Black and white photo of a lean middle-aged man dressed in a heavy winter coat standing in front of a frozen lake in the background.
David Stuckenberg; photo courtesy

TLC-186 — Democracy in Dispute: David Stuckenberg

January 23, 2024

I walked south on Water Street, searching for the strangely elusive location where David Stuckenberg was to announce his candidacy for President of the United States shortly. I’d had to get up and out the door by 6:30 a.m. to make the 11 o’clock beginning of ceremonies in Plymouth, Mass. I got there just in time, but was told by a crusty old blue-blood that I couldn’t come in because she’d never heard of me. I went ‘round back of the mansion overlooking the Atlantic and found a group of other journalists she’d never heard of denied entrance.

Eventually the six or seven of us made enough commotion laughing and carrying on that some guy came out and told us to keep it down, but also that the woman was just with the venue and had no right to prohibit our entry, and sorry about all that. Oh, and by the way, the opening speech is over and the first set of reporters are almost done asking one-on-one questions. Do we still want to go in? We’d have to wait until a break to enter the main event room, of course. 

You’re probably wondering why a reporter from the town farthest north and west in Massachusetts travelled diagonally across the Commonwealth as far as one can go without getting his socks wet. To cover a presidential campaign launch. Of a Republican.


It’s good to know what all sides are thinking. And from the press release I’d received the week before, I sensed that this primary challenger from Florida was more than capable of some high-level thought. The research I did on Mr. Stuckenberg (Dr. Stuckenberg, to be accurate) left me with mixed emotions. Where his positions diverged with my leftist outlook, such as the answer to America’s immigration challenges for example, or U.S. involvement in the Israel/Palestine conflict, the gap was wide enough to drive a truck through.

The ideological overlap, however, surprised me. His views on natural resources, agriculture, and fresh water protection were based in science. The America First rhetoric was not a cynical jingoistic play — long-range calculations have clearly been brought to bear on the question of who the beneficiaries of the nation’s productivity and prosperity should be.

And let’s be clear, this candidate making a bid for Trump’s long-cooled seat cushion has bona fides that any candidate would envy, and that should aggressively capture the attention of the media:

Military Background: Stuckenberg is a Major in the US Air Force-Air National Guard and a decorated veteran pilot who has flown over 150 combat missions.

Education and Thought Leadership: He holds a Ph.D. in international affairs from King’s College London and is recognized as a “Young Disruptor” by NATO and lauded by senior military leaders and intelligence officials for his strategic acumen.

Entrepreneurial and Business Experience: As the founder of Genesis Systems, he has developed technologies for generating drinking water, addressing global water scarcity.

Policy and Security Expertise: Stuckenberg has experience in nuclear weapons treaties, national critical infrastructure, and has founded national programs for security and strategy.

Now for the (ahem) elephant in the room: Why in the actual hell is mainstream media lavishing so much attention on candidates who lack the credentials, résumé, or even natural charisma to warrant serious consideration by the voters? Why are they so focused on the horse race and the personalities and the drama? Wait. Don’t answer that. That was a rhetorical question. Here’s the answer, though, if you are still scratching your head:

 Mainstream media requires insipid popularity contests between increasingly unqualified candidates whose wooden heads make them natural conversions into the puppets that allow the oligarchs to keep control of the levers of power, because if they had to start covering contenders with actual ideas and positions, they’d have come up with some fast explanations about their role shilling for the corporatocracy for decads and providing cover for more and more unsavory deeds every year.

As I’ve mentioned elsewhere, I found a smoldering intensity in Stuckenberg’s gaze that hinted at a mind continuously occupied with working through problems and solutions, seldom at complete rest. I have no doubt that his powers of imagination and conception easily exceed those of any other candidate on the Republican ballot this year. When I brushed up on his background, I came to the conclusion that it might be nice to have a President versed in game theory, diplomacy, and military strategy. When was the last time we had that? Maybe with Pappy Bush, but I wouldn’t credit him with exceedingly high levels of creative thinking.

