If you plan on going after the bear, be prepared. He’ll turn on you. Be ready to be attacked yourself. This isn’t a sport for the weak of heart.
That’s the way it is with big boy politics, like PeopleforPence.com. We’re trying to take out a sitting President, who is a wealthy and vindictive man. Be prepared to be sued, to be slandered, and be ready for economic retaliation against your way of earning a living. If you’re in any way vulnerable, you’re going to get hit yourself.
But if you’re bullet proof, as I was in Alaska, you’ve got nothing to worry about. You will have made an enemy for life, but that’s just a cost of doing business. In turn, I pissed off U. S. Senator Mike Gravel, U. S. Senator Ted Stevens, former Governor Wally Hickel, Governor Bill Sheffield and Supreme Court Justice Jay Rabinowitz, along with his colleagues. I can’t say they didn’t find ways to retaliate against me. They did, but it was nothing I couldn’t handle. I wasn’t afraid of anybody, just like my Uncle Fritz.
In addition to balls, you have to have the truth. As long as what you’re saying is true, or a reasonable person could believe it to be true, nobody can touch you, because you’re an American, and under the First Amendment you’re free to say what you want.
In the most important election in Alaska history, the Republican primary of 1978, I volunteered to work for incumbent Republican Jay Hammond, the finest man I ever met. In that campaign I learned big boy politics from two masters, Hammond’s campaign manager, Bill McConkey, and his political consultant from Chicago, Bob Clarke.
I didn’t really know anything about Hammond, and I had no idea how important this election was. I just wanted to get into politics, and my Uncle Fritz had told me that Hickel had no business being Governor. He didn’t respect the Native people of Alaska, didn’t think they were capable of handling their own money. I was aware enough to know that either Hammond or Hickel was going to be Governor, so working for Hammond was an easy decision.
Hickel was an egomaniac, among other things. As a former Governor and Interior Secretary, with enormous personal wealth, if he could win the governorship again it could be a springboard back into national politics. Someone was going to win the Republican nomination to run against President Carter in 1980. When Wally Hickel looked in the mirror, he thought, why not me? He was a nut.
There was no way to prove that, of course. It was reading his mind, and he denied it. But a lot of people in Alaska thought it was true. But nobody would, or could, say it. The Hammond campaign couldn’t make such an unprovable accusation. So they asked me to do it, and I did.
It worked, just as Bill and Bob thought it would. The Anchorage Daily News hated Hickel, and they made a big story about my accusation. I was the chair of a mythical volunteer group, Hands for Hammond, and my charge had some traction.
Everyone knew Hickel had a vicious temper, and when he was asked about the story in the Daily News he blew up. He was so pissed off that he said some things he shouldn’t have, and it cost him.
Ten days later Hammond won by 98 votes. I was 33 years old, and an Alaska resident for only four years, but now I had a name, and a reputation. If you’ve got enough balls, and brains, you don’t need big bucks.
You’re an American, and you can say anything you want. Speak the truth, consequences be damned. It’s a great country.
And if you’re going after the bear, it’s best to go with an old pro. That’s me.