95-Year-Old Senate Candidate 'Never Surprised' by Politics

While Gov. Manchin claims to seek balance between coal and environmental interests, Hechler feels that in practice "his balance goes 100 percent towards coal."

"Anyone that knows Gov. Joe Manchin knows that he listens to all sides," Scarbro said. "And he truly believes that we can balance our economy with our environment when it comes to our energy needs."

While the EPA had increased scrutiny of mountaintop removal under the Obama administration, Hechler sees these as "very halting steps."

"I don't think he's gone far enough, both in this area and in the area of global warming. The so-called cap-and-trade bill which was recently passed provides not enough cap and too darn much trade."

He cites deregulation as part of the problem.

"The Tea Party people that want to get the government out and the Ronald Reagan supporters who want less government are really hurting the average people, particularly the lower income people," Hechler said.

Hechler also criticized the legislative maneuvering surrounding the passage of health care reform.

"The leadership of the Congress felt it was necessary to pay off people to get their votes so that they could produce a majority of health care," he said, "and all those buyouts should be immediately removed from the health care legislation that was passed because that's simply waste."

The former congressman has strong words for the way in which today's legislators conduct themselves.

"The biggest change is in the relations between Democrats and Republicans," Hechler said. "There's gridlock in Washington today because both the members of the Democratic Party and the Republican Party are scratching each others' eyes out."

"I took the lead when I was in the Congress in making friendships with members of the Republican Party and working across the aisle with people like Bob Dole to fashion legislation that was good for the entire country rather than trying to just grind their noses into the dirt the way the current situation is," he said.

To restore a sense of public service, Hechler advocates reducing members' pay.

"Serving in the Congress should be an honor, and they ought to be paid more like the people in Peace Corps for having that honor," he said.

President Truman, Hechler remembered, eschewed appeals to popular opinion.

"He would never allow any of us to take a poll," Hechler said, "because he said polls never indicate the difference between justice and injustice, they just give you a little snapshot of temporary public opinion.

"He wrote in his diary, 'What if Moses had taken a poll in Egypt or Martin Luther at the time of the reformation had taken a poll.' He never relied on temporary popular opinion in order to make his decision."

Hechler said Truman based his actions, including pioneering work on civil rights, on the fact that establishing justice has a prominent place in the preamble of the Constitution.

"He believed his moral compass was that word, justice," Hechler said. "He should get the credit as the greatest civil rights president rather than Lyndon Johnson."

Reflecting his respect for his mentor, Hechler said, "My moral compass will be eight words of Thomas Jefferson: 'Equal rights for all, special privileges for none.'"

While Hechler's chances in the Aug. 28 primary are slim, he denied he would be surprise to win after years in public service.

"I would be gratified," he said. "I'm never surprised by anything in politics."

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