Over the past couple weeks, our publisher Scott Faughn spent nearly 8 hours with Governor Nixon discussing every aspect of his career from growing up in DeSoto, to the State Senate, as Attorney General, and his time in the Governor’s Mansion. More Missourians cast their votes to elect Jay Nixon as Governor of Missouri than anyone in state history. In the final part of our series, Governor Nixon shared his views on the events of the last year of not only national politics but the changes in the tone of Missouri politics as well.
Faughn: Governor thank you for joining us for our final segment. It’s been an incredibly interesting walk through Missouri history.
Governor Jay Nixon: It’s been interesting to be walking through it in his shoes, it’s not always been a straight path.
Faughn: Donald Trump is somebody that somehow found a way to connect with rural Missouri and win by a huge margin quite similarly to you. Your someone who travels this state. You know the road that connects East Prairie to Charleston. You got more votes than anybody in history in the state of Missouri for governor, and he got more votes in history of Missouri for president. Did you see it coming?
Governor Nixon: You could feel it out there, that’s for sure. Just from a political, professional perspective, Clinton didn’t target the state, didn’t do anything.
Faughn: Would have it helped if she had?
Governor Nixon: She doesn’t have a strong history of being around Missourians and getting their support.
Faughn: Would Hillary Clinton showing up in De Soto help her get more votes or get less?
Governor Nixon: Less. As my wife would prefer me to say, fewer.
Faughn: Well in Butler County I would say a lot fewer I think.
Governor Nixon: I think my wife would be right on that.
Faughn: You supported her through the primary.
Governor Nixon: It’s taken you a year to notice.
Faughn: Ya, when you told some folks you said that thought Donald Trump hit his high watermark. “Once the conventions are over and people come to realize that this is real, We can’t have someone doing and saying the types of things he is doing and saying and become President of the United States…”
Governor Nixon: Do you have a McCain quote in there? Or is that Flake?
Faughn: Exactly, “Then I think they will think and vote differently” Were you just being a good soldier, or did you really believe people would see through him and vote differently?
Governor Nixon: I respect the office. I do not think he’s qualified for the position and I think he’s showing that more and more every day.
Faughn: Is he not qualified from a standpoint of running a business or is he not qualified from the standpoint of temperament and judgment?
Governor Nixon: He’s not interested in it. He’s not interested in doing the job. Being qualified for the job is getting up in the morning like I did every morning as governor at 5:30 and reading a briefing book and run through a day in which where you’re prepared for the meetings and you were trying to make things better whether it’s a Partnership for Hope to help disabled kids or you were trying to get a grant to fix a road or bridge or just show respect. Or go to 159 schools as I did as Governor. He’s uninterested in the core part of that job which is to be the head of the government. Like or not that is it. I think successful presidents get in and work on it. You can talk about his eccentricities…
Faughn: But he connected with Missourians.
Governor Nixon: Yeah, an anti has always had. Demagogues always have an advantage in elections.
Faughn: There have been demagogues that have run for office before that didn’t connect with Missourians like he did. He connected in a unique way.
Governor Nixon: He was running against the weakest candidate in modern history. That helps you connect number one.
Faughn: Does Donald Trump win by 19 points against Bernie Sanders?
Governor Nixon: I think we’re a capitalist country, not a socialist country. I’m not a Sanders guy, at all. I think that capitalism has made this country jolt to the lead of the world. It’s not because we’re taller or better looking or something, we have been able to have a free and open business system here in this country that has lead people to be rewarded, not only for work but gaining value and (people) are able to keep a piece that they earned.
I think it’s one of the major problems with the Democratic Party. This is why I pulled this out. This is my first state of the state. I had five values, the first of one, the first one we believe in the value of a hard day’s work. That’s the first one.
Faughn: What part of him connected? He definitely connected in some places where you connected. You outran your party. You would always outrun other Democrats in eastern Jackson County, the bootheel…
Governor Nixon: Oh I can definitely see how he won electorally. I understand exactly how he won.