The other reporters and I could see that the buffet has been laid out already, and I could smell both barbecue AND clam chowder distinctly (how is that even possible?) All the respectable reporters were trapped in the hall unable to access the virgin banquet table, and we low-lifes were trapped in the room adjacent to it. It seemed to me the easiest way to keep my mouth quiet was to stuff some ham salad on brioche in my face while my chowder cooled. My very first editor forbade her reporters from scarfing so much as a munchkin while covering an event. I’m getting paid less than I was back then almost 25 years ago, so I kinda now say fuck it, and let other people’s catering budget help subsidize my work. Besides, the very best free cheese platter, Chardonnay, and crudité won’t be able to sway my journalistic objectivity, although substandard vittles almost certainly will.

The legitimate press finally finished up with their interviews (I have a video of half of that, and the campaign managers running this show got around to letting us in the hall. I was to be given an audience after these two chaps from a local radio station (I have most of that on tape, as well). During that questioning, a staffer pulled me aside to tell me that one of the crews also waiting was some muckety-muck who had to be back on a plane in an hour, and did I mind being bumped to the end? Not being one to upset apple carts or muckety-mucks, I said, no, by all means. I’m only going to end up sitting in traffic on the Pike for a hundred hours now anyway, so why should I mind sitting on my ass here instead?

I wolfed down a fabulous rare roast beef and Swiss with a divine horseradish sauce on a Kaiser roll while I listened to some stuffed shirt ask cloying questions crafted to let the current GOP leadership off the hook while also welcoming the fresh, bracing breeze of neoconservatism that Stuckenberg represented. I recorded that interview, too, and may release it one day.

After that session ended, people starting packing up. Everything, up to and including the Danishes that I knew better than to leave there, because now it was ME who was trapped, blocked off from the delicious and expensive repast. I stood there in the corner for a minute like a forgotten puppy as the boom mics and tripods and light stands migrated out of the room like giraffes from a dried up oasis, and the extension cords slithered away in front of my feet. I finally caught the eye of one of the handlers (the one who’d gotten me a cuppa coffee once I was allowed in and he nodded his head vigorously from across the room and left for a moment. He poked his head back in a moment later and waved me to him, back up the stairs where the first interviews had taken place.

There, in the little hall, was a very tired looking David Stuckenberg. He’d actually had to remain on and engaged the entire time, smiling incessantly like a guy who’s not used to smiling for six hours at a clip. He was re-arranging his family back into their positions in the chairs they’d been in before, I assumed to assure me that I’d have every ounce of attention that the first 40 reporters had. And they really were an exceeding handsome group. His oldest boy was perhaps 20 and looked every bit a chiseled Teutonic page, if not a full knight. His two daughters in their late teens, pretty and composed in the practiced professional politician’s kids’ manners of young ladies with many times their experience on the campaign trail. A firecracker of a wee lad was dressed in suit and tie like his big brother, but, having reached the end of his composure, was  trying to slough off the whole affair like any grade school kid would do after being compelled to model as a member of America’s next first family for half the day.

I was trying to insist to the very lovely Mrs. Stuckenberg that all this recomposure was unnecessary, and why don’t they get some food before it’s all gone? She asked me about Plymouth and the Greylock Glass and the Berkshires as the three oldest children did a remarkable job looking interested. Then David Stuckenberg strided over to me, offering a warm smile and a firm handshake and we both sat down. He gathered himself and projected an air of a man who was energized and at the beginning of a long session of media glare rather than the end of it. Because I’d been recording everyone else’s interviews, my phone was now down to 20 percent battery. The candidate did, in fact, give me his full attention for over half and hour, and I managed to record all but the end to his answer to what would have been my final question. That conversation is what you have here, either as a podcast or in the embedded video. Enjoy.

Sorry I didn’t save you any smoked turkey or tuna salad wraps. They were pretty good, too.

Jason Velázquez

Jason Velázquez has worked in print and digital journalism and publishing for two decades.
Phone: (413) 776-5125

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