No place for bitterness


WASHINGTON -- I was sitting on my front porch -- or as we now call it, Campaign Central -- wondering whether I have to list a 1958 Ford transmission as a donation on my Federal Election Commission report. A supporter dropped it off the other day. He told me he'd never made a campaign contribution before, but he'd heard about the campaign and my problems with the Ford.

He told me he was from Small Town, America, and wanted to help out in any way he could. After allowing the dogs to sniff him, he climbed up on the porch -- or rather Campaign Central -- and told me I was the only candidate who appeared on a venue like they have in Small Town, America. Every other candidate appears in fancy meeting halls and auditoriums, but he liked the look and feel of the porch. Anyway, he had this transmission, and he thought it would be of some use.

I asked him why he lugged a transmission all the way from Small Town to here, on foot. I didn't see any car or truck.

"Oh," he answered. "At nearly four bucks a gallon, I couldn't afford to drive here from Small Town, America. I took the bus. Because there's a bus stop near your front porch, it wasn't hard to lug the transmission here."

Seeing as he was all hot and sweaty from carrying the transmission, I didn't have the heart to tell him we now call the front porch Campaign Central. But seeing as I am a presidential contender, I felt I should find out about this week's Burning Issue, so I asked him if the price of gas made him bitter.

"Bitter?" he said. "I'm not bitter. I'm from Small Town, America."

From my lofty perch on Campaign Central, I thanked him for the transmission and asked him how he got time off from work to come here from Small Town, America, with a transmission on his lap.

"I don't have a job," he said. "The last job I had was unbolting the machinery I used to run to make auto parts overseas."

Something like that ought to make someone bitter.

"Bitter?" he said. "I'm not bitter. I'm from Small Town, America."

Because I am a candidate for leader of the free world, I felt I should find out about this man's life, so I asked about his kids.

"I have a son," he said. "He's doing his third tour in Iraq. He joined the Army to pay for college. He went through Operation Iraqi Freedom, the surge, and now he's in operation Stop Loss. He's 26 now."

I told him that he was about the same age as I when I graduated from college. Was he upset that his son was spending his youth and risking his life in some far-away land? Did that make him bitter?

"Bitter?" he said. "I'm not bitter. I'm from Small Town, America."

I asked him about his home.

"What home?" he said. "They foreclosed on me after my job got sent overseas and my mortgage payment ballooned. That's why I had to clean out the garage and get rid of the transmission."

I wondered if that made him bitter.

"Bitter?" he said. "I'm not bitter. I'm from Small Town, America."

I marveled at this man. It seems that people from Small Town, America, are characterized by a nearly unbounded optimism. Nothing seemed to get the guy down. And on top of that, he was giving me a transmission.

The only problem is that after fighting off the wasps and sweating under the Ford for about six hours, the damn thing didn't fit.

Bitter? You're damn right, I'm bitter.