Faughn: Of the 25 Republicans who ran, I think if any of the other 24 I think Russ Carnahan wins, I think Chris Koster wins, I think Jason Kander wins. Why did he connect like he did?
Governor Nixon: I think people are very, very frustrated economically and that the economic disruptions going on in this country and this world right now are scary to people. Most folks don’t know what they’re going to be doing 10 years from now. They’ll certainly grow weary of watching you and I talk and then watch a computer screen. There is something else in their life that you want to do. If you’re a little undereducated or if you’re from a rural area it all seems that it’s going real fast and you’re sure if you’re part of where that movement forward is.
Faughn: Where you surprised by 19 points though?
Governor Nixon: Ya it got running, it got going there pretty good.
Faughn: You’re from Jeff County, that’s kind of the epicenter of where the switch was made. Talking to the folks back home, where you surprised in the margin in Jeff County?
Governor Nixon: No, Trump is like an outspoken Jeff Roorda.
Faughn: You know what that’s about right. Roorda could be a speechwriter for him. But it goes on down, even to the governor of Missouri —there’s a tone. I never heard you call the legislature third graders, never heard you say they were corrupt. I’m sure you have vehement disagreements with them? The person who replaced you in this age of Trump, your successor, even when the legislature is trying to agree with him, he calls them corrupt and third graders.
Governor Nixon: I remember bringing in the leadership right after the election and I said I only really got two rules when you’re meeting with me and I wanted everyone to agree with them. We’re not going to yell in meetings. If somebody starts yelling you can just leave. I mean if you’re that upset you can just leave and come back when you’ve calmed down. As the governor of the state, I’m not going to have a meeting with major leaders where people are yelling and screaming. We’ve got work to do, we’re serious guys.
(Second) we’re never going to lie to each other, ever.
Faughn: Ron Richard told me, the first time that I told him that you agreed to sit down and visit with me, he said, ‘Jay Nixon never lied to me.'” Did you benefit though from having a guy that’s a statesman like Ron Richard to work with even though he was a Republican?
Governor Nixon: Ron is a good guy and he also was one of those because of some that relationship it taught me one of the best lessons I ever learned as governor. Ron wouldn’t know he was involved in that but he was. After my first year as governor, we tried to pass the autism bill and the surprising thing was how many votes it got in the Senate. Everyone thought it was an insurance mandate and it’s not going to be able to pass. It comes up for a vote right near the end of the Senate and it’s like 28-6 for it. I thought the insurance lobby would have been more powerful than that, something real here. The session ends, it doesn’t get done.
At the last press conference, I was asked what I was the most disappointed with and I mentioned that was one of the things that I wished would have got done. We go back to the office and we plan on what we were going to do. Somebody said, ‘Well maybe we should go to Joplin and have a press conference at an autism center and light up Richard who was the speaker at the time. The Senate got it done, why didn’t you get it done?’ I thought about it, and said ‘Do I want to be a triangulating politician or do I want to be someone who can bring people together?’ I thought it about it and came back the next day and said I’m not going to do that. I’m going to call Ron, and he had some relative that was on the spectrum and he was very passionate about it. Basically, he was saying the issue wasn’t ready yet. The Senate passed it late, it’s a big thing and the insurance guys aren’t sure if it’s ready yet.
I’m just so glad that instead of flying to Joplin and saying that the Speaker of the House didn’t deliver and these kids are getting what they (needed), it would have been so easy so so easy that instead, I picked up the phone with Ron and the next year we passed it in the first couple of months of the session. Today 1.6 million people are covered. Now 3400 or 3600 kids this morning are going to ABA treatment paid for by the insurance companies because of it. It’s because Ron taught me the lesson, just calm down, call guys, see if you can get this deal done and then give everybody else credit.
Faughn: Can you step outside yourself and think, instead of flying out to Joplin to have this press conference if you had a Facebook account on your phone, would you have shot a Facebook message off and light him up?
