Columnist Molly Ivins played in Peoria. Speaking to a packed Neumiller lecture Hall at Bradley University, the syndicated writer, whose columns run in the Zephyr and the Peoria Journal-Star brought her Texas wit and political observations to middle America.
In an interview before her talk, Ivins answered questions about several topics. ''In Houston, the Chronicle has done a disgraceful job reporting the Enron fiasco. When they announced their 'restated earnings,' the Chronicle's lead compared it to a person's checkbook balance not agreeing with their bank statement.'' The smart people in Texas were always wary of the firm. Nobody could figure out what they actually did as a business. I know investment counselors who wouldn't let their clients invest in Enron -- even as they were booming.''
Ivins often writes about the vagaries of Texas politics but says she's envious of Illinois journalists. ''We never had anyone leave their money in shoeboxes. We've got a lot of good stuff in Texas but never anything that good. When Texas and illinois journalists get together, they talk about their respective legislatures; they're both more fun than the average bear.''
She is critical of the widening gulf between the rich and the not-so-rich in the nation and she sees that as President Bush's main shortcoming. ''He is not a mean man; he's not a stupid man. I believe he is a good man with a good heart but he just doesn't see people in pain. He thinks the world is full of people who can pull themselves up by their bootstraps. He likes to think even he did it on his own.''
Ivins says she's ''optimistic to the point of idiocy.'' ''Campaign finance reform is a step in the right direction. We have an oligarchy now -- a system run by the rich and for the rich. That has got to change. Elected representative don't respond to the people; they respond to the people who give them money. They're the folks who brought us deregulated savings and loans; what a memorable success that was. The real answer is public financing of campaigns with some limits. We want every reasonable person with a good idea to be able to run but we sure don't want every crackpot with ambition to be able to campaign on our nickel. Until we get the money fixed, we're not going to get substantive changes made on other issues. If anything positive comes out of the Enron collapse, this could be it. Politics always evolves and this will, too.''
In her talk, Ivins interspersed a lot of humor. She explained that mothers make great politicians. ''They know two things. They know what to do when there are two kids and one cookie. They also know what to do when they're driving somewhere and the two kids in the back seat are acting up. All problems, from the federal budget to peace in the middle east, are variations. The world would be a better place if it were run by women but it's bad PR to say so.''
Ivins encouraged her audience to get involved with their local political party. ''Go to your local meeting with a few friends and you'll be surprised how much influence you can wield. Pretty soon, you might find yourself in control.'' She also said that encouraging third parties helps move the big parties in that direction.
Answering some questions, she commented on John Ashcroft and Hillary Clinton. ''He's a real piece of work. What does it say when in his home state he lost to a dead guy? I think his main problem is that he has a real problem with his priorities.''
''I ran into Hillary Clinton often when she was the first lady of a neighboring state. I covered a lot of panels and meetings where she was. She is a real expert on children's issues but she always hit me as one of those Methodist-do-gooders. You know the type, real straight with no sense of humor. Then she goes to D.C. and goes apeshit. I don't know what to think of her any more.''
She concluded her talk by and encouraging the audience to go out and change the world but ''y'all need to have more fun while doin' good. It takes a little imagination; I have found that a pitcher or two of beer is helpful. We need to put the party back in politics. There are two reasons to have fun while fighting for freedom. One, we don't always win and it might be the only fun you'll have. Two, it makes life worth living. If you raise enough hell, people will respond.''
That's what Molly Ivins does.