Wit on display as Glickman tells story in own words

Nine-term congressman and former U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Dan Glickman offers candid remarks about how to improve American politics.

Glickman has penned the autobiography “Laughing at Myself: My Education in Congress, on the Farm, and at the Movies.”

Glickman, from Wichita, Kansas, a senior fellow at the Bipartisan Policy Center, rues the partisanship that has been a growing trend and the dark money of politics that has made people less trusting of elected officials. Missing today is a sense of humor as is a bipartisan spirit that pushes lawmakers to improve America.

Glickman served Congress from 1977 to 1995 and it came at a time when lawmakers found ways to get along and learn from each other.

Glickman grew up in Wichita as the son of a family known for its scrap business operation and ownership of a minor league baseball team. Glickman, like many others in the High Plains, learned much from his parents. The author notes people of his father’s generation were more self-reliant and resilient than many of the people he observes today.

He offers reverence to Kansas’ favorite son, President Dwight D. Eisenhower, who once said, “A sense of humor is part of leadership, of getting along with people; of getting things done.” Glickman marveled at Ike, who led the Allies to a victory in Europe during World War II and saw the atrocities of war.

Glickman is proud of his Jewish heritage and when he defeated an eight-term incumbent his religion was never a campaign issue. Glickman attributed this to a timeless western attribute—having a good family name. His approach was the importance of helping people first.

While he obviously has his take on the presidents (you’ll have to read the book to get those takes) Glickman said exemplary congressional leadership can help right bad policies. And he had great respect for members of both parties who were willing to do so—and it is missing today.

Readers who enjoy Kansas politics will gain an appreciation for his respect for Sen. Bob Dole, a Republican who was the 1996 nominee for president. Though he had considered running against Dole several times, he declined. Glickman, a Democrat, said he and Dole had shared values of understanding the importance of representing their country and state first. Glickman developed his own motto: “Don’t let the political become the personal.”

Glickman is critical of politicians and voters who devalue independent thinkers.

In Glickman’s early years in Congress he had a district that was significantly rural, too. He credits farmers and rural voters for delivering him victories. He is critical of his own party for not being focused on the heartland like it should.

Of great fascination is his decision to sink his teeth into the House Agriculture Committee. His time of service, particularly in the early years, came at time of higher inflation rates, a grain embargo, followed by high interest rates and then ultimately the farm crisis of the 1980s. He said that farm bills appeared to help large operators first and he also had concerns about greater concentration in the industry.

He and Republican Pat Roberts became allies on the agriculture committee and along with Sen. Bob Dole they kept Kansas agriculture at the forefront of Congress.

Those days, not so long ago, came at a time when partisanship was limited to elections and did not spill over over into congressional inaction. Glickman offers great insight into why we are where we are today and steps to improve. His book, while Kansas-centric, serves as a great teaching tool for those who want to learn about the plight of today’s politics.

Dave Bergmeier can be reached at 620-227-1822 or [email protected].