Just when I think it can’t get any more redundant, another presidential primary is given more air time than it probably deserves. Elections, campaigns and primaries can be about as boring as a church service you’re forced to attend and can’t leave. However, I must admit this Republican primary has piqued my interest ... a little. I wasn’t sure what it was, but I was actually enjoying Newt Gingrich’s all too frank answers about Mitt Romney being a liar and Gingrich being (gasp!) APPALLED that some low life journalist would DARE ask him – at a presidential debate of all things – about his first wife’s claims that he wanted an “open” marriage.
Yes, it became entertaining, but something was missing. I wasn’t sure what it was until one evening while watching “Hardball” on MSNBC, Newt’s scowling mug was projected onto the screen with the words “Fear and Loathing” splashed across the bottom. That’s when I realized what was missing: Hunter Thompson.
I would love to see the famed journalist unleashed from his peacock farm in Colorado so he could put his hellish – and frighteningly articulate – spin on this Republican presidential primary. This campaign was made for Thompson. It started out like a slow train on its way to Mitt Romney’s garage, only to pick up steam and careen off the tracks, as if the engineer decided to indulge Thompson’s philosophy of “better living through chemistry.” It’s been quite a circus with unforeseen victories, attacks and accusations from Ron Paul, Rick Santorum and Gingrich. Of course Rick Perry was along, but I suspect he only showed up to provide comic relief.
Thompson’s chronicle of a presidential campaign gone haywire resulted in a brilliant piece of Gonzo Journalism titled “Fear and Loathing: On the Campaign Trail ‘72,” in which he covered the presidential campaign of George McGovern. Thompson documented and portrayed an entire political party flying blind and crashing to certain defeat amidst an atmosphere of political delusion and “bad craziness.” Frankly, that campaign was more chaotic than this one, but with a cast of characters like Gingrich, (who could make Richard Nixon look like a choirboy), Santorum (who is slightly holier than Pat Robertson) and Romney (who went to the Al Gore School of Charisma), Thompson would have a field day.
The problem, as everyone knows, is that Hunter Thompson is dead. After a bout of bad health and depression, he took his own life in 2005, depriving us all of his skewered and astonishingly accurate view of America and the machine that makes it work.
I encountered Hunter Thompson once here in Louisville at an event honoring him and the movie based on his novel, “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.” Plastered on Wild Turkey, he handed me a fire extinguisher and wanted me to blast someone; “Go on! Do it! It’s fun!” he said. This was in front of an audience of several hundred friends and fans, and as much as I wanted to blast him, I handed it to his son, Juan, who was standing near me. Juan blasted his father with one long jet of CO2 and Thompson danced in the stream like a man who truly enjoyed life.
I miss Hunter Thompson and wish he was still with us. Our political system is incredibly boring without him.