Recently the 101 Artist Colony in downtown Encinitas has been hosting standing room only book signing events. One of these book events was in support of Thieves in High Places, the latest work of the rascally Jim Hightower. Holding the plainspoken Texan in the highest regard, I was delighted to hear Mr. Hightower would be bringing his impressive oratory skills to Encinitas. I was even more delighted to learn I would have the opportunity for some one on one with the populist hero.
I met Jim at Roxy's an hour before his gig at the Artist Colony. He was wearing his trademark cowboy hat and working on a Green Flash. Of course he would choose a local micro brew. Impressed with his commitment of supporting local economies while on the road, I said nothing. Instead I introduced myself, reminding him of the last time we met, and then joined him at the bar.
My exclusive interview was casual at best. As I am not a reporter, I was more interested in focused small talk. I had already read his book, twice. I told him this, and of recommending Thieves in High Places to Surf City Times readers. A gracious man, he thanked me and we began to talk.
For those unfamiliar with Jim Hightower he was twice elected the commissioner of Agriculture for the State of Texas before making a name for himself in the world of populist politics as a national radio commentator, writer, public speaker, and author. Currently when not crossing the country speaking to the disenfranchised, he publishes the award winning Hightower Lowdown as well as keeping up a daily web log (www.jimhightower.com.) Hightower also devotes much of his energy to revitalizing grassroots progressive politics with his nationwide "Rolling Thunder Down-Home Democracy Tour."
Easing into the interview I asked Jim about his current tour and about the reception he was receiving in his travels. Not only was he receiving a warm reception where ever he went, he was heartened by growing populist movement rising in opposition to corporate America and the Bush Administration. As to be expected we spent the majority of our time together speaking about President Bush.
According to Mr. Hightower, George W. Bush has "Spent his whole life fabricating," and does not represent the vast majority of Texans. When pressed on the issue Hightower cited six key lies associated with the George W. mythology. They are lies of omission regarding drug usage on the part of the President, lies centering around W's National Guard service, the business history of Bush II, his current budget proposals, weapons of mass destruction, and the "No child left behind" pledge.
One factoid that I found most revealing was that George W. spent only one year in the public school system. Which would explain his distain for public education.
Not all doom and gloom, Jim did stress the importance of people getting out of their Lazy-Boys and off the couch to take an active role in defending democracy against those trying to take power away from voters in favor of plutocracy and autocracy. Giving examples of encouraging news of what's good in the world Hightower mentioned Congressman Bob Filner, grocery workers standing up for workers rights, MoveOn.org, the Green Party, and FCC chairman Michael Powell being defeated by grassroots activism in regards to media consolidation.
With little time remaining I asked Mr. Hightower what was next on his very busy schedule, to which replied one more speaking gig in Southern California, and then back to Austin to finish his next book, The Top Ten Reasons to Elect George W. Bush. Seeking a scoop I asked to name those ten reasons, throwing me a bone he did share that cheap land purchased in Appalachia today will be prime oceanfront property by the time I am ready to retire.
In closing I asked Jim Hightower to speak directly about the role art played in politics to which he replied "Artists, whether musicians or fiction writers, get it way before politicians, being far more accessible to those seeking answers."
I dig Jim Hightower.