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Out Here

by Ron Carr

What do you do

Politics from afar.

Most of us who pay attention to politics do so from a distance. Out here in the southwest Panhandle we don’t see many politicians or famous people up close. Our information comes via radio, television, iPhones, iPads, Facebook, tweets, or blogs.

On occasion our state senator Kel Seliger or Congressman Randy Neugebauer will come to town for an hour. Sometimes an Amarillo TV station will come down to film but not often. We don’t meet many real legends out here.

Many noted folks think they are legends. Then there are those who really are. Bob Woodward is one of those. Mr. Woodward spoke Monday evening in Canyon as part of West Texas A&M University’s Distinguished Lecture Series.

If his name is unfamiliar to you, try Watergate. Try Woodward and Bernstein and a book/movie titled “All the President’s Men” (starring Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman). The Washington Post reporters, and their Deep Throat informant, managed to bring down the presidency of Richard Nixon in 1974 when Nixon resigned. It was a series of events that fascinated me as they unfolded. Woodward and Bernstein became infamous household names.

Mr. Woodward is still employed at the Washington Post. He has written 16 non-fiction books in the ensuing years, all about politics, and all best-sellers. He has interviewed and written about every president since Richard Nixon. With his formidable reputation he has access to every politician, deputy assistant, and military general in D.C.

The event in Canyon received a lot of advance publicity. I expected it to be standing room only. It wasn’t. Most of the crowd was senior citizens. Very few of the WT A&M students were present. Those who were served as volunteers to assist with the logistics of the lecture. (One of those students was Connor Woods, a Friona graduate studying broadcast journalism at WT I believe.)

We managed to be seated much closer than I anticipated and had a nice vantage point for Mr. Woodward’s lecture. He used humorous anecdotes as he spoke of his associations with people such as Henry Kissinger and Al Gore and Jimmy Carter. He touched on his Watergate experience and the frustration of the investigation.

He took questions. Someone asked if Watergate happened today would the outcome be the same. His answer was no it wouldn’t because reporters today tend to investigate from their desks and on the Internet. He related about asking a college student once how he would find out about “Nixon’s secret fund” today. The student said he would look it up on Google, to which Woodward replied, “it is a secret fund and secrets are not on the Internet.”

Woodward said he believes the most serious problem in Washington today is not the economy, or terrorism, or taxes and spending. He told the audience his most serious concern is secret government. Democracies die in darkness.

After the lecture, Bob Woodward signed copies of his latest book, “The Price of Politics.” I took advantage of the opportunity and waited my turn in line for his autograph. He did not chat with folks much, just signed and said thank you.

He opened the cover on my copy, signed it, then looked up and said, “What do you do?” I was taken aback for a second. A legend asking me about me. When I said I owned a weekly newspaper he brightened a bit and said, ”My first job was with a weekly newspaper, the Montgomery Sentinel.” At that point he extended his hand and said, “How about a handshake for a fellow newspaperman.”

Me and Bob Woodward, fellow newspapermen. How do you like that?