Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Printed copies available

Interested in buying a hard copy of Bruce's Blog? There are no profits associated with this book at this time, just the cost of printing.

Holly Wittenberg, web publisher.

Bruce Morton's Column for Friends

Bruce Morton's Column for Friends

by Bruce Morton

This is a printed copy of Bruce Morton's 2007-2008 blog.

Buy Now!

Monday, December 29, 2008

     I was going, gentle readers, to write something about that stupid Barack Obama song being peddled by some GOP stalwart named Chip Saltsnan who wants to be the party's new chairman.  I was going to, but I can't.  It's just too tacky to quote. The rhymes aren't very good--"Farrakhan" and "won" rhyme about as well as "on" and "won."  Too tacky. Too vulgar.  Can't do it.
     Fortunately, there are lots of smart Republicans who will never elect a twit like this as party chairman.  Period.  Full stop.

Send e-mail faster without improving your typing skills. Get your Hotmail® account.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

December 28, 2008

     At the end of a year this columnist likes to remember some of those we lost during that year. There is never enough room for all the valuable dead, but here are some:
     We lost Mark Felt an FBI agent who, as Deep Throat, was the source who helped end Richard Nixon's presidency.  We lost actress and singer Eartha Kitt and playwright Harold Pinter.  Just imagine her in one of his. Oh my.
     We lost Jesse Helms, an unapologetically racist senator whose time, thankfully, had passed.  We lost Studs Terkel, a writer and philosopher whom I grew up hearing on the radio.
     We lost Alexander Solzhenitsyn, another writer and philosopher who helped bring down the Soviet Empire. That was real empire;  we also lost Charlton Heston, who played the rulers of lots of fictional ones.  Also from Hollywood, we mourned Cyd Charisse, a dancer and actress of great grace.  And Van Johnson, a star from back when stars were really stars.  And Paul Newman died, perhaps the finest actor of his generation and certainly the one with the bluest eyes.
     Music lost Odetta Holmes, who shared the blues with us.  And Bo Diddley, an icon of rock and roll.
     Conservatism lost Bill Buckley, one of its most literate voices.  Bobby Fischer died.  As a youngster he'd been the world champion of chess, and if he never seemed quite sure of what to do next, wasn't that something all by itself?
     Journalism lost Tim Russert who never ran out of well-researched, pointed questions for his guests on "Meet the Press."  Fashion lost Yves St. Laurent.  And the idea of bravery in response to challenge--that lost Sir Edmund Hillary, who conquered Mt. Everest and set an example for us all.

Sent via BlackBerry from T-Mobile

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Holiday wishes

Ann Hawthorne, who edits this column, will be taking a leave from her editorial duties over the holidays. The column will resume after the holidays.

Happy Holidays!!!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

December 17, 2008

     Well, no, New York Governor David Paterson doesn't have to appoint Caroline Kennedy to the Senate seat that Hillary Clinton will vacate when she becomes Secretary of State, but I kind of hope he does.
     There are all kinds of other interesting New Yorkers.  The New Yorker magazine lists, among others, such disparate figures as basketball great Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, novelist Toni Morrison, and the theatre's Arthur Laurents.  They might all be wonderful, but I do like Caroline.
     Critics say she lacks experience.  They're wrong.  She has experienced tragedy--murdered father, murdered uncle and the death of her brother.  She has experienced joy--brought her kids up out of the spotlight so that they could lead relatively normal lives.  She has an uncle who's been in the Senate for about a hundred years.  He can advise her on how the place works or, sometimes, doesn't.  And it's worth remembering that Ted, her uncle, was first elected as a kid with no experience at much of anything. 
     Experience isn't what you need anyway.  A good staff can explain the technicalities of drafting a bill or offering an amendment.  What you need is a sense of what will be good for the country.  I suspect that Caroline Kennedy has as clear an idea as most of us of where she thinks we should go.
     She led an out-of-the-limelight life until a year or so ago, but then she campaigned vigorously for Obama and was one of his advisors on choosing a running-mate.  She has had a chance to see how campaigns and politicians work.  And she's smart;  I think she's shown that.
     So if she wants it, now that the kids are grown, I hope she gets it.  If she's terrible at it, the voters can pick someone else in just two years. 

