As soon-to-be-former head of the University of North Carolina, Bowles will do what he's best at—teaching—and Simpson will rely on his talent for handling "the color," he told me with a chuckle. "Humor is the universal solvent against the abrasive elements of life. My mother taught me that," he said. Having Simpson do a wry color commentary on deficit reduction could be just what the country needs. Whom would you rather listen to on the debt: Alan Simpson or Harry Reid and Mitch McConnell?
The former legislator says he has no expectations of success. He knows he'll be savaged by the right, but he doesn't seem to care. "Hatred corrodes the container it's carried in," he remarks, commiserating about Capitol Hill's poisonous atmosphere. "It's the extremists on both sides that are causing America's great pain, because most Americans are centrists. That's why most people are going independent. They can't stand either party because it's just babble."
The next year of Al Simpson's life won't be easy. But he recalls his mother's advice: "If you're damned if you do, and damned if you don't, then do." After a moment, he adds, "I live by those words."
Maybe Alan Simpson really isn't from outer space.