There has never been a time to be more engaged and excited about politics than now, according to Gregg Keller, one of the preeminent public affairs experts in the United States and founder of Atlas Strategy Group of St. Louis, Missouri. Candidates.vote’s Clark H. Caras had the opportunity to spend some time with Keller and talk about everything from pickles on his cheeseburger to reading Bill O’Reilly’s latest novel with his 13-year old son every night as part of Keller’s goal to read 50 books by the end of the year.
Candidates.vote– So knowing dad has set a goal like that and sharing the books you read with him has to be some good motivation? How’s it coming this far into the 2019?
Keller– I think this year I’m at about six. The sixth one being Bill O’Reilly and Martin Dugard’s “Killing the SS: The Hunt for the Worst War Criminals in History.” The first year I set the goal of 50 a year I did 51 and last year it dropped to 30.
I want to get it back up to the 50 and reading a chapter a night with my 13-year old son is a great way to make sure I do it. We actually read a chapter to each other before he goes to bed. It’s a great experience to spend that time with each other and especially doing it like that.
Candidates.vote– What are some of the other books you’ve included in those you’ve read?
Keller– In high school I was introduced to “Atlas Shrugged” and Ayn Rand became one of my hero’s in life. She – her writings and books – helped shape me into a conservative Republican in high school. Recently, I finished “On Grand Strategy,” by John Lewis Gaddis. I think it was a bit over 300 pages (384 pages to be precise).
(Laughing a bit out loud, Keller shared.) I find a good book and I like to see who the author of that book liked to read; and then I start reading those books too. That’s when I get a bit obsessed and read all they wrote.
Candidates.vote– How about sharing some of those other books you’ve found that way?
Keller– Well, as an example I read, “No One Left to Lie to: – The Triangulations of William Jefferson Clinton,” by Christopher Hitchens. He was obsessed with Martin Amis so for a time I fell down a Rabbit Hole of reading Amis — who was Hitch’s best friend. So I read, “Hitch-22: A Memoir, by author and journalist Christopher Hitchens.”
Candidates.vote– You’ve called Missouri home your entire life, yet you’ve been involved in the political arena of the nation and Washington, D.C., with names and groups that include Senator Mitt Romney; being executive director of the American Conservative Union (Host of CPAC every year in Washington, D.C.); the late Senator John McCain; being executive director of the Faith & Freedom Coalition; Bush-Cheney campaign; and now a member of the board of the Show-Me Institute and founder of Atlas Strategy Group.
Keller– The first job I had was in 2001. At 23-year’s old working for Jim Talent (U.S. Senate candidate) emptying trash and answering phones. And I have stayed in it long enough to have some great opportunities, meet amazing people and have plenty of “pinch me” moments.
Candidates.vote– You say all of that and the amazing thing to me is you have done it all and lived in Missouri and raised a family there.
Keller– Marrying your high school sweetheart, who also has a love and background in politics, definitely helps. We stayed in contact and wrote a lot of letters to each other and today we have one boy and two girls – all born on the campaign trail. One during Bush, another Romney and one during CPAC.
I do keep busy. In fact last year I did 125 flights in and out of Washington and around the world. I enjoy the travel and you get so used to it. If I don’t go somewhere once a week I find myself climbing the walls. Lately a lot of it has been to Sweden of all places where I’ve been working with the Democrats, who are their conservatives there. In fact, I have a group of Swedish parliamentary friends coming to CPAC who I’ll be showing around Washington.
Candidates.vote– You mention the “pinch me” moments. What do you see coming with those for yourself and others in the political moments of now and upcoming?
Keller– I never would have imagined this and I’m more excited than ever before! People are motivated about politics and they are highly engaged. As a politico what a time to be alive! In the next three years we will go thru many lifetimes.
So much of politics takes place on Twitter. It literally has shaped and changed the tenor of things. You have to be on Twitter right now if you are political.
Candidates.vote– In all of those travels there’s had to be a lot of fast foods you’ve grabbed? Are you a hamburger or cheeseburger guy?
Keller– Cheeseburger with bacon.
Candidates.vote– Pickles or no pickles?
Keller– Pickles every time!
Candidates.vote– What’s the last movie, in the theater or at home, you and your wife have been able to sit down and enjoy?
Keller– I’m awful about a movie or movies. We enjoy watching television together when we can. We just re-watched Ken Burns series on the Civil War and actually the movie Steven Spielberg did about Lincoln.
Candidates.vote– Advice for anyone out there who might be studying or looking at the political world as its being shaped?
Keller– A life in politics is as stressful as can be, but there are the “pinch me” moments.
Gregg Keller can be reached at atlasstrategygroup.com.