Sent via BlackBerry from T-Mobile

Monday, December 15, 2008

December 15, 2008

      Shoes don't make history very often.  I'm old enough to remember Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev banging his shoe on a desk at the United Nations General Assembly one year.  That was a pretty good story.  Shoe as gavel?  Shoe as symbol of protest?  Whatever.
     And now of course we have an Iraqi reporter chucking both his shoes at President Bush during a Baghdad news conference.  Shoe as weapon?  Probably not;  it's hard to imagine doing serious hurt to anybody with a shoe--maybe a spiked sports shoe or a stiletto, but these were just the usual, wear 'em to work variety.  Shoes as protest--well I guess so.  And did the reporter get carted off to jail in his stocking feet?  Not to worry--even a jail cell in Iraq is unlikely to be cold.
     Today we read that thousands turned out in the streets of Baghdad to demonstrate in support of the shoe-throwing newsie.  Now that's the good news.  We claim we invaded Iraq to teach them, among other things, about democracy.  And what could be more democratic than showing your dislike for the power occupying your country by cheering the guy who threw shoes at its president?
     I don't know, of course, what they'll do to the reporter turned shoe-chucker, but what they should probably do is give him a medal.   And we, of course, should say to ourselves--hey, protest, democracy--these guys really get it.  Mission accomplished (this president likes that slogan).  Let's all go home.
     Never happen, of course, but you've got to hope. 

Send e-mail faster without improving your typing skills. Get your Hotmail® account.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

December 14, 2008

     Usually, presidents start off with pretty good press.  The negative reviews and all that come later.  It feels odd to be defending Barack Obama this early, but here we go.
     I've seen two or three stories the past couple of days wondering if, maybe, Obama wasn't involved with his state's disgraced governor, Rod Blagojevitch.  Hadn't there been some talk between the two about the Senate seat Obama's vacating?  Might he have shared the governor's plan to sell it?
     Well, the short, simple answer to these questions seems to be, no.  Obama, I read, hadn't spoken to the governor in over a year.  That's a long time in politics.  Had his staffers ever mentioned a possible successor to the governor?  Hard to be certain there, so many more people are involved.  But I have seen absolutely no credible evidence that any of Obama's people ever bargained with any of the governor's people, no evidence that Obama or anyone on his staff did anything wrong.
     Herblock, the late Washington Post cartoonist, always drew Richard Nixon with a heavy five o'clock shadow.  I remember a cartoon he ran when Nixon won the presidency in 1968 showing him smiling and beardless.  "This column," the caption read "gives every new president a clean shave."   Let's do the same for Obama.
     Nixon, of course, later famously said, "This president is not a crook," and people argue about that to this day.  But Obama's done nothing wrong that I know of, so let's give him a clean shave and a happy, smiling start.  The job will challenge him later--it always does--he'll face controversies and make enemies--they always do.  
     But I wish you a very happy start, sir.  You'll want to remember it when things get ugly later on.    

Sent via BlackBerry from T-Mobile

Saturday, December 13, 2008

December 13, 2008

      I, and most of us who've covered politics in recent years, lost a gifted friend yesterday.
     Robin Toner, whose newspaper career started in West Virginia but who spent 23 years at the New York Times, died of colon cancer.
     I met Robin, as best I can remember, on Michael Dukakis' 1988 presidential campaign.  She was there for the Times;  I, for CBS.  We sat together on the campaign enough that we got to be friends.  She was an excellent reporter, a good observer who knew how politics worked and could write about it clearly and with authority.
     And she had a good calm temperament, which helps on the road where things can and do go wrong.  Hers was a face you were always glad to see on the bus, the plane, at the press conference, wherever.  Just a good person with whom to share the trip.
     I've missed her because I'm retired now and didn't cover the '08 campaign.  Now, sadly, I'll miss her fine stories too.   

