For the last couple of months, though, it wasn’t that way. Tuesday morning at Barista’s was “Politics Tuesday” at the coffee shop and gathering spot, and the campaign rhetoric was as thick and foamy as proprietors Hus and Nini Patel’s cappuccino.
Those mornings featured two political combatants, both of whom spoke with fervor while remaining cordial in the process.
It all started a couple of months ago when Bill Pollard, the free-enterprise Republican CPA and avid supporter of Mitt Romney, and Tom Tillotson, the balanced-economy Livermore Lab chemist and Barack Obama backer, began advancing the merits of their candidates and the shortcomings of opponents.
As the presidential campaign progressed through the summer, occasional verbal skirmishes between the two became almost-daily tussles. But going toe to toe every weekday morning became a bit too much — for them and everyone else present — and they agreed to limit their “discussions” to Tuesday, which became known as “Politics Tuesday.”
On those designated mornings, while many of us other coffee-sipping regulars would sit around and listen and often chortle, the two gladiators duked it out:
“Romney will get the country moving again,” Bill would say. “Obama has the respect of leaders around the world; Romney doesn’t,” Tom would announce. “Obama’s first debate performance dooms him,” Bill would shout with glee. “Oh, oh, Romney’s stuck his foot in his mouth again.” Tom would announce with equal delight. “The polls show Romney’s closing fast; he has the momentum to win,” Bill would state with mounting confidence. “Oh, no, he doesn’t; Nate Silver (New York Times) says the math’s solidly with Obama in ‘battleground states,” Tom would respond with a wide smile. And so it went.
Occasionally, someone like Larry Fragoso, Noel Parker, Mark Wible or C.P. Riddle would enter the fray, but for the most part it was Double T vs. Bub (their real nicknames).
Along the way, a bet was agreed to. The loser would treat the winner and his friends to lunch at the Wool Growers in Los Banos.
Wednesday morning, after Obama had been declared the winner, Bill appeared at Barista’s bright and early to announce that he would be driving Tom and his friends to Los Banos on Saturday for lunch at the Basque restaurant.
“The election was over, and I want the president to work with Congress,” he said. “I’m ready to go to Los Banos and have a good time.”
Tom was appreciative of the stand-up attitude taken by his vanquished friend. “He’s a classy guy,” Tom said.
So, as I said in the opening paragraph, next Tuesday won’t be “Politics Tuesday.” But I know that politics can’t be banished completely from the Baristas’s table-topics agenda. There will most certainly be some talk of the election, probably mostly about what the candidates did right and wrong.
And without a doubt, there will be another important topic: “How was the lamb stew at the Wool Growers?”
The Press didn’t make any endorsements in Tuesday’s election, and we missed a beat in not explaining why.
Quite simply, with the ownership of the newspaper changing hands exactly at the same time as the election, we felt it would be inappropriate to offer endorsements of candidates just as the new owners were about to take over.
During the campaign, the Press sponsored candidates forums for local races and gave extensive coverage to the views of the candidates — important elements of the election process.
Whether newspapers should make endorsements and whether they do any good are questions continually debated. After we had made endorsements of losing candidates in several elections, our views were labeled “the kiss of death.” Other times, though, we sided with winners.
At the very least, newspaper endorsements can spark some debate and add interest to campaigns, and I’m certain the new owners will take that in account when the next election rolls around.
In the meantime, I know the Press will continue to offer opinions in editorials about specific issues facing our community.
• Sam Matthews, Tracy Press publisher emeritus, can be reached at 830-4234 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.