Ken Bone is exactly the person you expect him to be: soft-spoken, authentic, exceedingly pleasant. When he talked with me by phone last night, he thanked me for being a part of the new media. “I don’t know how long newspapers will be around,” he said, “I hope a long time. But what you’re doing with digital is really, really great.”
I hadn’t been expecting Bone’s call. Earlier in the day, Sunday’s debate winner had responded to my interview request by asking me to text his phone, so that he could organize his requests. I assumed I’d get a call from a PR person — some slick operator who’d quickly swooped in to guide Bone through his 15 minutes of fame. Instead, Bone called me from his own cell phone around seven o’clock, politely identified himself, and asked if it was a good time to talk.
Bone is 34, two years older than me, but the way he speaks suggests that he’s somehow not of our generation. Perhaps that’s part of the reason that he — with his iconic red sweater, mustache, and disposable camera — became the breakout star of the second presidential debate: He seems to belong to a kinder, gentler era. Who knows if that era really ever existed, but it’s nice to imagine when our current election cycle has been so very brutal.
Even Bone’s debate question, an already-criticized query about energy policy, was a welcome change in the middle of a 90-minute bloodbath; a single moment in which both candidates were forced to retract their adamantium claws and discuss policy.
Bone’s warmth is legit, and while he’d spent the entire day doing press — ours was the thirtieth phone interview he’d done that day — he took all the time he could with me, answering every question and even saying hello to my friend, who arrived to pick me up for dinner towards the end of our call. Little did my friend know that I was speaking to the man who hundreds of people will write in on their ballots come November 8. (Bone isn’t eligible to win due to his young age, by the way, though he understands that he might appear older because he’s “bald and fat.”)
“Is it okay if I put the phone on speaker so she can say ‘hello’?” I asked. “She’s not going to ask any questions.”
“Put her on,” Bone responded in literally the nicest way possible. “I’ve got a few minutes! What’s her name?”
There’s only thing that Bone won’t tell anyone — who he’s voting for. On all other subjects, from the issues that matter to him to the positives and negatives of his virality, he’s exactly as open and enthusiastic as we’d all dreamed he might be.