OTTUMWA, Iowa (CNN) – This city was in the political spotlight Tuesday as it hosted President Barack Obama, but for fans of the TV show M.A.S.H, Ottumwa is also known as the hometown of Don Shaffer - the real-life inspiration for the character Walter Eugene "Radar" O'Reilly.
Shaffer, who said he supports and prays for the president, said he came to Tuesday's town hall at Indian Hills Community College out of a sense of civic duty, with the president visiting his hometown. Following the town hall, the same man who met President Truman as a boy in Ottumwa was escorted back stage to shake the hand of today's commander-in-chief.
Just as much of a character in person as Radar was on the screen, Shaffer, a veteran of both the Korean and Vietnam wars, was not shy about sharing the wisdom of his 80 years in an interview with CNN, and engaging in the rough-and-tumble of present-day Washington politics.
On the recent battle over health care legislation, Shaffer said he would have charted a different course and recommended the president should have taken "Hillary Clinton's health plan and pushed it from the White House, rather than let Congress get involved. It would've been less headaches."
Shaffer was an initial supporter of Clinton's campaign for the presidency, but said he voted for Obama in the general election.
Of the rancor in Washington, Shaffer waxed nostalgic for an earlier era and said, "I think we've lost the ability to disagree agreeably."
"They were gentlemen back then, and gentleladies, if I may. They disagreed politically but they would go have bourbon together at 5 o clock after they went out of session and I just can't see any of that today."
Born and raised in Ottumwa, Shaffer was a member of the "Young Democrats" in high school, and then spent 25 years in the military before becoming a college professor.
He served in the same unit during the Korean War with Richard Hornberger, the author of the 1968 book "MASH: A Novel About Three Army Doctors," on which the movie and subsequent TV series were based, and whose characters were all based on those Hornberger served with.
The first line of the book: "When Radar O'Reilly, just out of high school, left Ottumwa, Iowa, and enlisted in the United States Army it was with the express purpose of making a career of the Signal Corps."
Shaffer told CNN that Hornberger disliked both the movie and television series that followed, as the book was intended to be anti-war. Hornberger wrote the book along with W.C. Heinz under the pen name Richard Hooker.