Governor Nixon: The fact that you can do it quicker is not an excuse for something. If it’s easier to be snarly, it’s not an excuse to be snarly.
Faughn: Let me ask you a direct question, you worked with Todd Richardson some, you worked with Mike Kehoe or Ron Richard. Do you believe any of them are corrupt, career politicians?
Governor Nixon: No, no not at all.
Faughn: Have you found Ron Richard to be a statesman?
Governor Nixon: He cares deeply about the state and anytime that I dealt with him and called that the better angels of him, he would listen. He wouldn’t always agree and I think people were unfair to him about the right-to-work. I think he just believes in it, he’s on the border of Oklahoma. He believes in the issue.
Faughn: I don’t believe that Ron Richard sat down with David Humphreys and said here’s a bill and here’s a check.
Governor Nixon: Absolutely not, absolutely not.
Faughn: Do you think people are too quick to throw that word corrupt around?
Governor Nixon: No, I think there needs to be a healthy, if you’re in office with the dwindling resources the 4th estate has you have to fire off sometimes as far as the press. I don’t think I ever said the word Democrat or Republican as Governor. You gotta have thick skin, I decided a long time ago as Governor that you gotta be a duck in the rain on this deal if your gonna be Governor or you’re just gonna go crazy.
Faughn: Prior to the events in Ferguson did you think you had a fair shake from the press?
Governor Nixon: I said at the Press Association, in fact, Vicki Russell came up to me and said I really appreciated your speech I thought you were going to come in and talk about all the great stuff you did, instead you came and spoke about our role and its importance. She remembered it and that’s always a good sign. I was never if I recall misquoted and if there was a quote that was wrong we would call them and every time the journalist would fix it. I feel sorry for the press. You guys don’t have enough resources, you don’t have information, you have to file a Sunshine law request to get it. These days sources are hard to get and to get empowered with them. Back then you couldn’t fit everybody at the press table. A seat at the press table was hard to get, you had to serve in the Capitol Press Corps for a while before you got into that room. I just think we’ve got to have a powerful press and I’m not critical of the press. I just don’t think there’s enough of you. Skip Humphrey told me a long time ago that when you’re dealing with the press you have to think not as much about the reporter your talking to but it’s a great opportunity to speak to their readers. I just think there’s enough of you.
Faughn: Speaking of respect. There is an issue happening now with the State’s Veterans Home. You worked with senators from both parties. There was a letter written by Senator Claire McCaskill and Roy Blunt to the current governor. I’m sure you received several letters like that when you were Governor.
Governor Nixon: Not so much. I was a little different. You can look at the record you won’t see a bunch of letters from me telling Senators or members of the Congressional delegation telling them to do this or support that. The tradeoff was you don’t tell me who to appoint as judges or tell me what to do. We showed each other respect. It was you don’t tell me what to do and I won’t tell you what to do. I never got letters like that, and never sent letters like that.
Faughn: Well my assumption is that you didn’t tell US Senators to take some time and Google the report. Or that the last thing we need is career politicians writing meaningless letters.
Governor Nixon: Not exactly my tone.
Faughn: How does it get that bad? Do other Governors have that many problems with their senators?
Governor Nixon: When folks are using people other people for their own political benefit then all sorts of things happen. It’s like a bank shot. I used to joke that being Governor is a lot like playing pool everything is a bank shot there are no straight in shots. You just long for these days where your gonna do this and this is how you do it. I didn’t join in this, and I think things get worse if you. It gets like Washington where you read 16 senators wrote a letter, woooo how about passing a bill. When you’re doing something else you’re not qualified for or have the staff for thats when you in over your head.
Faughn: Let’s go back to politics real quick. Did you do enough to elect Democrats to the legislature in the state of Missouri?
Governor Nixon: Yes, I helped a lot. When I was running, I would sit down with every current Democratic member of the house in 2008 during that session. I did 85 fundraising events for folks the first two years, I organized people all over the state, I had a field operation second to none, it was delivering votes for Democrats all over the country. It was far beyond what Obama’s was in 2008, far beyond. We voter IDed every person for example in St. Peters.
