Arrived home from writing earlier today. A package greeted me near the front door.
Man, do I love packages!
So I saw, and felt, and opened. And inside the yellow envelope was a T-shirt. This T-shirt …
Yes, it’s a Tea Party T-shirt, straight from the Mississippi home of Kevin Broughton, national communications director for the Tea Party Patriots Citizens Fund. We’d made a trade a couple of months ago—a signed copy of Showtime in exchange for the shirt. I received what I asked for.
So why the swap? Because it was fun. And also because—even though we share absolutely nothing in common politically—I consider Kevin a friend. Which is weird. Because he’s against everything I’m for, and I’m for everything he’s against. He thinks George W. Bush was a fine president. I don’t. He thinks Barack Obama is a miserable president. I don’t. He likes Rand Paul and Ted Cruz and all those guys. I … eh … well, no. Just no.
But, as I’ve long maintained, this is the beauty of the Quaz. For me, it’s not about agreeing or disagreeing. It’s about learning. Opening up. Trying to understand.
JEFF PEARLMAN: So Kevin, you’re a Mississippi Tea Party guy, and you were heavily involved in Chris McDaniel’s bid to unseat Thad Cochran for the U.S. Senate. From afar, after the totals were counted and Cochran was declared the winner, it sorta seemed like the Tea Party was a bunch of sore losers, complaing about fraud and more fraud. But, again, that was from afar. Tell me why I’m wrong. And, at this point, do you consider Cochran the legitimate winner of that election?
KEVIN BROUGHTON: I think it’s important to differentiate between our organization and the McDaniel campaign. We supported Chris independently, with no coordination with his campaign at all, as required by law. After the runoff, we sent volunteers—I was one—into all 82 counties to examine ballots and other election materials. We gave detailed reports to the campaign, and our position has always been that we’d let things be worked out in the court system. Because we love the Constitution, we respect the Court’s decision. So, sore losers? No.
Yes, Senator Cochran is the legal winner. The legit beef conservatives have is with the tactics the Cochran camp and the Barbour family used to win the runoff: funneling money to groups who compared Tea Party people to the Klan, funding ads that said “The Tea Party wants to prevent blacks from voting.” It was a vicious race-smear, and anything but conservative. You don’t play the race card against fellow Republicans. Not in the South. And there will be long-term repercussions from it, I assure you.
J.P.: You know how I feel about politics, so I’ll just be blunt: The Tea Party feels pretty marginal to me. I don’t mean that because you’re conservative—I’d say the same about a far, far left liberal group. It just seems that your reach is limited by your arch conservative stance, and that you’ll never really be able to do much beyond the most conservative of states. Tell me why I’m wrong, or right …
K.B.: I think this will be the first of several times I reject the premise of your question, lest we get a bunch of straw men up in here. What we “feel” to you is beyond our reach. What we stand for is personal freedom, economic freedom and a debt-free future for the next generation. We think spending is out of control. A lot of us think this country is headed toward European-style socialism, and that’s scary. See, e.g., Greece.
Our “stance” is letting Jeff Pearlman keep more of the money he earns. Maybe even pass on his wealth to his kids without the government taking half of it. We want the government less involved in people’s lives, and to stop incurring unsustainable debt.
I just don’t see how that’s radical.
J.P.: I’ve heard the 1,001 Tea Party slams of Obama, so I won’t ask you to recite them again. I am, however, interested in your take on the George W. Bush presidency—which isn’t evoked very often by the Tea Party. Do you view him as a success? A failure? Neither? Both?
K.B.: Generally, yes, I view him as a success. There were several times where he wasn’t conservative enough for my taste. But he’s a good an honorable man, and was by far the right guy to hold the office during those eight years.
J.P.: I know you’re a Mississippi guy, I know you’ve acted. But what’s your life path, leading up to this position? In short, how did you get here?
K.B.: I graduated from Auburn University with a journalism degree in 1988. While in college I joined the National Guard and earned a commission through officer candidate school. Did some small time writing, editing nad PR work before going to DC in 1991. I worked for guys who kept retiring or getting beat. Or being jerks. So in 1994 I moved to Mississippi to go to law school. Until relocating to the Atlanta burbs in May to take this gig, I’d lived there longer than anywhere else. Practicing criminal defense law and out of politics other than helping out friends at the county level. Two old friends from my DC days—20 years ago—reached out to me about six months ago, out of the blue.
