CORNING - My time with Amory Houghton Jr. was spent discussing several topics.

I sought his opinions on today's divisive political climate and our current president Donald Trump.

As he has in Letters to the Editor he has submitted to The Leader, Houghton pulled no punches in describing the current political landscape.

I appreciated his time and his candor. Below are some of Amo's thoughts on today's world of politics.

Q: How have we gotten to where we are at now with Trump in office?

Amo: You can say the same thing about Germany. How did Germany get to the point of Hitler taking over?

Or you can say the same thing about Russia. What happened to Gorbachev? What happened to people who really brought the thing back into focus and then let it go.

Most people don’t work at this thing.

(My wife) Priscilla and I went to Nicaragua, where we had been involved with (Violeta) Chamorro, who had been running for the presidency.

We were there with Elliott Richardson and we had a jeep and went to various voting places to see that it was being done properly.

We stopped by the side of road and there was a young girl, maybe 20 with a baby in her arms who had been walking for four hours with the baby so that she could vote.

For God’s sake, Donald Trump got elected with 16 percent of the potential vote in this country.

Why is that? And why did the people in Germany let Hitler take the control that he did.

My grandfather was there as the ambassador from 1921-1924 and he saw this thing developing. He knew there was a terrible economic problem. He knew that inflation was terrible.

So he said to the French and also to our Secretary of State (Charles Evans) “watch out for this thing.”

But the French and the Americans really wanted to stick it to the Germans. Reparations were a big thing and by God, they were going to get their piece of meat.

Then, when good people who were against Hitler, but were silent, said “wait a minute, this is wrong” it was too late.

And I think it was true in this country that the Republicans - and the Democrats, too - got sloppy.

We didn’t have someone pulling it together. 

You have to have some organizer to do that. Someone to say, hey, I know how you feel, but we have a responsibility here.

Q: You were known as a broker between Democrats and Republicans when you were a Congressman. How did you do that?

Amo: The thing that we did was we corralled a group of people to make that possible.

Whenever we went on a Congressional delegation trip, whenever we had a meeting, whenever we went to lunch, it was always a bi-partisan event.

When we had these civility meetings, we went to some of the big foundations and said we would like to have a meeting with as many Democrats and Republicans as we could - almost evenly distributed and bringing their families. So we did this at the Greenbriar, at Hershey and it was terrific.

The problem is, they went back to Washington and they got into the grips of these people that said ‘you are a Democrat', or 'you're are a Republican', and by God, you’re going to hear that.

That’s crazy.

Of course I didn’t give a damn - and do you know why?

Because I was 60 years old when I went in the business and I was 78 when I went out. And if they didn’t want me or if the constituency didn’t want me - that was fine.

I love this country. I did it for myself, my family and for those people around here. I didn’t have to depend on that for my career.

Q: Are career politicians a problem?

Amo: Yes, I think so.

There’s one important thing - the amount of money that’s sloshing around in the campaigns. It’s horrible.

I’m working with a group now in Washington to try to limit that - to have some sort of a break on it.

But, if I’m in Corning and I don’t have any money, and I try to raise as much money as I can by acknowledging people in my party and all of a sudden, somebody like the Koch brothers come in and stipend a million or two million dollars - I’m overwhelmed.

And so what I’ve got to do is figure out a way to counteract that - and that takes time.

Q: Is it fixable?

Oh yes, it’s got to be.

The pendulum swings back and forth in life - and it sure does in politics.

But you have to have somebody that’s willing to fix it. Or a group of people who are.

I asked Charlie Rangel once, why don’t some of these guys stand up and say this is wrong.

He said, “Amo - they’re scared.”

Because they have to worry about one thing - getting re-elected. And if they don’t have enough money and don’t have a machine behind them or they don’t have a history - they’re really vulnerable.

I’ve seen an awful lot of people with great instincts and they just got chopped to pieces.

Q: Are term limits the answer?

Amo: I don’t like them.

The people who adhere themselves to term limits - let’s say two or three terms - they don’t realize what happens down in Washington.

So much of Washington is knowledge and if you’re in there for two terms and you’re out - and Mr. Smith has to come in - he doesn’t have the knowledge.

He’s assigned to two or three committees and he is beholden to his staff and to the people that staff the committees so they make all of the decisions rather than he - and he represents people.

So that’s wrong. You have to have somebody down there that knows enough about what’s going on.

So I hope they don’t have that.

Q: You've seen a lot of changes in your lifetime, how does the present compare to earlier years you've witnessed?

Amo: It’s far far better now than when I was growing up - because when I was growing up - it was the depression.

We had 25 percent unemployment. We didn’t have penicillin. There were things rumbling around in Europe and we didn’t know about them because we didn’t care.

Although it’s agonizing to go through some situations we’ve been going through - we’re far better off.

And you know something - I really believe in my heart - that we’ve got a terrific future ahead of us.

I’m 91 years old and I’m so mad at myself that I don’t have more years.