Frank Kelley is noted for his quick wit, direct answers and insight into complex issues. The answers to the following 10 questions for Kelley, who served 37 years as Michigan’s attorney general, showcase those attributes.
Who was the most impressive person you met during your tenure?
John F. Kennedy was the most impressive man I ever had contact with, especially the time when I was alone with him for 45 minutes in Detroit.
How would you end partisanship in public office? Partisanship is the biggest problem we face in government. The majority is malapportioned (gerrymandered). Democrats only vote in the presidential election, and the minority wins the off-year elections and control apportionment (the setting of voting districts). The Lansing congressional district is a good example. Instead of drawing a box around Lansing, the district goes instead to conservative counties to the north.
What’s the biggest change in the law and judiciary that you’ve seen in your time?
Like everything else, its open-minded progressives (you could call them liberals) versus the conservative minded who do not want to change at all. It’s a battle between them. You can’t have a democracy without compromise.
How do you stay physically fit? I have a professional massage therapist and I get a massage once or twice a week. I used to swim five times a week and run a mile. Now, I get into the pool twice a week and do calisthenics.
What’s your advice to a young person who would want to enter public service?
Read my book is number one. Number two is we have to understand people are dissatisfied with government. Propagandizing against government has made it their enemy. Young idealist people are turning against government. We need more Bernie Sanderses and Bill Clintons.
What was your greatest legacy? I had the opportunity to lure 100 lawyers, idealistic men and women to the attorney general office, who helped make pro-public environmental and consumer protection laws over three decades. They helped pull other attorneys into that area of law.
What’s the greatest problem you see in governing? Selfish interests have put legislatures and congress in a defensive posture. These interests have given money to legislators around the country to take opposite viewpoints or stay neutral on critical issues.
Why has there been a shift away from pro-environment and consumer-protection related legislation?
I don’t want to be simplistic, but it takes the average citizen voting for someone they believe in to change this. We have to have more informed voters who participate in democracy.
What do you think about guns and gun control? Too many handguns, but gun people will probably love me for this. When I was in Alpena, a community of 29,000 people, every house had a hunting rifle, but in eight or nine years there was not one homicide. We have to find ways to keep guns from the unstable.
Who do you support for president? I will support the Democratic nominee.