Do not be silent, O God of my praise, or wicked and deceitful mouths are opened against me, speaking against me with lying tongues....
For a moment, I thought I was on the phone with Gordon Howie. But no, here was Independent candidate for U.S. Senate Larry Pressler, concluding our conversation by reading and drawing strength from Psalm 109:
They beset me with words of hate, and attack me without cause. In return for my love they accuse me, even while I make prayer for them. So they reward me evil for good, and hatred for my love.
Don't get Pressler wrong: he's not spending the last days of the Senate campaign holding a "God help me!" pity party. He's at the Augustana football game this afternoon and the Stampede–Musketeers hockey match tonight to shake hands, wave his signs, and hand out pamphlets. He's planning a telephonic town hall Monday with thousands of Independent voters and a radio mini-blitz Tuesday morning. Then he and Harriet will settle in for supper and television Election Night at their farmstead in Humboldt.
In those last conversations with voters, Pressler plans to emphasize the most important factors voters should weigh in their Senate vote. He says South Dakotans need a powerful Senator. Repeating a standard stump line, Pressler cites his seniority, unique in the field, as an advantage in breaking gridlock to benefit South Dakota. Pressler says that if we want better air and rail service, protection for senior citizens, or an American pipeline plan that keeps fuel here and lowers our prices (a buck a gallon for diesel and distillates, he said in Wednesday's debate and in our conversation today), we need him in Washington using his power to solve problems.
Pressler says he was surprised by the endorsement that that Sioux Falls paper gave him this morning. Given the paper's silence on the endorsements he has received from retired FBI agent John Good (covered online by Mr. Montgomery, but not in print?) and Independent Maine Senator Angus King, he wasn't sure that Sioux Falls paper was paying attention. He has no idea whether the endorsement will help him or serve as the "kiss of death." He says he doesn't have the resources to throw ads up on Sunday morning television to immediately tout the endorsement the way he says Tim Johnson did back in 1996 (ah, the details one remembers), so he's hoping word of mouth—and other editorial boards—will amplify that endorsement for him.
If he wins, Pressler says great—he's ready to serve and feels more energized now than he did in his thirties, largely because he doesn't worry about appearances the way he did then. If he loses, he says no big deal—he's "been there, done that." He's been to the Senate, and as former member, he still has floor privileges. Win or lose, Pressler says he wants to continue working with the Centrist Project to pull politicians, journalists, and universities back to what Pressler says is the real purpose of politics: solving problems. (Note to serious Independents and third-way seekers: look them up!)
Pressler told the Black Hills Forum and Press Club this week that his campaign is public service, an effort to talk about issues that matter to South Dakota. In response, the Right and the Left attack him with "lies," videos and great piles of direct mail about his voting record on Social Security, honoraria for speeches, and his residency (Pressler says he and his wife have always voted in South Dakota and always kept a home here). Even Keystone XL proponents who want their pipeline and not Pressler's are "lying"—says Pressler, deliberately and not lightly—when they claim the pipeline will ship Bakken oil and relieve rail pressure. On the phone and in the debates, Pressler sounds particularly chapped when he says that word, "lies."
That brings us back to Psalm 109. Pressler says that's the text for his men's Bible study in Sioux Falls next week. The psalmist says his lying accusers indict him thus:
For he did not remember to show kindness, but pursued the poor and needy and the brokenhearted to their death.
The accusers wish the psalmist dead, his widow and children impoverished and shamed. The psalmist dishes right back:
May that be the reward of my accusers from the Lord, of those who speak evil against my life.
Pressler cited these passages somewhat laughingly, saying he's a New Testament guy and can't wish such Old Testament curses on his worst enemies. But he may find guidance for Tuesday and whatever comes next in the Psalm's closing lines:
May my accusers be clothed with dishonor; may they be wrapped in their own shame as in a mantle. With my mouth I will give great thanks to the Lord; I will praise him in the midst of the throng. For he stands at the right hand of the needy, to save them from those who would condemn them to death.
Contrary to popular belief, Larry Pressler has a prayer. He's not needy, but he says he'll protect those who are, if you'll give him your vote.