Discover more from Barry Piatt on Politics: - Behind the Curtains
Barry Piatt on Politics - Behind the Curtains
Thoughtful commentary and analysis on politics and government in Iowa and the nation, based on decades of "close up" experience, observation, and involvement.
This is my new column, “Piatt on Politics - Behind the Curtains,” your source for consistently ahead of the curve political insight, analysis and commentary.
I invite you to join me in this new adventure on Substack - at no cost to you.
As some of you may know, I’ve been following politics and government more closely than most for more than 50 years. I started as a political reporter for my hometown weekly newspaper in Iowa when I was 14.
At age 15, I was covering the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago as an accredited working reporter, the youngest in history at that point. Back home, I covered luminaries of the day - Senators Everett Dirksen, Robert and Edward Kennedy, Richard Nixon, and newly minted California Governor and future President Ronald Reagan.
I walked down the streets of Des Moines, Iowa with then Senator and future-Vice President, Walter F. Mondale, as he campaigned to help elect his friend Vice President Hubert Humphrey to the presidency.
I was in the room in 1969 reporting Vice President Spiro Agnew’s infamous November 13 speech in Des Moines, the one in which he attacked the national news media - commonplace now, but virtually unprecedented and shocking then, in a speech carried live on all three television networks. (Yes, back then there were only three.)
I traded small talk with President Richard Nixon on the floor of the Iowa Legislature when he visited to announce his new federal revenue sharing plan. I stood next to a then-virtually unknown, 8mm movie camera toting H.R. Haldeman during Nixons’s speech as he made home movies of the visit.
In 1968, the Iowa Republican Chairman, Jack Warren, had occasion to yell at me in anger twice, and Senate Republican Leader Everrett Dirksen once, both in person. It was pretty bewildering stuff for a 15 year old.
But I found it all very fascinating - and important. With the Vietnam War raging and the Civil Rights and Women’s Movements re-writing the script for much of our culture, it was hard not to see that even if you thought you “had nothing to do with politics,” well, politics “had plenty to do with you.”
I knew I wanted to do more than report on all this, I wanted to be a part of it.
At the ripe old age of 21, I moved on to active involvement in campaigns and elections, starting with the 1974 US House campaign of Tom Harkin, who beat a Republican incumbent that year and went on to serve five terms in the US House. and to then become Iowa’s longest serving Democratic U.S. Senator.
That’s where I spent the rest of my career, working on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. for Harkin and then others in the US House and Senate - with occasional forays into House, Senate and Presidential campaigns. I even spent a “cycle” - as we say in the business - working at the Iowa Democratic Party as its Communication Director during its first in the nation precinct caucuses which begin the nation’s presidential delegate selection process.
All of which is to say, I’ve seen enough over the years to know what’s old and new in politics, what often works and what often doesn’t, the common tactics of a demagogue and how to identify real public servants. I’ve seen how things change. I’ve had a hand in helping make things change. Multiple times. I have a pretty good idea about how things get done. And undone.
This column will draw on that experience to help you make sense of what often appears to be - and sometimes is - the nonsense that goes on in politics, nationally and in Iowa.
I also intend to share tips that will help you make your voice heard as we shape our futures. That’s the heart of democracy you know. The voice of real people. I want to help you make your voice heard as best you can.
Today, I teach public communication at a major university in Washington, DC. So I’ll put a special focus on what you can do to make sure you are seen and heard, but also what politicians - national politicians and Iowa’s politicians - are saying, and what they are actually doing.
I’ve seen the news media in operation over the years, too - from both sides of the reporter’s notepad. I will share my thoughts on their performance, which often leaves me proud, but also often leaves me exasperated.
Decades of experience have shaped the insight I bring to this endeavor. I think you’ll find it not only interesting but helpful and even fun.
Remember - there is no cost to subscribe. Just hit the “subscribe now” button and you’re in. Each new column will land in your inbox within micro-seconds of being published.
Eventually, I’ll add some fee-for-subscription options of premium content. The purpose of Substack.com is to help link paying readers to writers in this ever shrinking world of actual journalism and published, informed opinion.
One of those options to keep your eyes open for - a sneak peak at some of the stories I’m including in the memoir of my life in politics and government. I’ll be offering a bit down the road. Believe me, you’re not going to want to miss that. You can pick one or all, or none. Your subscription now - your free subscription - will ensure that you get the word immediately when those options become available.
Happy reading, and let’s all get to work to help save our democracy!