Somewhat overshadowed by the death of President George H.W. Bush, one of the giants of his generation, a White House press legend also passed this week. I can’t help but note the common personality characteristics “41” shared with Les Kinsolving, the 90-year-old gadfly who posed questions to presidents dating back to the years of Richard Nixon.
They were both eminent gentlemen.
I know that’s probably of term of endearment that is politically incorrect, racially insensitive, cultural appropriative, or sexist. But that’s the word that best applies to these men.
The were just nice, kind, polite, affable, amiable, well-mannered, respectable men.
Many spoke with great eloquence about Bush’s demeanor. Let me tell you about both and how you can pay your respects to Les Kinsolving who will be laid to rest and memorialized by his friends and family next week after dying last Tuesday.
Nest Friday, Dec. 14, at 1 p.m., the public that appreciated his humor, his wit, his wisdom and his public persona of irascibility in the face of personal humility and honor, are welcome to come celebrate his life at the Church of the Holy Comforter, 543 Beulah Road NE, Vienna, Virginia.
While Les was just a wonderful, wonderful man, he knew his job as a journalist – and a real journalist was he.
It didn’t matter whether the president was a Republican or Democrat, Kinsolving’s job was to get you outside your comfort zone. That’s why some presidents and many press secretaries didn’t call on him. Even though had plenty of seniority in the White House for the last 20 years, he was never among the “elite,” the “mainstream,” what we today call “the establishment fake news gang.”
Nevertheless, Les did his job week after week – rain or shine – showing up for a chance to raise a question no one else in the press corps would ask.
Clinton’s people shut him down, Bush’s people shut him down, Obama’s people shut him down. Sadly, by the time President Trump was in the White House, Les’ health had deteriorated. I personally would have loved to see Les question Trump or press secretary Sarah Sanders. I’m sure she would never have dodged him.
I had the privilege of publishing Les’ colorful life story, “Gadfly: The Life and Times of Les Kinsolving White House Watchdog,” ably authored by his beloved daughter Kathleen Kinsolving. I believed Les was a national treasure – sort of an informed, respectful and entertaining version of Jim Acosta, if you can imagine something like that.
I enjoyed being an occasional guest on his 28-year-long Baltimore WCBM-AM talk show – “Uninhibited Radio.”
I’ll tell you one inside story about Les. He would call me during his many years as the WND White House press correspondent. Despite his usual humor and good cheer, sometimes he would tell me he just couldn’t do it any more. The civility inside Washington he had experienced in earlier decades was gone. Making his way to the White House only to be ignored took its toll on Les. So often he confessed he’d had enough. But he didn’t want to let me down.
I told him the truth: There was nobody else like Les Kinsolving in Washington. He should keep doing it as long as be had the stomach for it. We enjoyed those talks together – two old news hounds talking about the good old days, both of us getting our big newspaper starts at Hearst papers in California, me in L.A. and he in San Francisco.
My life was touched by Les as it was by the other gentleman we memorialized this week.
After experiencing Ronald Reagan in the 1980s, I moved from the far left of the political spectrum to what I characterized as the “founding father center.” In the election year of 1988, my newspapers in Southern California, under my direction as editor, endorsed Reagan’s successor. A few days after his victory, I got one of those famous handwritten notes of thanks from Bush 41. More surprising was getting another one four years later at the Sacramento Union following his tough loss to Bill Clinton.
That’s just the way men of character are.