Web Exclusive - Q&A with The Professor of Political Science 216
Erick – I’m really the former Mayor of Cleveland, Mike White. Keep it under your hat though, okay?
Q: What inspired you to start blogging?
A: Boredom. And the need to have attention paid to me.
People always seemed to enjoy what I have to say about politics. But let’s define “people.” For years, my audience was just people I’d see at family events like weddings, children’s birthday parties and wakes. Oh, and I’d bounce my views off people at cocktail parties.
But then, everyone got married off, the children grew up to be disgruntled teens and people can only die once. And I stopped getting invited to so many cocktail parties. So who was left to be my audience? Not enough people, that’s who.
It wasn’t like your magazine was offering me a column. I’ll apply for Dick Feagler’s job at the Plain Dealer when he retires, but he’ll probably stay forever. So that’s why I decided to start my own little blog.
Since I’d be educating people, I decided to model it after an on-line class. A really weird on-line class where the Professor would wander off topic all the time, but an on-line class just the same. So Political Science 216 was born. It’s cool. I can say whatever the hell I want, whenever I want, about whoever I want. And I can use the occasional dirty word if I feel like it.
Q: What’s your daily diet of reading material?
Besides Cleveland Magazine? I devour the Plain Dealer every day and Scene once a week. I glance at the news sites. I take a peek at other blogs, just to make sure I’m not writing about the exact same things they are.
Q: How would you describe your political leanings? You seem to be mostly a Democrat, but with a strong dislike for certain Democrats — Dennis Kucinich, Marc Dann, Jimmy Dimora — that leads you to cross party lines and root for certain Republicans. Discuss.
A: Many Republicans love Political Science 216, because I worked hard to run Marc Dann out of the state, and I’m quick to criticize Jimmy Dimora and Dennis Kucinich. Democrats read me too, because I have some progressive leanings and I’m in the tank for Barack Obama.
The thing is, I consider myself to be post-partisan. Here’s what I want out of my politicians: Provide kids with the opportunity for a good education, keep my neighborhood safe, pick up my trash, plow my streets, keep me safe from terrorists, and don’t needlessly enter wars especially when you don’t know how to get out. You can have my fair share of tax dollars as long as you don’t waste it. Don’t steal, don’t lie, and don’t molest the hired help.
I don’t think that’s too much to ask. However, there isn’t a Democrat or Republican around here that can deliver on all those issues, or are even trying. That’s why I throw rocks at them.
Q: What part of town do you live in?
I’m in Kucinich’s congressional district.
Q: How old are you?
A: How old am I? Probably too old to be blogging. I’m certainly too old to have almost 600 friends on Facebook.
Q: Influences and inspirations, other than George Carlin?
A: Carlin, God rest his soul, was right. Inside every cynic is a disappointed idealist. That’s me. I like The Onion and The Daily Show. And what Stephen Colbert does on his show every night is just genius. I aspire to be like all of the above. I’m nowhere close, but I’d like to think I touch a nerve occasionally.
Q: Your favorite blogs besides your own?
A: I enjoy the political blogs I have listed on my site. Even though I’m too old to be in the target audience, I get a kick out of “Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Your Boyfriend.” That Mel is a spicy little dish.
But my favorite two blogs are “Garfield Minus Garfield” and “The Comics Curmudgeon.” If I could analyze politics like the Comics Curmudgeon analyzes comic strips, I will have accomplished something.
Q: How have other Ohio political bloggers reacted to your blog? Do you have any allies or enemies online? What do they think of your anonymity? Do you get linked to less because your identity isn’t known?
A: The usual suspects of the Ohio political blogosphere seem to be aware of Political Science 216. Some love it. Others try really hard to ignore it, but they find themselves drawn to it — kind of like how folks rubberneck when they see a traffic accident.
The bloggers who link to me the most seem to be Ben and Kyle at Ohio Politics, Matt at Naug Blog, Jill at Writes Like She Talks, Mark at Pain Dealer and Jeff at Ohio Daily Blog. I guess they’re my allies. You’d have to ask them.
I don’t have any enemies on line, as far as I know. I’m certain, however, that I’ve pissed off quite a few politicians. Are you going to interview Marc Dann for this piece?
Q: Have you read Primary Colors?
A: Yes, I have. It was pretty good. The book was better than the movie, but the casting as John Travolta as the Bill Clinton-like character was genius.
Q: Who is the severe professorial man in the picture down the right-hand column of the blog? Is that from a movie?
A. He’s a real professor. I think he’s from Europe. He has a lot in common with me when I blog. Look at him. He’s irritated, arrogant, he demands your attention, and he’s never wrong.
Q: Are you more like that guy or more like the guy with his hand up at the top of the blog?
A: I included the photo of the guy teaching class not because of the instructor, but because of the class. That’s what I imagine my readers look like. Young, pretty attractive, attentive, ready to learn and always laughing at my jokes.
Q: How did you learn to write?
A: How did I learn to write? You think I can write? That’s very kind of you. Not to steal the title of a popular local blog, but I just write like I talk. I bounce some of the material out on Trophy Wife, and if she enjoys it, I turn it into a blog post. I also verbally test material on people who sit near me on the bus.
Q: How did you learn what you’ve learned about politics?
A: By paying attention from really far away. That’s all you have to do is pay attention, and remember what’s happened in the past. If there were enough hours in the day, I think I could write a damn good blog about Cleveland sports, or movie reviews, or the local dining scene. But there aren’t enough hours, so I focus on politics. I think I can add a unique voice to the political discourse. Besides, nobody cares whether or not I liked the Batman movie.
Q: What really happened at the site’s birthday party on Opening Day?
