Funny, but politics do make for strange bedfellows

Friday, July 20, 2012

First things first, an admission. Political reporting has never been something I can truly say I have enjoyed.

After all, it is so-o-o-o-o political.

For me, political reporting ranks somewhere between walking to Walmart barefoot on hot asphalt and removing my own spleen with a shoehorn.

But of course, it's all part of the job, and indeed I have had some interesting experiences because of it ...

Covering George Herbert Walker Bush twice (once at our fairgrounds campaigning for John Myers and another time in the Rose Garden when our All-America City honor was feted at the White House) ... meeting and chatting up Bill Clinton at the Putnam County Airport last November ... riding in the backseat of the late Gerald Warren's car with Prime Minister Harold Wilson of England from the Indianapolis Airport to the DePauw campus ... sitting on the deck at Fred Mann's house in Cloverdale, interviewing Dick Lugar alongside Ike Pappas of CBS News as the early days of the first Gulf War raged ...

So I consider myself an equal opportunity political reporter, covering Republicans, Democrats, Libertarians, independents, and even some candidates void of party or viewpoint.

All of that brings me to John Gregg, the current Democrat candidate for Indiana governor who visited Greencastle earlier this week. All politics aside, John Gregg is the funniest candidate I've ever encountered (save perhaps that Rupert guy from "Survivor," who rumor has it is picking Jared the Subway guy as his lieutenant governor choice).

Gregg, if he can't beat Republican opponent Mike Pence in November, could go straight to the stand-up comedy circuit if his monologue at The Swizzle Stick was any indication.

"Mother always wanted me to be a preacher," Gregg said, warming up the crowd before getting into serious issues like jobs and education. "So you can imagine how proud she is today that I'm a lawyer and a politician."

Trying to segue from one political thought to another, like most good comedians Gregg stole a line from someone else. Although in his case, he admitted it.

Speaking to the divisive nature of Hoosier politics, Gregg verbally retweeted a comment he had heard earlier at The Swizzle Stick gathering.

"This is a state that can't even agree on class basketball or time zones," Gregg said, giving full credit for the quip to Roachdale's Byron Gough.

One of the best stories of the night came in discussing his signature mustache (full disclosure here: I am partial to mustaches, having had one since I was 18. So I know where Gregg is coming from).

"Some people think I should shave my mustache," his literature even notes, "but I'm not going to change who I am to run for governor."

Back at The Swizzle, Gregg says people routinely offer suggestions about the macho mustache.

"Thomas Dewey had a little pencil mustache," he smiles, wiggling his index finger over his upper lip while enjoying the knowledgeable murmur of laughter from those who remember Dewey's ill-fated presidential bid and the Chicago Tribune "Dewey beats Truman" faux pas.

Gregg then launches into a story about a campaign stop and a persistent spectator.

"The guy comes up to me," he says, "and tells me, 'I like what you say, but mother would never vote for someone with a mustache.'"

Gregg laughed it off but the visitor returned a second and third time with the same anti-mustache message that finally escalates to a brazen comment.

"I just want you to know that people don't like people with mustaches," Mr. Persistence says.

That was news to Gregg, who said he has had the mustache since he went off to college.

"Those were rebellious times," he said, "and my way of rebelling was to grow a mustache. The problem is, I never shaved mine off. Nobody's seen me without it in 35 years. My kids have never seen me without it."

So instead of bowing to criticism over it, Gregg decided to make the mustache part of his campaign logo.

He was quick to point out that the facial hair just might give him an election advantage.

"We have not elected a congressman governor in Indiana since 1888," he noted, "and we haven't elected a person with a mustache since 1908.

"So the question is," Gregg offered, "would you rather have (as governor) a person with a mustache or a congressman?"

Funny thing, as always, the choice is yours ...