The dying art of political compromise lost another champion this past week, and we will all too soon lose another one.
First to former two-term California Republican Governor George Deukmejian, who died of natural causes at his modest Long Beach home at age 89. And with his passing the nation’s political class lost yet another of “the old guard”—those seasoned veterans who thought reaching across the aisle was a better way to move our country forward that the bitter partisan acrimony that now threatens to tear our country apart.
USC Price School of Public Policy Professor Sherry Bebitch Jeffe perhaps said it best: “George Deukmejian was a very hard, conservative Republican. He was strong on law and order — but he could, and did, work across the aisle with Democrats when he felt it was right. I don’t think we’re ever going to see a political environment like that again, at least not in the near future. His passing underscores the drive away from being able to compromise, and communicates between the two major parties.”
For those who may not know the background of this son of Armenian immigrants, Deukmejian served 16 years in the California state legislature and one term as Attorney General before narrowly defeating Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley for Governor in 1982. Four years later, after helping recall three liberal state Supreme Court Justices, he won his second term in a landslide. His platform was a simple one: tough on crime and no new taxes.
Yet there was a side of George Deukmejian most voters never saw, but I had the good fortune of witnessing firsthand. Before embarking on a journalism career, I ran a political consulting firm in California, mostly helping businesses navigate the minefields of local politics. The legendary political consultant Bill Roberts asked me to help him run George’s campaign for Attorney General in northern California. I readily accepted, knowing the best way to forge a successful career in journalism was to understand how the system really worked in the rough and tumble world of politics.
California Governor George Deukmejian’s wife, Gloria, with Brian Banmiller at office Christmas party. Dec 1984.
I had many “learning” experiences working with George, but one stands out. One day during the AG campaign, I showed George a sampling of calls from voters on various subjects, including questions about his hard line stance on the death penalty. He randomly returned a constituent’s call from my office, trying to explain his “law and order” stance to a woman who was not buying what he was selling. But George pushed on; despite the fact I had booked him on a popular radio program within the hour, where he would be exposed to hundreds of thousands of voters. “George” I explained, “don’t get worked up over one vote before a major appearance.” We were late. George lost the lady’s vote, but won the election in part because his brand of retail politics connected with voters. He simply listened to them.
Another member of “the old guard” in the sunset of his years is Arizona Republican Senator John McCain, war hero turned public servant. During his 31 year long career in the US Senate, he championed “the art of compromise”. Now sidelined with brain cancer, his positive attitude toward his illness is the same trait that’s made him such a successful leader. His astounding life is well documented in the recent unofficial biography by Elaine Povich apply titled: “John McCain: American Maverick”.
From Amazon book reviews: “This unofficial retrospective honors and pays homage to Senator McCain’s astonishing journey—a story of courage, resilience, and leadership; irrepressibility, determination, and grit…it covers his childhood as the son and grandson of admirals, his service as a naval aviator in Vietnam and subsequent harrowing five-year imprisonment in a POW camp, his congressional and senatorial careers, his family, his presidential campaigns, and perhaps his most important role yet, as an elder statesman willing to stand up for the nation.”
My own experience with Senator McCain showed me the depth of his character. During a one-on-one television interview some years ago, as we started the interview, my cameraman Sean Drummond suggested we change the shot from shooting his left side to shooting his right side. Afterwards I asked why? Turns out McCain had undergone treatment for skin cancer and it showed in a dramatic scar on his left cheek. Most other politicians or celebrities I’ve interviewed over four decades would have asked us to shoot his or her “good side”. Not so for Senator McCain. He cared more about the questions than how he looked. And cameraman Sean Drummond’s sensitivity was indeed professional and impressive.
Having worked with Governor George Deukmejian and interviewed Senator McCain, I’m reminded of a famous quote from another great statesman, Winston Churchill. “Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak. Courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen.” That kind of courage is the building block of the “political compromise” we so desperately need in America.
CBS News Radio national business journalist Brian Banmiller has spent more than 40 years in the news industry, covering business, politics and the economy on television, radio and in print. Currently, his “Banmiller on Business” reports are delivered to an audience of millions nationwide.
TV / Radio / Print / Web Reports
Current Weekly Radio Audience
Endorsements for Brian
A superb keynote for your conference.
Brian has interviewed some of the most fascinating people in the world, understands the latest trends in the business community and talks eloquently about both. He'll make a superb keynote speaker for your conference. While he's there, why not hire him to emcee your entire event? Your attendees will be talking about the quality of your conference for years.
- Patricia Fripp, CSP, CPAE | President, National Speakers Association
Brian gives audiences the tools to thrive.
By painting a clear and compelling picture of the global economy, Brian arms an audience with the cutting-edge knowledge necessary to survive and thrive in an ever-evolving and dramatically changing worldwide business environment.
- Tom Peters | Best-Selling Author of "In Search of Excellence"
One of the finest journalists I've met.
I'm constantly impressed with Brian's ability to take complex high tech issues and make them so simple to understand for wide audiences. Silicon Valley CEOs appreciate his interviews and reports because his perspective is always right on. Brian really is one of the finest journalists I have met.
- Carl Guardino | President and CEO, Silicon Valley Leadership Group
Simply put, Brian gets it.
Brian Banmiller is one of the most knowledgeable and entertaining personalities in business news reporting. Simply put, he gets it.
- John Chen | CEO, Blackberry
Entertaining to millions.
I have been interviewed by Brian dozens of times over my career, from Chief Communications Officer for Charles Schwab to my current work advising Fortune 500 CEO's. His communications skills are excellent, with his unique ability to make complicated topics entertaining to millions of listeners and live audiences.
- Mark Thompson | Executive Coach and Best-Selling Author on Leadership
One of the best reporters in the country.
I find Brian one of the very best business reporters in the country. He is a great interviewer and makes business and the markets understandable to his many viewers and listeners nationwide.
- Charles Schwab | Chairman, Charles Schwab Corporation
Brian just makes sense.
Brian Banmiller makes sure that business and economics make sense.
- Daniel Yergin | Award-Winning Author, "The Prize: The Epic Quest for Oil, Money and Power"
Popular Reports, Articles & Videos
Latest CBS Radio Reports
Brian's diverse experience and unique perspectives combine with his pleasant and personal manner to engage audiences on many levels. From his days as an Air Force squadron commander to his long career as a business journalist, commentator and public speaker, Brian's approach to speaking and presentation is thought-provoking, inspirational and creative.
"The Technology Tornado: Media & Communications in the Modern Era"
Phoenix Convention Center
August 28th, 2019