A: It’s kind of a blur. But, oh, what a party. Afterwards, I was blind for three days.
Q: You say you’re in the tank for Obama – why?
A: Politicians are like produce, they’re going to go bad eventually. But I’m optimistic that Obama is going to have a long shelf life and he won’t be corrupted anytime soon. And despite what others think, I believe he’s a good moderate.
Take Marc Dann, for instance. He went bad before he was even sworn-in as Attorney General. Jimmy Dimora, he’s different. He went bad very slowly. It took 200 FBI agents to turn him over and show all of us how rotten he’s become.
Q: Your top 5 all-time desert-island albums?
A: “At Home with Screamin’ Jay Hawkins” – Screamin’ Jay Hawkins
“Pretty Hate Machine” – Nine Inch Nails
“Songs for Swinging Lovers” – Frank Sinatra
“Greatest Hits” – Crystal Gayle
“Three Feet High and Rising” – De La Soul
Q: You seem to get a decent amount of advance political gossip. Without naming names, tell me a little about how you get your information – what fields and political persuasions your sources tend to be from? How much has your A list of sources grown since you started the blog?
A: When I first started the blog, I just made crap up. Now, people e-mail me tips all the time. I get the usual press releases, but I get the non-traditional leaks via e-mail as well. During the primary, Hillary Clinton’s campaign would send me stuff, but it just triggered my irritable bowel syndrome, so I would delete it as soon as I got it.
Oh, and I have a series of bugs placed throughout the state.
My best sources aren’t necessarily “A List” sources, but they’re the lower-level staffers, interns and volunteers who hear things and pass them to me. I’m also planning to activate my 500 plus Facebook friends to do my bidding, kind of like what happened in that one Star Wars movie.
Q: What does Trophy Wife think of your blog? In general, and the healthy admiration for female politicians, newsy celebrities, and reporters?
A: Overall, Trophy Wife enjoys Political Science 216, even though she thinks I spend time working on it so I can avoid household chores.
Now, you ask about my occasional post about how hot women like Maureen Kyle and Joan Synenberg are. This does not bother the Trophy Wife. Actually, she’s more disturbed when I ponder over why Dan Moulthrop didn’t get more votes for Sexiest Reporter in Greater Cleveland, or when I post a photo of David Bentkowski in his Superman outfit.
Here’s what you have got to understand about Trophy Wife. Trophy Wife is hot. Trophy Wife is insanely hot. If I were to e-mail you a photograph of Trophy Wife and you were to print it in Cleveland Magazine, some people would cut her picture out and take it to their plastic surgeon and say “I want to look like her.” Trophy Wife’s photo could also be used as currency in prisons. If Scarlett Johansson and Penelope Cruz were to mate, and I encourage them to try, the adult offspring would look like my Trophy Wife.
The short answer: My Trophy Wife is so hot, she’s not threatened by other hot women.
Q: Are you an actual professor?
A: I think I am.
Q: Are you a lawyer?
Q: Have you ever been a journalist?
Q: Have you ever run for office? Are you employed in politics or government?
A: I’d rather die.
Q: Why are you anonymous?
A: If computers would have been around during the founding of this country, you know who would have been the first anonymous blogger? Ben Franklin. Instead, he wrote anonymous articles for newspapers. He wrote as many different characters and he wrote on many different topics. He was more effective because he was anonymous. He could say whatever the hell he wanted. So I’m trying to follow his lead. If it was good enough for Ben Franklin, it’s good enough for me.
That, and I don’t want to get sued or beaten up.
Oh, and I’d like to continue to use dirty words in my blog without my mother finding out.
Part 2: Followups
Q: You called Obama a good moderate. What makes you say that?
A: He seems to play well with Republicans. Any Democrat who supports faith-based initiatives is not a far-left liberal. Read his book, he seems like a sensible moderate most of the time.
Q: Are you a moderate?
A: I’m not a hippy dippy liberal, nor am I a right-wing nut job. Does that make me a moderate? I’ve been called worse things.
Q: How often does your work as a lawyer put you in contact with politicians and government?
A: Rarely, if ever.
Q: Do you live in the city or the burbs?
Q: How close to age 40 are you?
A: I’m just old, man. I’m old. My creaky knees can predict the weather like Goddard.
Q: What have you read by or about Ben Franklin?
A: His autobiography. The Americanization of Ben Franklin. I think I read something called “Franklin vs. Adams” and “Ben Franklin and the Politics of Liberty.”
Q: How did you feel the day Marc Dann resigned?
A: When Dann resigned, a lot of folks were running around saying things like, “Oh, it’s a sad day.” Give me a break. It was a happy day. It showed that our system works. If we elect someone and he violates the public trust over and over and over, we can get rid of him. So I was pleased that day.
Q: What do you feel you contributed to the Dann debate this spring?
A: I think Political Science 216 contributed to Dann’s departure. It sped up the inevitable. The credit, of course, should go to the two young women who were strong enough to stand up to their supervisors. And unlike many bloggers, I’m willing to give a ton of credit to the “MSM” - in this case, the Columbus Dispatch, The Plain Dealer and the Dayton Daily News.
But I think I added to it. I was able to connect the dots for many folks. The blogosphere paid attention to what I had to say, and to a certain extent, so did the big newspapers. I think I showed that it wasn’t about sex, nor was it about Democrat vs. Republican. I tried to make the case that it was Good vs. Bad, and that Bad needed to get the hell out of town.
The short answer: I fanned the flames. At times, I poured gasoline on the flames. I’d like to think I played a small part in speeding up the inevitable
12:00 AM EST
September 25, 2008