Faughn: It’s how you won your first race, right?
Governor Nixon: It was one of the things. The day after the 2006 elections we had over 250 people in a conference room at the Ramada Inn in Jefferson City representing every county in the state, well except for Worth, we didn’t shave someone from Worth a small county.
Faughn: It’s not small to Worth County.
Governor Nixon: Ya I know but we had someone nearby. I think I laid out a pretty good template for how a Democrat could win.
Faughn: Did the Democrats fail to grab onto an agenda that got more votes for Governor than anyone in the history of Missouri enough to be effective politically.
Governor Nixon: I always thought I laid out a pretty clear path forward.
Faughn: Let me break down part of it.
Governor Nixon: One of the reasons is that when you get smaller numbers you get more to the left.
Faughn: Harder to raise money, less impact.
Governor Nixon: Well, when you get smaller numbers then you get more to the left, and I was never that far on the left side of the spectrum.
Faughn: I remember the night I thought they jumped the shark, it was the night they couldn’t elect Jeremy LaFaver in a leadership race. He has a live brain could’ve contributed when he couldn’t win you knew they had problems. Maybe the 2016 elections saw enough talent come to that caucus to turn things around.
Governor Nixon: Maybe so.
Faughn: Democrats in 2010 and 2014 were wiped out nationwide. Could you have done anything to stem that national tide?
Governor Nixon: In ‘10, it didn’t feel like it.
Faughn: Would your agenda have made a difference? All across the nation, Democrats were wiped out what would have been different about Missouri. In Arkansas Governor Mike Beebe lost a far larger percentage of the legislature than you did. What could he have done?
Governor Nixon: Skilled politician too.
Faughn: Yeah, great governor.
Governor Nixon: He’s got some skills. He won Attorney General unopposed. In either the primary or the general in an open seat in Arkansas. The guy two before him had been President of the United States.
Faughn: It’s a similar situation when Mike Beebe first filed for state senate the incumbent didn’t run. But there was nothing he could do. Do you look back on ‘14 and say I should have done more?
Governor Nixon: I think the one thing some people didn’t understand that my primary responsibility was to run the state.
Faughn: A lot of people say things like that but you seem to actually mean that.
Governor Nixon: Absolutely I mean that and in order to do that. I wasn’t the kind of guy, as Ron Richard said I don’t lie, to fly down to Richard’s district the day before the election and say this guy is a bad guy then show up in his office two days later and say, ahh I didn’t mean that. That’s just not who I am. If my rhetoric was not strong enough for the hyper-partisan politics of the day then so be it. I remember the day I was sworn in, my mom passed before I was elected to the state senate, we were very close people who know me say I am a lot more like my mom than my dad, I remember during the final prayer on the podium now my dad was still around and you didn’t have to wonder what my dad was going to say because he was always on me. I looked down and asked what would my mom want me to do. Because I always want to think of my mom on important days because I always wanted to have my dad and my mom a part of who I am. I remember thinking Scott just like it was yesterday the words, “serve everybody”. Don’t just server the republicans or the democrats, or the people from Jeff County, but serve everybody. When your mom tells you that after she has passed, you listen. I don’t think that was an accidental two words. I tried to sever everybody and respect them. You didn’t see me saying bad things about folks, and politically I was in the days, I was in the evolution when we used to have the position papers and press conferences about what our plans were and what issues were going to be. You look at what our policy was when I ran for Governor was like this thick. Our policy book and press comps the Missouri Promise, meeting after meeting after meeting after meeting, none of that stuff happens anymore.
Faughn: You mentioned evolution. Jefferson County is a very interesting microcosm of the evolution of the state. It’s moved from everyone is a Democrat to no one is. Why? Give me one or two reasons why that happened?
