Way back in 1998, when I was covering Congress for The Washington Times, a new member came to Capitol Hill and I was instantly fascinated. I sought this guy out in large part because I saw that he had signed a public declaration that he opposed funding for public schools. That, I concluded, was truly hard core. I had to know more.
He was more than a little surprised to find I was interested - in fact, I think I was the only reporter outside of Colorado who knew who he was at that point. I called him off the floor one day for some little issue that I don't even recall: just an excuse to meet him and hear what such a person might have to say (Yes, reporters can send messages to members on the floor and a clerk will personally deliver the message. Sometimes, if you're lucky, the member will come out into the Speaker's Lobby and talk with you. It's pretty cool). Tancredo's first reaction, delivered with genuine incredulity, was "you want to talk to me?" After that, I made a habit of asking his opinion on a wide variety of issues, though I don't think I quoted him often.
And now he's running for president. And doing pretty well for a guy way, way out there on the fringe (he's not doing as well as my other fringe favorite, Ron Paul, who is a story in his own right. Ron Paul, by the way, has signed the same public education statement as Tancredo, a fact I didn't learn until just now. Interesting).
Contrary to what you may glean from this clip and other Tancredo comments, he is actually quite a personable, intelligent guy. And one of the more quietly humorous men in Congress, which sometimes makes me wonder if the following is just a bit of twisted performance art. Probably not, unfortunately.