Monday, January 23, 2012

Talking With The Press

The other day, I was interviewed by a writer who is working on an article and possibly a book about Mark Kirk, Republican Senator from Illinois. She asked me a lot of questions about Kirk, who won reelection to his third term in the U.S. House of Representatives in 2004. He represented the 10th District, which at the time included both affluent Kenilworth, where he was from, depressed Waukegan, and a whole lot of other towns. She was asking me because I was the Democratic nominee in that race, so presumably I knew something about my opponent.

It was an interesting trip down memory lane. When she asked how I happened to run for Congress, I explained that I was asked to run because I had become somewhat known in the community due to my work in opposition to the invasion of Iraq. I told her I had continued to work on a variety of peace and justice issues since the election, right up to the present day. She didn't really seem to want to know much about me or my campaign. She wanted to know about Kirk. I tried to answer her questions as accurately as I could.

When she asked if I had gotten to know Kirk's family or staff I told her that I had. On numerous occasions over the years, I had gone to Kirk's office with other people who wanted to talk with their congressman. Kirk's staffers, Andy, Aaron, Eric, and others were generally polite when they would tell us that the congressman would not meet with us, and we were polite with them. Kirk never did meet with us, of course, but it wasn't his staffers' fault. They were just there to keep their boss from having to do his job.

When the reporter asked if I had heard the rumors about Kirk's personal life, I told her that I had heard all sorts of things. I explained to her that I had made it clear that I was not interested in my opponent's personal life, and that I refused to make it an issue in my campaign. When the reporter asked if I had heard one particular rumor, I wouldn't tell her. It is still his personal life, and I still don't care.

When the reporter asked about Kirk's lies being exposed on the front page of the newspapers when he ran for Senate in 2010, I told her that the lies that bothered me most were the ones that Kirk used to help bring the country to war. Among them, he had said repeatedly that he had seen the secret proof that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. It turned out there were no such weapons, so there was no proof for him to see. He made it all up. Those lies cost thousands of people their lives.

When the reporter asked what the main issues had been in the campaign, I told her that there were a lot of issues, but that there were two things at the top of most people's minds – the Iraq war and health care. She expressed surprise that people in the 10th District, which she thinks of as a wealthy district, were concerned about health care. I reminded her that not everyone in the district is wealthy. I explained to her that there were more than forty million people in the country with no health insurance back in 2004, and many more with inadequate insurance, and that the situation has gotten worse since then.

The reporter told me that she was not recording the interview, just taking notes, and that I might be contacted in the future by a fact-checker. I'm sure she wrote down what I said reasonably accurately. She seemed professional and pleasant. There was only one odd moment during the interview, when she told me that I wasn't easy to interview. She said that talking to me was like talking to her husband. I wasn't sure what that meant, but I told her that I was trying to be helpful and offered to talk with her again if any other questions occurred to her.

I enjoyed the conversation. I was pleased that someone was making the effort to understand a bit of history and explain it to her readers. She said she thought Kirk was ambitious and would seek higher office. That was exactly why I was talking to her. If our country is given the choice in the future about whether to elevate someone whose lies cost so many lives, it is best that we have as much information as possible.

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