It’s Father’s Day and we at News from the Edge have got a father-and-son special edition for you. We’ve convinced Steven Moore and his dad George Gorton to sit down for this month’s Edgy Interview. Actually, it was Moore’s idea… he has a lot of good ideas.
It’s hard to know whether father or son is better travelled. They’ve both been around the world and then some. They also both work in politics, though George is more on the campaign side and Moore has been mostly on the legislative side. The little-known Gorton-CERC connection: George was CERC President John Nienstedt’s boss for awhile in 1986. He co-owned voter contact firm Direct Communication then, and Nienstedt (along with a couple other guys) ran phone banks in Texas from June through November that year. You could say there wouldn’t be a CERC without George Gorton.
What is the best professional advice you’ve ever received and who gave it to you?
SM: I received massive amounts of professional advice from George Gorton, my sometime business partner, traveling buddy and frequent father. One thing I remember in particular is, after I had project that I was working on go south, I was down on myself. He said “It is bad enough that this unfortunate thing has happened to you. Making yourself feel worse about it doesn’t help.”
GG: Bob White told me: do the right thing and pay your taxes.
Who shaped your thinking most on politics?
SM: Again, George Gorton. I was adopted, and George is my biological father. My biological mother Linda Serros reunited us during my senior year in college. I was a journalism major at the University of Oklahoma and had a head full of liberal ideas. George taught me about the free market and that wealth redistribution always requires coercion. On a more micro level, I also had the amazing advantage of being able to go into meetings with him in which I had no business. I got to ask him at length about what had happened during the day. I’m very fortunate to have been reunited with George on several levels.
GG: Pete Wilson.
If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
SM: I’m just too damned good looking.
GG: I would have gotten rid of my temper earlier in life.
What’s the most important issue facing California, why, and what should be done about it?
SM: The existential issue facing California and the rest of the nation is overspending. California’s state and local debt including pensions is estimated to be as high as $2.9 trillion. If we wanted to pay it off, every Californian would have to donate all their earnings to the Franchise Tax Board through November 6th. With interest rates rising, the debt balloons. This does not end well. With compound interest at work, whatever bad happens could happen very quickly.
GG: Artificial Intelligence. Google has invented AI that has invented its own AI that is smarter than any AI invented by man. How we interact with this new super computer that is smarter than us may not be up to us. Like in 2001: A Space Odyssey, we may have a problem. The human side will be led right here in our own Silicon Valley. I hope they are ready.
What’s the best thing about the USA?
SM: I’ve visited more than fifty countries and lived for some time in seven or eight. As much as progressives complain about injustices in America, virtually everybody in the USA is better off than in their ancestral home. The median American household of Hispanic origin is more prosperous than the median household in every country in Latin America. And the median Asian-American household is more prosperous than the median household of every country in Asia. The median household for Americans of European heritage is more prosperous than every country in Europe, save Norway, Sweden and Luxembourg. If African-Americans were to form a country, their median household income would make it more prosperous than all but about 25 countries, including every country in Africa.
GG: It is a melting pot. People from Pakistan and India who would shoot each other on sight in their home country go to picnics together here.
Which American from history do you identify with most and why?
SM: Count Agoston Haraszthy, the founder of Buena Vista winery in Sonoma county. The Count took big risks, wasn’t afraid to try new things, made a difference in his communities and got to travel the world at a time when travel was not easy. Very interesting guy. He was a Hungarian nobleman who came to America in 1840 at the age of 28 and declared himself a count. He settled in Wisconsin, became an American citizen and never went back to Hungary. While in Wisconsin, he built a town now known as Sauk City. He was pulled to California by news of the gold rush. Rather than lust after gold, he decided to settle in San Diego in 1849. He opened numerous businesses and by 1850, he was elected sheriff, then to the Assembly in 1851. He began importing European grapes in this time frame. He moved to San Francisco to grow grapes. Realizing the climate was not conducive, he moved to Sonoma in 1856 and founded Buena Vista. In 1861, Governor John Downey sent Haraszthy to Europe to investigate best practices in wine making. By the mid 1860s, all of Buena Vista’s vines succumbed to disease and died. Haraszthy declared bankruptcy and in 1868 he moved to Nicaragua where he planned to develop a sugar plantation. In 1869, he was exploring a river near his property and was never heard from again. It is assumed he was either swept out to sea or eaten by crocodiles.
GG: Peter Pan. Not sure of his citizenship, but like Peter Pan, I never want to grow up.