Governor Nixon: First of all back to Trump, I was talking to some folks, Doyle from Wisconsin and other folks, we’ve got to not call these folks Trump voters as much. It’s just not an anthropology experiment.
Faughn: But they voted for Donald Trump.
Governor Nixon: They also voted for me. They’re Missourians. So Jefferson County, the thing that concerns me about the Democratic Party — we started the party of working people, that values work. The dignity of a job was a core value of the Democratic party and for whatever reason, now we’re perceived differently. I remember coming back from deer camp two weeks ago, a cloudy day, and thinking, it’s going to take awhile to get people back connected because they think that the Democratic Party is a party of giving stuff out, an entitlement party.
Faughn: Are they today?
Governor Nixon: That’s the view of them, and quite frankly when you’ve got a guy getting 49 percent of the vote saying free everything.
Faughn: The Democrats view the epicenter of their party in Missouri as the Central West End. Does it have to be Festus for them to win?
Governor Nixon: I think the ’92 Clinton race in which he said we’re going to have a message for everybody in the country — I think that same thing is true right now. There are so much hyper analyzation and so much data cutting.
Faughn: What would be a message that national Democrats have for somebody in Shannon County?
Governor Nixon: We value work and if people are willing to get up in the morning, we are people who work hard and are willing to play by the rules. That work stuff is really important. The Democratic Party has gotten away from being the party of workers and turned into the view, of some people, being the party of handouts. This country was not built on handouts. Everybody understands we need to have a social safety net and if people get hurt. I think that we have got to get back to the core of being for working folks. The other thing is, connect on some value level.
Faughn: I, as a Midwesterner, as a person from the bootheel, when I watch Saturday Night Live after the election and they have a person dressed up as the Democrat, they’re clearly all liberals in New York they’re acting like a funeral because somebody they don’t like got elected. How does a Midwesterner connect to something that bizarre?
Governor Nixon: You were watching.
Faughn: And I thought it was bizarre and I think they look down on you, and I think they think they’re better than us.
Governor Nixon: The number one city in America as far as Seinfeld, the percentage of people watching Seinfeld was St. Louis.
Faughn: Interesting, I imagine the number one place to watch Duck Dynasty is not Manhattan.
Governor Nixon: I think the Democratic Party’s got a real problem. It’s a sliver East, a sliver West and everything else is forgotten, and that won’t work.
Faughn: Could Martin O’Malley have won the presidency?
Governor Nixon: No.
Faughn: Joe Biden have won the election?
Governor Nixon: Yes.
Faughn: It was right there in front of them. Why didn’t anybody say, ‘Hey, guys, she’s going to lose and this guy will obviously win?’ Joe Biden could have won Missouri you think?
Governor Nixon: Yeah, it would have been competitive.
Faughn: Very competitive. Were you in a room where they said she was going to run and somebody didn’t say, ‘Hey, this guy would clearly win easily.’ and somebody said, ‘No, we gotta go with her.’”
Governor Nixon: She was able to coalesce things and, plus, Bill’s has got a long list of folks. She benefited from that, the first woman, and there’s just a lot of historical things going that way. Anybody can decide something when you look back at what happened.
Faughn: Was that that hard to see, really? When she got into trouble with the FBI, was it really that hard to see that Joe Biden would win this race and she was going to have, did you just think Trump was going to lose no matter what? That to me maybe the thought that Trump would lose. Let me ask you something that’s on a different topic.
Governor Nixon: It doesn’t take a weatherman to tell which day it’s going to rain.
Faughn: You’re from De Soto and ended up being somebody that wanted the LGBT non-discrimination act. You came into politics at a time where the issue really evolved. Can you share how you evolved on that issue?
Governor Nixon: It’s interesting because I was the only Democrat that was in favor of the Constitutional Amendment defining marriage as between a man and a woman. I was on the right or left or however, you put the spectrum on it.
Faughn: Were you with the majority of the state at the time?
Governor Nixon: It was more of a personal thing for me at the time. I just couldn’t get my head around it at the time for whatever reason.