Along the way I’ve hung out with Bibi Netanyahu, donated bone marrow, and become a better than average bass fisherman. Got some screen time with James Franco in a film he directed. I play a little guitar. I think we’re up to date now.
J.P.: Um … what?
K.B.: One of my oldest and dearest friends is a Jew from metro Atlanta — whose father was liberated from Auschwitz as a child. He and I worked on that campaign in Ohio together. I left DC, he stayed in politics. Being fluent in Hebrew, he was detailed to work Bibi’s re-election campaign against Ehud Barrak (sp?) in 1999.
Bibi lost, but he and George bonded and George ended up taking dual US/Israeli citizenship and staying on with Netanyahu. I had always wanted to go to Israel, so with George living in Jerusalem, I had a free place to stay.
James Franco’s a very literary guy, so when he decided to do an adaptation of Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying, he was gonna film it in Mississippi, natch. They cast all the minor roles locally, so I and a bunch of my friends in the relatively tight Mississippi acting circle got a little screen time. I play the guy from the state “nervous hospital” who comes to arrest Darl Bundren—Franco’s character—at the very end of the film.
They did a “portrait” of each of us from a digital photo; pretty cool rendering.
Fun fact you’ll enjoy about that shoot: Tim Blake Nelson, a wonderfully talented character actor, plays Anse Bundren, the no-good, shiftless patriarch. Just a repulsive character. Tim got WAY into the method acting thing for this shoot, and never broke character except during lunch and after wrapping.
During a break but before we wrapped, my shirt had to be dried and re-pressed. (It’s about 98 degrees of Mississippi heat going on.) So I’m stripped to the waist, and “Anse” walks up and in character, reads the three different Hebrew script tattoos I have on my torso. Then walks away.
At the wrap party I asked if he went to Hebrew school. “Eight years,” he said. “Tulsa, Oklahoma.”
J.P.: It seems like, to the Tea Party, compromising with liberals is a HUGE no-no, and anyone who dares talk with Obama is up for poison darts. Why is negotiating and compromising with the other side so awful? Isn’t it the only way we get things done?
K.B.: You’re doing it again. Let me help.
Remember the “Republican” shutdown last fall? Here are the salient facts. Republican House passes a spending bill with no funding for Obamacare. Reid won’t take it up. The House begins sending over bills with concessions: Fund it, but delay the individual mandate; Reid won’t let the Senate vote on it. Fund it, but delay the employer mandate; No vote. Medical device tax repeal. No vote. The government shuts down.
Tell me again who wouldn’t negotiate? Who wasn’t willing to compromise? These are objective facts. Incidentally, Obama—in violation of the law—later delayed the employer mandate, without Congressional approval.
J.P.: Climate change is, for me, the No. 1 issue facing society—yet the Tea Party never seems to address it. Do you guys have a stance? Do you, Kevin, still maintain it’s more fiction than fact? Does it worry you at all? And why wouldn’t the Tea Party jump aboard this one?
K.B.: TPPCF doesn’t take a position. We don’t take a position on much besides taxes/spending/Obamacare/debt and amnesty.
Personally, yeah. I think it’s a sham. The original prophet of the global-warming cult told us five years ago the ice caps would be gone. But since Al Gore is a stupid clown, we get distracted and miss the fact that they’re actually growing.
J.P.: You’re very pro-gun owners’ rights. I’m not. I just don’t see why citizens need some of the high-caliber weaponry that is out there and, thanks to the NRA and its supporters, very legal. I also thought, post-Newtown, we’d all be able to agree on some weapon cutbacks. What’s your beef with taking some guns off the table?
K.B.: Again, this is an area where we don’t take an official position, but we’re pro-Bill of Rights, and the Second Amendment is a huge part of it. Politically, Democrats—the ones who can momentarily detach themselves from emotion and think rationally—know gun control is a losing proposition. That’s the reality of it. And I won’t be disarmed. Molon labe.
J.P.: Fuck it, I’ve changed my mind. Why do you so hate Obama? And do you give him credit for anything at all? Being serious—has he done anything well (as in, benefits the country) in your opinion?
K.B.: Hate is a strong word.
