Thinking back to the time I thought John McCain was going to kiss me

Faithful readers will remember last week I told you there’s a lot I want to talk with you about before I leave. Actually, one-time readers will remember that if the one-time was last week.
Anyhoo, this job has allowed me to do a lot of really cool, really interesting, really fun things. I have also had to do some things that were hard and some things that were sad.
I’ve interviewed people who just lost a child. I’ve interviewed people who had a loved one murdered. I’ve taken pictures of dead people in cars. I’ve taken pictures of a dead accident victim being carried up an embankment in a way I thought at the time was very undignified, but really unavoidable.
I’ve interviewed politicians for practically every local, county, state and national office. There was a time every candidate for governor or Congress or U.S. Senate would absolutely visit every newspaper in the state for a sitdown.
I interviewed Lloyd Bentsen following a campaign speech he made on the steps of the former city hall and after a lunch at Thornwell. At the time, he was running for the 1976 Democratic presidential nomination. He got beat by Jimmy Carter.
Bentsen ended up being Michael Dukakis’ vice presidential running mate in 1988. During a debate, Republican VP nominee Dan Quayle (a fellow US Senator) compared himself to John Kennedy as far as experience was concerned when running for national office the first time.
Bentsen delivered the quote of the campaign (although it had been rehearsed) when he replied, “Senator, I served with Jack Kennedy. I knew Jack Kennedy. Jack Kennedy was a friend of mine (a stretch of the truth). Senator, you’re no Jack Kennedy.”
Back to me. I met John McCain as he stepped off the stage at PC following a speech the day after he defeated George W. Bush in New Hampshire.
Greg Van DeVoorde, who was covering the event for us, said it looked as if McCain was getting ready to kiss me.
He didn’t kiss me, but he kept looking at me until he became uncomfortable. I had to say something, so I did. “Congratulations on yesterday, senator. And welcome to South Carolina.”
Bush beat McCain in the Palmetto State, thanks to some nasty rumors spread by Bush operatives and then never looked back on the way to two terms in the White House.
Once, when Ernie Segars was working here, Strom Thurmond was scheduled to come by for an after-hours interview on a Thursday. He had car trouble and was an hour late getting here. He arrived in the front seat of a wrecker that had picked up his aide’s broken down car. While Ernie was interviewing Sen. Thurmond, the aide said they had to get to Laurens for an interview and then to Greenville for the senator to catch a flight back to Washington.
Would I drive them? He promised gas money. Heck yea, I would. I never got the gas money.
After the interview in Laurens, we piled in My First Wife’s car and headed up I-385 (it was Hwy. 276 then) to GSP. The aide told me to speed up again and again. The senator had to make his flight and no state trooper was going to give me a ticket, he said.
The senator was sitting in the front passenger seat. I looked over as he reached into his pocket, pulled out a Wendy’s cheeseburger that had to be hours and hours old and ate his supper, dripping all over the seat and floorboard.
Finally, I got tired of all the calls from the back seat to speed up. “I’m going as fast as I’m going to go,” I told the aide.
“Then let me drive,” he said. I did. He drove fast. The senator was mobbed as he walked through the airport. I then took the aide back to the garage in Joanna where his car waited. All fixed up.
The aide and I actually became friends and exchanged phone calls for awhile. Can’t remember his name now.
More to come.

(Larry Franklin is soon to retire as publisher of The Chronicle. His blog is available at

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