Faughn: Was that wrong?
Governor Nixon: Yeah, it was wrong, it was horribly wrong.
Faughn: How do you move your head from, I don’t think anyone’s mean-spirited I just think that’s the way you’re brought up, that’s the mental, how did your, how did your mind evolve on those issues?
Governor Nixon: My stepbrother died of AIDS. That was a long time ago but it was very real. As I became governor and tried to understand the complexity and difficulty of the state even more, I had, it all sounds, when you talk about somewhere where you change your position on something that big, it’s nice that all of us were about 10 years behind our kids. I just, the longer and longer realized we need to bring people together. I can’t articulate why I was on the other side of the issue at this point, but I did not analyze it politically at all. When you’re talking about someone getting married, somebody’s personal view of themselves and who they want to love, that’s not really a political position to me. It got political because the Republicans and (Karl) Rove, guys tried to divide people on the issue so it became political because it was used in that sense, in my opinion. Even the Democrats, it was hard for them to deal with that. But I think the respectful and intellectual way that the LGBT community handles those issues was stunning. The bottom line is that I’ve learned that we need to embrace diversity. If we’re going to be good Americans, part of being good American is respecting diversity, really respecting it. That’s one of the reasons this country was formed and I just came to that position.
Faughn: Let me ask you about another issue that’s particularly in the news now, these boards and commissions. Our state has several entities that are set up with boards and commissions. Did you appoint people assuming that they would be independent?
Governor Nixon: Let me just say as a side note that we got rid of 970 something board positions. All boards aren’t created equal. The Mine Safety Review Board doesn’t work at the same level as the big ones.
Faughn: We’re talking DESE we’re about MoDOT, we’re talking about PSC.
Governor Nixon: I tried to as governor deal with those departments through the executive leadership, like my colleges. When I had an issue at Southeast Missouri State University, I didn’t call Meyer, who I appointed on the board down there, I called (President) Ken Dobbins. I told everybody I appointed on those boards, ‘It’s your job to love the institution so much you want to make it better. Not to love the institution so much you want to micromanage it.’ I was more trying to do command and control, so I tried to find people that were not going to be sycophants, that were willing to spend the time.
But we didn’t have a bunch of guys calling board members that were saying, ‘vote this way, vote that way. Do this, do that.’ That wasn’t the way I played it.
Faughn: In the height, it looks like some of these boards is set up to reflect the will of the people but make it slower so there are not political jumps around. You left some places open, and now someone who may have a different view of the state and its value. Do you regret, now looking back, you didn’t try and fill some of those spots?
Governor Nixon: We got jammed up. There are way more appointments than the Senate has time to deal with. The Senate can deal with about a 100 and a quarter each year, that’s about all they can do. They only approve about 90 or 95 and when you got a backlog of 800 that becomes a problem.
Faughn: But I mean, candidly, you have a DESE department that’s been paralyzed for 60 days now. You have rural Missouri’s LIHTC program has been shuttered. Do you look back on the problems that has caused and think you should’ve tried to fill a more of those?
Governor Nixon: You do the best you can and surely I would’ve tried to do more, but if they were entering appointments they wouldn’t have stuck anyway.
Faughn: Talked to some Senators that look back on this and they were very blunt. They said we were probably too harsh on Governor Nixon’s appointments. We thought we would just rather deal with Governor Kinder or Governor Koster anyway. Did you quit sending appointments because they kept getting rejected and they got too political?
