The four great men whose faces are carved into Mt. Rushmore had the ability to write their own speeches and connect with voters on their own terms. George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln had a set of principles that guided every decision, and they were unaffected by tracking polls or website hits.
In other words, they trusted their instincts.
About two weeks ago, I thought it would be a good idea to interview Phu Nguyen and Allan Mansoor, the two candidates for California's 68th District Assembly seat.
Despite a total of seven attempts and/or conversations with both candidates, I'm still at the idea stage.
The fun started when I went to Mansoor's website in an effort to contact him for the interview. On his website, it reads "Call me directly" and a phone number is listed. But if you call the number, you won't get Mansoor directly. You will get the Sacramento office of Revolvis Consulting, Mansoor's paid advisory company.
Actually, you won't even get Revolvis; you'll get an answering service. I know — I tried four times. The first and second times, I just left messages. The third time, I probed a little deeper and found out the person answering the telephone was working not for Revolvis, but for an answering service.
On each call, I identified myself by name, said I was a columnist for the Daily Pilot and wanted to schedule an interview with Mansoor. On each call, I had to spell Mansoor's name. On the fourth call, the answering service person told me, as they had the previous three calls, that they would take a message.
"That's not working," I said, "so I will try something different. Goodbye."
That something different consisted of two new attempts, the first of which was a short bicycle ride to 2973 Harbor Blvd., No. 571, the campaign address listed on Mansoor's website. Alas, it turned out to be a mailbox at a UPS Store.
The other attempt was to e-mail Mansoor at a private e-mail address I had on record from awhile ago. I wrote Mansoor that I wanted to meet to discuss the issues facing the 68th District.
The e-mail has not come back as undeliverable.
I did not fare much better with Nguyen, although he scored major points by answering his own telephone. (Editor's note: Nguyen conducted an interview with a Daily Pilot staff writer on Monday; the story is forthcoming.)
When he answered, I identified myself the same way I did with Revolvis, and asked Nguyen for some face time. We picked a day and time, and I told him that because my schedule was flexible, he should choose a location convenient for him and I would meet him there. He was to e-mail the location to me at the same e-mail address that appears at the end of this column.
The days went by and still no word from Nguyen.
On Aug. 15, the Pilot ran a profile of Mansoor. Two days later, and one day before we were to meet, Nguyen called to tell me that he had been contacted by a Pilot reporter about an interview for a profile.
I told Nguyen that it was two different pieces. The reporter's article would be in the style of the Mansoor profile, and mine would dive deeper into the issues.
He told me he was inclined to hold off on my interview until the profile ran. OK, fair enough. Upon hearing his next words, however, my shoulders slumped and my head shook.
"Let me speak to my political consultant and I will get right back to you," he said.
These two fellows are candidates for a state Assembly seat. This is not a race for the U.S. presidency or even for a seat in the U.S. Senate. But for this, they need consultants.
I am concerned about any candidate who cannot spend an hour with a local newspaper columnist without seeking advice as to whether it's a good move. That tells me that every vote in Sacramento will be done according to what is best politically, based on further professional consultations, and not based on what is best for California or even the district's constituents. In other words, we can look forward to more of the same legislative gridlock.
Gentlemen, if you want to lead, if you want to be great, or even if you just want to distinguish yourselves, take a long look at Mt. Rushmore and figure out the common denominators between these four icons.
Here's one to help prime your creative pump: None of them used political consultants.
STEVE SMITH is a Costa Mesa resident and a freelance writer. Send story ideas to email@example.com.