When songwriter, crime novelist, notorious wit, and inimitably American Kinky Friedman added gubernatorial candidate to his already powerful wheelhouse, the 67-year-old progenitor of the infamous country and western ensemble The Texas Jewboys endeared himself to supporters with slogans like, "How Hard Could It Be?," "Why The Hell Not?," "My Governor is a Jewish Cowboy" and "He Ain't Kinky, He's My Governor." He then stunned naysayers by placing fourth in the six-person 2006 race down in Texas.
"The Kinkster" spoke to us from his ranch in the Texas hill country recently to discuss his enduring music and literary career and his plans to saddle up again and try and unseat the incumbent Governor of Texas, Rick Perry, in the 2014 election.
Kinky, why do people tend not to take entertainers seriously when they run for office? Is it really any worse of a profession than any other as far as qualifying one for public service?
Well, it's actually a higher calling to be a musician, playing your songs on the road, than it is to be a politician.
Why do you think?
I've always said that musicians could better run our country than politicians, and though we wouldn't get a hell of a lot done in the morning we'd work late, and we'd be honest and decent. Politicians today are none of those things. The problem is that they are walking re-election machines, perpetually behind the curve. You don't see any Winston Churchills or Barbara Jordans out there today.
Are there any living politicians you respect?
I respect Bill Clinton, I am fond of George W Bush (both are my friends), there are a couple of congressmen from Texas--Lloyd Doggett, the Democrat, and Lamar Smith, the Republican. Both are good congresspeople that basically are doing their job, but they've been around forever. Between the two of them they've been around for 70 years, and that's part of the problem.
When you ran for Governor of Texas in 2006 how many votes did you get?
We got slightly under 600,000 which is a lot considering only 26 percent of the people voted. And that's what did us in.
How did it do you in?
Because for an independent to win you have to have a huge turnout. Here in Texas Jesus Christ couldn't win as an independent. As an independent you come in and attack both houses and they're both corrupt. Leadership in both parties is corrupt. If I run again in 2014 it would be as an old fashioned Harry Truman Democrat in the democratic primary. Not as a modern day Democrat, like Harry Reid, but like Harry Truman. But if I'm running as a Democrat I've got to be a purist. Most Texans want to know if I am serious and if I really am a Democrat (at least to those who vote in the Democratic primary). My big mistake was running as an independent.
When did you decide to run as a Democrat?
This idea was put in my head a few months back by [country singer] Ray Price, who said that if I ran, with that spirit of Truman in mind, a serious campaign (unlike my more absurdist campaign I ran in 2006) and if I could win the primary I'd be the governor of Texas.
How do you figure?
Because so many Tea Party folks, independents, Ron Paul people, and Republicans would support me. These people could elect a Democratic governor for a change in Texas-which would be a good balance. By the way, people think of Ron Paul voters as right wing. They're not. A lot of them are marijuana people who want marijuana legislation.
How will you conduct your campaign differently this time around?
I'm not going to have slogans if I run. The only slogan I'll have is what Winston Churchill used to stamp on important wartime memos and that is "Action This Day!" And that's what we're not getting. We've got a governor that's been in office for 11 years and he's got no policies. Instead of Texas talking its own states programs, or Texas aggressively leading in the fight against cancer - which we could take the lead in- or doing something about immigration ourselves. Rick Perry doesn't do any of those things. All Rick Perry can say is "that's a federal issue" or "we're waiting for the feds." Well, nobody likes the feds and my concern is with the future of the state of Texas.
Even though you are running as a "Harry Truman Democrat" aren't you afraid of alienating your more conservative supporters?
The question is can anybody that the democrats put up win? And the answer is no, except Kinky. I'm the guy that could win for them. And I would like to end this 25 year political drought which every statewide office has gone to one party.That just breeds corruption, sloth, and laziness. That's not a good thing for anybody. I am about listening to the people and then standing up for them.
With no disrespect to your past absurdist campaign- everybody knows that you're a deeply committed and serious person- but when you got 600 hundred thousand votes, was that enough to sober you up to run a serious campaign the next time around?
I'm a serious soul nobody takes seriously, as [country songwriter] Billy Joe Shaver once said in a song. The issue here really is, I don't want to be a Ralph Nader--nobody wants to be taken as a fool and I don't want to just run to run to beat Rick Perry. No, that's not really good enough. If I run I definitely have some ideas in mind about education, for instance, in which Texas is at the bottom of the pack--we're not the last- but doing very poorly as usual when we're the #1 business climate. What's wrong with that picture?
What was your opinion of the Tea Party movement?
I think the tea party was mishandled badly by the by the modern day, so-called democrats. First of all, the Tea Party was never racist in any way. They're racist like Bill Clinton or Mark Twain are racist. And, the tea party had one issue, their big thing is the constitution and what it stands for, and what it means to them. Ironically, the person who would have embraced them would have been Barbara Jordan because the constitution was her bible. And she would have gotten the whole Tea Party to be democrats instead of mocking and demonizing them, as they did.
You mentioned marijuana earlier. Do you think we should be fighting a war on drugs?
Of course not. The smart thing to do is to decriminalize marijuana and then legalize it. It would blow a hole in the drug cartels, it would empty out our prisons of non-violent offenders who shouldn't be there. The only thing California is doing successfully financially is their medical marijuana program.
Let's talk about music. Are you still performing?
I just came off a recent tour which I called the Bi Polar Tour, 25 shows in 26 days of the east coast and Canada, all solo. It's a little bit of Mark Twain mixed in with a singer songwriter, and always a little bit of Judy Garland of course.
What's new on the literary front?
Willie Nelson and I have a book coming out November 13th which we co-wrote called, Roll Me Up and Smoke Me When I'm Gone. The Willie book is a good one. It's funny and kind of tragic in some ways, just like life. I also worked on a book recently with Billy Bob Thornton, which I helped shepherd him through, called The Billy Bob Tapes: A Cave Full of Ghosts, which came out a couple of months ago.
What are some of your hobbies, Kinky?
I'm not a collector. In fact, I don't have any hobbies. The only two things I'm interested in are Libya and Charlie Sheen.
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