Governor Nixon: They got tough sometimes. I remember we had one case where a young man wanted to be appointed to the board of accountancy. He gets nominated, he gets into Senate hearing and they’re lighting him up. He’s just some kid who’s got an honors degree and what not. He shows up — what’s the old Rodney Dangerfield line? — a boxing match and a hockey game broke out. He said what am I doing this for? I got all these guys yelling at me. Like I care about accounting. They all kind of got jumpy and people were hesitant to want to put themselves in that situation. And then when the Senate switched to wanting to do separate investigations from the Governor’s investigations, and they did, on the background stuff, it just lengthened it, made it more difficult. The Highway Patrol looks at you, we give that report to the Senate. If they’ve got some other issues to look at, fine. But to do it twice? A lot of that stuff was problematic. The Senate went up and down sometimes and then they just decided they weren’t going to let some boards be filled, like curators. The other thing people don’t understand the power of governor — having someone on the board that’s on a holdover is a really nice place to have them. If they’re not supportive of the agenda, then you have an instantaneous remedy.
Faughn: Then aren’t they independent? They’re less independent if they’re a holdover.
Governor Nixon: If you need something then that’s in the back of their head. A holdover is somebody that if they don’t vote the way that the organization or the institution is going — And there are issues too.
I remember with the nursing board we were trying to make sure they had an extra fund balance, they had these guys sweeping it. We were trying to do it for nursing scholarships, which we did. UMSL got some, UMKC and all this sort of stuff. We had a nursing shortage, we took some of their money, they helped us do it. It’s nice to have people on the board that will work with you on that. If they wouldn’t have because I was pretty committed to it, we could’ve found some other people on the board.
Faughn: What’s the limit of manipulating those boards and still saying their independent? Let me just talk straight like we’re in West Butler County. Did you ever tell a commissioner if you don’t fire somebody I’m jerking your appointment back?
Governor Nixon: No. We never got that direct.
Faughn: I was told your trip to Normandy Beach, these trips are known for you grinding out a rigid schedule. Legislators are known for wanting to go on these trips but once they get there and see the schedule they are glad to be home. But I was told your stop at Normandy Beach was a very special thing. Can you give us a description of what that trip was like?
Governor Nixon: I’ve got some sand from there over on my desk.If you ever get a chance to go, you’ve got to go. Not only looking from the top down and thinking about the Americans that died coming up there, but just that spot is hallowed ground. Then you turn around and see all those crosses.
Part of what we did that day was put the wreath on the grave of a fellow from Montgomery City, who had passed that day 69 years beforehand. He had made it in. He actually parachuted down and was in a barn — helped free a small French town and was then killed. That’s a true story. So it’s misty, Richard’s there with me, McKenna. Our delegation’s there. The local folks heard about it and it’s misty, you’ve got 7,000 crosses, Omaha Beach over here and these group of people come to me. And it was the Mayor of that town, that 69 years beforehand that guy who’d died had helped free that town. And he brought with him a 7-year-old girl — and a group of people — but a 7-year-old girl read a poem in French to us, thanking us for liberating their city and giving them back what they wanted. And I’m saying, which of our kids would remember three generations later to get up on a Sunday, to go out and see a politician from another country in the middle of a slight rainstorm and thank us for freeing, and to respect the loss of a Missouri citizen there? If you aren’t moved by that sort of stuff. If it’s going to be that real to the French, then how about we make it that real to us? It was an amazing feeling, and I think everybody was almost moved to tears.
That’s why I’ve got that sand. We left there and one of the members of the detail said, ‘I’ve got to have some sand from this beach, can I go down there Gov?’ I said sure, ‘I’ll act like I’m having a smoke or something behind this bench, I’ll act like I’m on my cell phone for a second and Troy you run down to the beach and get some sand.’ He went down there and got a vial. He was so moved by it himself that he actually had to go down there and get it. He sprinted down to the beach, filled the thing up with sand and then gave me and a bunch of other people little boxes of that sand. That’s how moved he was by it.
The Highway Patrol, they don’t say, ‘Governor, can I leave the detail for a little while and go do something?’ That’s a pretty rare talk. That’s how moving it was, to give you a sense of that. Yeah, that was a special time. Seeing Lindbergh’s bed was pretty real, the bed he stayed in after he hit Paris was pretty neat.
Faughn: You loved the job, right?
Governor Nixon: Yeah.
Faughn: You love the state?
