The Candid Candidacy of Phil Gramm

The Candid Candidacy of Phil Gramm

The name did not exactly ring a bell. Phil Gramm? Who is this zealot running around the state saying nasty things about Lloyd Bentsen and asking Texans to support him in a bid against the junior senator next spring?

Nothing is more frightening to the political journalist than a politician he never heard of. Odds are the aspirant will be a scowling suburban housewife fed up with federal encroachment, a special interest crazy, or an empty-headed, stylishly-liberal attorney who has made too much money too early in life. My deep regard for The Great Experiment notwithstanding, American politics has an uncanny knack for bringing out the worst in good people and the worst in bad people.

So it was with some trepidation that I awaited Mr. Gramm at a local bar. I had a feeling how it would go: he would start every sentence with “I think the people of Texas . . . ,” and ramble through three separate thoughts simultaneously without the benefit of verbs. He would be in politics because he’s fed up with the kind of representation he’s been getting and he knows – he knows – there are a lot of folks out there who feel the same way. He would not mention minor diversions such as money, name identification, or other bread-and-butter realities. He would be there on election day, by God, and if the people couldn’t see he was their man, then that would be their own damned fault.

It took Gramm only five minutes to prove exceptions exist to every cliche, even in politics. Not only did he use verbs, he used facts. (!) Hunkered low over the table, peering up through thick horn-rimmed glasses, which covered dark intelligent eyes, he explained that he became interested in politics doing energy consultation for the government. “I guess you could call it sort of an intellectual noblesse oblige,” said the 33-year-old professor of economics at Texas A&M. “After being close to politicians like that, I noticed most of them had lost all touch with common sense and history.”

The grand gesticulations of the politician seemed a bit awkward on him (even his handshake was brief and polite, a welcome relief from the desperate pumping of most politicians when they meet reporters), and he seemed more comfortable sitting back casually, receding forehead furrowed, quietly articulating some of the best sense I’ve heard a candidate make for some time. Hard as it was to believe, it was quickly apparent that Phil Gramm was a man who knew what he thought, knew why he thought it, and if he didn’t know either thing, admitted it.

On inflation: “I’m tired of hearing politicians tell us the American people are going to have to bite the bullet when the fact is, we know more about inflation than any other economic phenomenon. We know it is caused by deficit spending. We know that the reason for deficit spending is that politicians want on the one hand to keep their special interest programs, which cost money, and on the other hand, to keep the lid on taxes. So we operate at a deficit; to finance it, the government prints more money. When goods in the marketplace are not being produced at a rate in proportion to that new money, the result is inflation.”

On energy: “We’ve passed up a lot of opportunities to develop new sources because special interests are too worried about the migration habits of geese.”

On politicians: “The crux of the matter is they’ve lost touch with common sense and don’t know history. The average American knows why we have inflation. He knows because he knows what works and doesn’t work at home and in his own business. But the politicians have somehow conditioned us to thinking the economics of government are different.”

I admired the way he seemed not only to be running against Lloyd Bentsen, but against the general mediocrity, mush-mouthedness and no-think that characterizes political discussion today. And his conviction that “voters want somebody who stands for something” was laudable. This convinced me that he does not have a chance.

Since when has it made a difference to voters that politicians are politicians? Lloyd Bentsen’s strongest political attribute is that he doesn’t stand for anything in particular. Despite the best laid plans of the founding fathers, success in American politics has always been more a matter of what one is not than what one is. I mean, it is rumored that Dolph Bris-coe has to show identification to get past the security guards at the state capitol, but there wasn’t exactly a “dump Briscoe” groundswell in 1974.

No, politics is not made for men like Phil Gramm. He is not capable, I don’t think, of speaking without saying, or of taking a stand while actually avoiding one, of allowing the great sleeping bear, the electorate, simply to continue blissfully hibernating, awakening only every two or four or six years to pull the lever by the only name it remembers. He would not be at home tossing “on the other hand” into every one of his “position statements.”

enough out of his invention even to pay for the promotional fee – but clearly, this is their impression.

Swanson and Turley, with the FTC’s blessing, cracked down on the idea promoters starting in April of last year, announcing an “industrywide” investigation. Then on June 9 of this year, they filed their first specific complaint against a Mesquite firm, Idea Research and Development, Inc. An “administrative trial” is scheduled on that complaint in Dallas on Sept. 23. The FTC, among a long list of desires, wants the company to inform its prospective clients of how many prior clients earned nothing on their investment.

Since the FTC movedagainst the industry, Turley says the number of ideapromoters in Dallas hasdropped markedly. Hisadvice for people who thinkthey have a better idea: seea patent attorney or writeDr. Gerald Udell at the University of Oregon, Eugene,who will evaluate an ideafor $25.


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