He released five bloodthirsty Muslims in exchange for a man who dropped his weapon and abandoned his comrades. A deserter. He has weakened the Republic in the eyes of the world, to the point that world leaders and adversaries defy us with impunity. He never misses an opportunity to stir up racial tensions when he could defuse them. American citizens are butchered like hogs on video, and he goes to the golf course. Later, he admits he has no strategy. He has welcomed a human wave of crime and disease by throwing open our borders.
That’s since June.
What’s he done well? Bin Laden’s dead.
J.P.: Greatest moment of your political career? Lowest?
K.B.: The first campaign I worked on, a Congressional in Ohio, was a tough loss. We lost by 1,500 votes in a district Bush 41 carried by 5,000. I went back to DC with no job, along with 6,000 newly unemployed Bush folks.
Greatest? Meh. Best memory I have of DC was the last week I was there.
I had been working for the Biggest Jerk in Congress, a now-forgotten prick from Wisconsin. I got tired of it, and when he dog-cussed me one time too many, I told a U.S. Congressman exactly what he could do to himself, packed my stuff and walked. I filled out—impulsively, in retrospect—law school applications that day.
So I had about four months to burn before moving and no job. A friend from church—God rest your soul, Mary Jo—was a scheduler for Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa. She got me a temp gig, and I ended up writing some speeches for him and bonding a pretty good bit. My last day, he took me to the Senate dining room for lunch, and made a point of introducing me to a half-dozen of his colleagues. He didn’t have to. It’s a testament to his kind nature, and the country needs more men like Chuck Grassley.
J.P.: You’re from Mississppi—a state with an awful record when it comes to education, poverty, life span, etc. I mean, you guys rank near the bottom in tons of shit categories. Isn’t that, in and of itself, an argument for Democratic office holders? Because, lord knows, you haven’t had a big one in forever …
K.B.: Jeff, the first Republican Governor of Mississippi since Reconstruction was elected in 1991. Republicans didn’t take control of the legislature until 2011. Get behind me with your straw men.
QUAZ EXPRESS WITH KEVIN BROUGHTON:
• Rank in order (favorite to least): San Francisco, Ross Perot, Martin Sheen, Shakira, Teen Beach Movie, Skittles, Roberto Duran, Kid n Play, Skid Row, McDonald’s, Jackson State, David Duke, Sarah Palin: Lord …
Roberto Duran, Ross Perot, Sarah Palin, Jackson State, Martin Sheen, Skittles, San Francisco (never been), Skid Row, McDonald’s, Teen Beach Movie, Kid n Play, Shakira, David Duke.
• Who are your top 5 all-time political figures?: 1. George Washington; 2. Ronald Reagan; 3. Winston Churchill; 4. James K. Polk; 5. Aaron Burr.
• One question you would ask Sherman Hemsley were he here right now?: “I distinctly remember an episode when you referred to the mixed-race couple (white dude and Lenny Kravitz’s mom) as ‘zebras.’ Don’t you think you should apologize to our president, and for that matter, Lenny Kravitz?”
• Better president—JFK or Lyndon Johnson? And, in 24 words, why?: John F. Kennedy. Both were overrated. But the sex addict who stole the ’60 election in Cook County did get us to the moon.
• What’s the Tea Party’s beef with John McCain?: Other than his support for amnesty and his various assaults on the First Amendment, not much.
• Ever thought you were about to die in a plane crash? If so, details …: Thankfully, no.
• Celine Dion calls. She offers you $30 million to be her campaign manager for Las Vegas mayor. She’s very liberal, insists you only wear pink and change your name to Alvaro Espinoza. You in?: Yes, and I’ll tell you why. I’d get one concession: I don’t have to listen to any of her music. In fact, her theme song when she takes the stage at a rally will be Lucero’s “Just That Kind of Girl.” It would also give me a chance to go to Vegas, and what do I care about getting some caterwauling Cannuck installed in Harry Reid’s hometown?
• The next president will be …: Way too early. If forced to pick, Rand Paul.
• If you’re an NFL GM, and you need a lineman, would you feel comfortable giving Michael Sam a shot?: You mean if I need a 4.9- 40 DT who couldn’t make the club in St. Louis, and would bring a pile of media attention and distractions? I’ll take it under advisement.
• I’m always fucking angry about something. What should I do?: “Hear, O, Israel! The Lord our God. The Lord is One.”