Governor Nixon: Absolutely.
Faughn: You’ve told me about different parts of the state and you know each corner of the state. Does it give you a better love for it and its traditions when you get to see that?
Governor Nixon: Absolutely.
Faughn: It’s a huge state, most people don’t get to see that.
Governor Nixon: It’s difficult. Georgeanne and I were talking about that because we’re living in University City here, so it’s even a hassle to get to South Lindbergh because there’s traffic, it’s a hassle. When you come to the office and say, ‘Yeah, let’s see what’s going on in Monett.’ and people will go, ‘What’s a Monett?’”
Faughn: Do we live in Missouri or Missourah?
Governor Nixon: Both. In fact, my first State of the State, and you may recall this, the Post-Dispatch had a tape of it and they had a ticker running with how many times I said Missourah and Missouri. I was like 58 percent Missourah and 42 percent Missouri. In my oath of office, the word Missouri is in twice when the Governor takes office. Apparently, without even thinking about it I said both Missouri and Missourah in the oath.
Faughn: John Ashcroft did the same thing, maybe there’s no coincidence?
Governor Nixon: You don’t think about it. If you’re a real Missourian you just don’t think about it. Some places are clearly Missourah and you just kind of catch the lingo.
Faughn: Well, Clayton would be Missouri that suffices to say.
Governor Nixon: Yeah, but I think that it’s both.
Faughn: Last question, and again I want to thank you so much for doing this. I’ve learned a ton of stuff and I think a lot of other folks did too. Let’s say you’re a Caleb Rowden or a John Rizzo, Jake Hummel, Bill Eigel, Lincoln Hough, and you’re in the fight. Somebody that’s had a successful 30-year-career serving the state, and is governor — what’s a piece of advice you’d give them?
Governor Nixon: Be knowledgeable about what you’re talking about and get in an area of expertise that the other members respect you for. Be somebody that they can look to and say, ‘No, what’s this really mean?’ The heck with all the speeches. Remember with Dennis Smith after General American went under, we had to pass the insurance and solvency bill. Dennis Smith was seen as the insurance guy and I was seen as a trial lawyer at the time, so we’re arguing with this provision of the bill, we look around and there’s nobody in the Senate chamber except me and Dennis Smith and I say, ‘We could pass almost any bill that we want.’ because both sides are represented but we’re honest brokers. So I said, ‘Let’s go get this thing done.’ and we got it done. The point is, having issues where you’re actually knowledgeable about and care about is important. I also think that the never lying is important, really really important. Something happened in the Senate when I was relatively young in which somebody was not truthful. I was so disturbed by it that I went to sit with my preacher, Gene Rooney, he’s passed now, played basketball Mizzou, was a Methodist preacher there in Jeff City, I don’t do this very often, I don’t go in for counseling from my preacher very often, I say ‘Gene, I’m just having a problem because somebody lied to me.’ and in the legislature if somebody lies to you, they can get some benefit from that. They can get a short-term gain and that can end up being a bill and something gets done, I don’t want to lie, what do I do? He said, ‘Jay, you can’t ever forget that people that lie, the prison that they are in is that they have to assume that everyone is lying to them.’” In essence, you assume people are doing to you what you’re doing to them. Think how painful it’d be to live a life in which you spent your entire life and you couldn’t trust anyone. So don’t worry about the short stuff. Tell the truth and in the end, you’ll get what you want. ‘You’ll be good with your maker but you’ll also live a life in which you’ll have a lot more fun, a lot more freedom, a lot more confidence.’ … It’s just one of these moments in my life that I (can’t forget). So I think long term, not just short-term.
Faughn: Governor Nixon, thank you so much. I really appreciate it.
Governor Nixon: Absolutely, thanks, Scott.
Scott Faughn is the publisher of The Missouri Times, owner of the Clayton Times in Clayton, Mo; SEMO Times in Poplar Bluff, Mo.; and host of the only statewide political television show, This Week in Missouri Politics.