign policy context. The more I read, the more I became convinced that dad was just too narrow-minded, too ignorant to really get it. And then, in the winter of 1988, I came to Washington. After a while, dad didn’t seem so ignorant and clueless about our glorious leaders. That seems especially true this dismal election year.