Be prepared for probably at least 10 posts on Gary Hart.
I've been reading All the Truth is Out which is largely about the week that Gary Hart's affair went public and the ramifications of his downfall. There is perhaps no politician that I identify with more than Gary Hart at a personal level. Perhaps that is why the book has become somewhat of an obsession for me, along with What it Takes. He comes off as a self-obsessed asshole who hates himself almost as much as he hates everyone else. Which, to be fair, he probably is. And to be fairer, I definitely am. Beyond that, his tics, his style of speaking, his lack of confidence in himself, his stubborness, his unwillingness to listen to others for advice, all of these things remind me of myself. I despair, profoundly.
Those on the left hate him because he probably did more to usher in the Democratic Leadership Council than any other person beyond Bill Clinton. He pissed off labor unions because, I'm guessing, he still held a grudge for the AFL-CIO for endorsing Richard Nixon instead of George McGovern. You know what? That was a stupid decision for the AFL-CIO and I still think to a degree that Hart was justified in harboring this anger.
Those on the right hate him because he authored reports from 1999-2001 arguing that the biggest threat for the 21st century would be stateless terrorists and then, of course, George W. Bush and his administration ignored the report to little or no consequences. Then he rejected the notion that the Iraqi war should be supported by Democrats or Americans for that matter. He argued that this would further destabilize the region and not actually go after the problem of terrorists. Of course, they're mostly upset that he couldn't keep it in his pants long enough to become the nominee and have this scandal unfold in the middle of the general election. Of course George H.W. Bush won 1988 pretty handily, so it's mostly water under the bridge now.
I say all this to bring up the point of this post. Hart talks to Matt Bai, the author of this book, and talks about his despair over losing the Dem nomination. But moreso, the problem that Hart expressed is that he knew he would be a great President if he could get elected his way. He failed and in his own words admits in a memo soon after the affair that he despairs profoundly.
Hart relays his greatest despair about not winning the nomination and does it with his traditional style of bringing up theology and is able to hit on the biggest fear that I have and what causes me the greatest anxiety of my life.
To paraphrase Gary Hart and the Bible, we have the parable of the talents.
Jesus tells the story of the master going on a trip. And he gives the three servants talents, a talent being a form of money. And to one he gave ten talents, to one he gave five, and to one he gave one. And he said, ‘You are to be the stewards of these talents. And manage them wisely for me.’ “He comes back from the trip and he asks all of the three servants how they managed the money that he’d given them. The ten-talent man had invested it and made some money. The five-talent man had wisely invested. But the one-talent man was afraid to lose it, and he buried it, and he just had the one talent to give back. And the master condemned him and said, ‘You are not a faithful servant, because you didn’t use your talents wisely.
And to quote Matt Bai and Gary Hart giving words to my fears and anxieties:
“Well, this haunts me,” Hart said, looking directly at me in the darkness, his eyes brimming and red. “Because I think you are given certain talents. And you are judged by how you use those talents. And to the degree I believe in some kind of hereafter or transmigration of the soul, I will be judged by how I did or did not use the talents that I was given. And I don’t think I’ve used them very well.”
And I don't think I have either.