If you could return to a place you’ve traveled, where would you go?
SM: I hitchhiked through Australia for about six months in 1991. People picked me up, took me home, fed me, got me drunk, let me spend the night then sent me along the next day with a sandwich. One young couple let me stay on their family plantation and taught me cricket. A year later, authorities began finding bodies of hitch hikers decaying in the woods. I’m sure hitch hiking is less prevalent in Australia these days. I’d love to return to those more innocent days.
GG: According to Albert Einstein, there is no place or time. There is only place time. I’m not quite sure what he means about that, but applying it to travel, I would pick an island in the South China Sea in 1985.
What was the last good movie you saw? Give me a one sentence review.
SM: Deadpool 2 – something to offend everyone.
GG: “Do you Trust this Computer?” This is a documentary which will scare the hell out of you.
Who is your favorite artist — any medium – and why?
SM: Local San Diego photographer Kevin McIlwaine is an amazing artist. He was in finance, got burned out and left the corporate world because he always enjoyed photography. He started out doing weddings and now does corporate work, sports photography, artistic photos and so much more. He came out of retirement to shoot Katherine & my wedding in April. The photos are awesome.
GG: Peter Max. I like bright colors.
What was your favorite musical genre as a teenager and what are you listening to now?
SM: As a teenager, nothing but classic rock was blasting out of my car stereo – Allman Brothers, Grateful Dead, The Who and The Rolling Stones. I still listen to that genre but also get a lot of new music off of Sirius XMU, Spotify and by having Shazam at ready when I am out and about. My new wife (6 weeks) Katherine and I have Jack White tickets for September. We also like Tame Impala, Warpaint and others.
GG: When I was a kid, we didn’t have musical genres. I remember Elvis storming in with Hound Dog, Don’t Be Cruel, and All Shook Up. Now I like listening to The Mamas & The Papas, The Lovin’ Spoonful and The Doors.
Favorite sport and why?
SM: Football is a bunch of spoiled millionaires and billionaire owners trying to get taxpayers to subsidize their business. Baseball is fun in person (Go Padres!), but deathly boring on TV. At 5’6”, I never developed a taste for basketball. Katherine is a big hockey fan. We went to a Vegas game last December and caught the bug. We watched almost every Knights playoff game. I generally like sports I can do rather than watch – snowboarding, sailing, skiing, scuba diving and trail running spring to mind.
GG: I’m not a big sports guy. If forced to choose, I would pick football, because the willingness of voters to subsidize billionaire owners provides comic relief.
Favorite alcoholic beverage in winter and summer?
SM: Ketel One martini, dirty with three olives and a splash of vermouth. All-purpose drink. My take on James Bond’s drink. Really… does anyone stir martinis?
GG: Winter – martinis. Summer – margaritas.
Which reality TV show would you most like to compete on and why?
SM: I don’t watch reality TV shows, but isn’t there one where teams of people compete in an around-the-world race? If not, there should be. That would be huge fun. [Ed. The show you want to go on is The Amazing Race. It’s won like a dozen Emmys. Nienstedt and you should try out for it as a team and win the million-dollar prize.]
GG: The Kardashians for obvious reasons.
What advice do you have for young people starting out?
SM: Leave. Go far away. Stay there for six months or a year. Come back and be a more well-rounded person. It doesn’t cost much in terms of money or time and it will make a huge difference in your life.
GG: Be prepared for two or three different careers.
What do you consider to be your greatest accomplishment?
SM: On one level, I’m pretty proud of being the Chief of Staff to the fourth ranking Congressman in House leadership. Within four years, we took him from being an endangered freshman on everyone’s target list to having an office under the Capitol Dome. We were in a position to do a lot of good for a lot of people, and we did. On another level, I was able to help a lot of people in Iraq. In 2004, two of my friends were killed, one Iraqi and one American. Suhair, the sister of the Iraqi who was killed, worked for me. When I found out Suhair’s sister was killed, I had to go tell her, and her family. Muslims believe the body has to be in the ground within 24 hours. I spent the next 24 hours trying to get the body to Suhair’s family. It was really rough having to share the family’s grief, but if I hadn’t gotten involved, it might have taken days or weeks for the family to find out. Or they may never have found out.
GG: The Russian presidential campaign was the biggest deal, being the National College Director of a U.S. Presidential campaign was the most fun, and the Governor’s races in California were the most challenging — all of them. [Ed. Check out Spinning Boris.]