CN8, the Comcast Network will air live nightly from 8-11 p.m. on Aug. 25-28 at the Democratic National Convention in Denver and from Sept. 1-4 at the Republican National Convention in Minneapolis/St. Paul.
One of those reporting will be Washington, D.C. Bureau Chief Robert Traynham, who also hosts his own show on the network, “Roll Call TV with Robert Traynham.” Locals may remember him as former Sen. Santorum's communications director. Last February I posted a note with links to interviews with him on Capitol Ideas and in Campaigns & Elections' Politics magazine. I am now adding to that list.
This is part one of a three part interview with Traynham. These are basic biographical questions. Part two will follow the Democratic convention and part three after the Republican convention.
On your website (www.traynhampr.com) you mention your work on legislative staffs but don’t say which representative and senator (Santorum) you worked for. Why?
I decided that it was more important for me to highlight the work that I did in the United States Senate, as opposed to any particular politician. I’m proud of my work in the Senate, and even more proud to have worked for a United States Senator who truly made a difference in the lives of many Americans.
Your graduate work focused on what and how candidates say and how voters hear those messages. Can you tell us a little about what you learned, briefly?
What I learned academically has proven time and time again to be right on point in terms of what I actually experience politically. My graduate work taught me that you and I can hear the same political message from a candidate, but we may interpret it differently based on our background, culture, religion, etc. In my nearly 16 years in politics, this theory has proven to be true time and time again.
What is it like being a trustee at your alma mater, Cheyney University? What do you hope to accomplish there?
Cheyney University is a wonderful university. I get goose bumps every time I step foot on campus. Its legacy is full of rich stories of African Americans helping other African Americans with something that is priceless: an education. I stand on the shoulders of many African Americans who helped me throughout my educational experience and my hope is that I can return the favor by serving as a Trustee.
You were consistently named one of the 50 most powerful staffers on Capitol Hill. How did you exercise that power?
Teddy Roosevelt once said, “Speak softly but carry a big stick.” That type of thinking helped me when I was a Senate staffer. I used my influence behind the scenes to influence legislation that I felt very strongly about. Instead of grandstanding in front of the cameras or in front of reporters, I would pull a Senator aside and tell him or her the pros and cons of a particular piece of legislation. I would then tell how this would help African Americans, the disabled, young people, etc. I’m very proud of that and even more proud of the fact that I did it humbly and without fanfare.
How have you adjusted to being in front of the cameras after being behind the scenes for so many years?
I’m a guy that talks about politics. I just so happen to do it in front of the camera. Every day, no matter where I am—in a hotel, on a train, or in my office—I always take a few moments out of my day to remind myself that I am not special and that I put my pants on one leg at a time just like the other person and to thank the man upstairs for many blessings. It keeps me grounded. I do have to chuckle at some of the people that are on TV that think the world revolves around them. When I see this, it’s a reminder of how I do not want to be. I will say that I am fortunate and very blessed and being on camera is no different from my father delivering the mail, or my brother teaching inner city males about adulthood. It’s a profession. One that I enjoy and sometimes laugh out loud that people actually pay me to do this. Gosh. Only in America.
Stay tuned for part 2!