Sent via BlackBerry from T-Mobile

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

December 10, 2008

     I was reading a detective story the other day in which the cops were saying how lucky they were that most of the crooks they had to deal with were stupid.  Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich wasn't a character in the novel, but he could have been.
     I mean, there you are on the telephone talking about how you shouldn't talk on the telephone.  "You gotta be careful how you express that and assume everybody's listening.  The whole world's listening," the Washington Post quotes the governor as saying.  "I would do it in person," he says another time, "I would not do it on the phone."   But he did, of course, and the FBI was listening.
     Selling Barack Obama's Senate seat (the governor gets to appoint the new senator)?  A "golden" moneymaker, he tells a friend and the Fibbies:  "I'm just not giving it up for ******* nothing."  Well, political corruption is nothing new in Illinois.  Blagojevich is a Democrat;  his Republican predecessor is now in jail.  And there've been others.
    When I was a little kid in Chicago in the 1930s, you could see members of the city machine handing out turkeys in poor neighborhoods at Thanksgiving.  And sometimes they paid for votes.  But that was in an earlier America--one without food stamps and unemployment compensation.  It was crooked, but the bribes mostly went to people who needed the money.
    And sometimes the crooks were charmers.  Reporters, including this one, loved covering Edwin Edwards when he was governor of Louisiana.  I remember him turning up in a hotel lobby one morning with a pretty woman, not his wife, on his arm.  He gave us a big smile and said something like, "Hey guys, I'm just bein' me."  Of course he's in jail now too, but he was fun.
     This governor just seems seems kind of dumb.  Illinois likes to call itself "the land of Lincoln," but Robert Grant, the head of the FBI's Chicago office, may have hit closer to home.  "If it isn't the most corrupt state in the United States," he said, "it's certainly one hell of a competitor."     

Sent via BlackBerry from T-Mobile

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

December 9, 2008

     The old American melting pot is still working, though this time it needed a little help from its friends.
     The meltee, so to speak, is Anh Cao who this past weekend became the first Vietnamese-American elected to Congress.  He won in Louisiana where he beat a nine-term incumbent, Democrat William Jefferson, who was indicted on felony counts in 2007 for allegedly taking hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes.  The House Democratic leadership stripped Jefferson of his assignment to the powerful House Ways and Means Committee.
     Cao, like immigrants from earlier times, has a story.  He fled Saigon as an 8-year-old refugee jammed into a helicopter, didn't see his mother or father--an officer in the South Vietnamese army who was imprisoned by Ho Chi Minh--until 1991.  But Cao went to college, finished law school and ran for Congress.  Nobody thought he could win.  National Republican organizations did not help him much.  Jefferson had a primary fight, Hurricane Gustav delayed the general election,  turnout was light and, by golly, Cao won.
     Republican House leader John Boehner, who did not campaign for Cao, now says, ""Cao is the future."  That's nice, but a little late.  Still, something may be going on in Louisiana.  The Republican governor, Bobby Jindal, is Indian American.  Cao said he hopes his win will make the GOP "more inclusive."  And a lot of experts agree that to prosper in the years ahead, the GOP needs to be less white.
     Anyway, it's a swell American story.  Good luck, Congressman Cao.    

Sent via BlackBerry from T-Mobile

Sunday, December 7, 2008

December 7, 2008

     I trust you are all as horrified--is that too strong?  Nope, sure isn't--as horrified as I was to learn that there is already a poll out about who will be the Republican candidate for President in 2012.  Yes, that election is almost four years off.  Yes, there really is a poll.
     CNN and Opinion Research Corporation are the guilty parties.  And of course you want to now who's ahead.  Okay, voters.  The frontrunner is (drum roll here) Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee with 34% of the sample leading his way.  Second?  You guessed it, the moose-shooter, Alaska Governor Sarah Palin at 32%.  And since the margin of error in the poll is 4.5 %, it's fair to say that they are in a statistical tie.  CNN's Polling Director Keating Holland (a friend) notes that Palin does better among men and Huckabee among women.  Huckabee leads among evangelicals and born agains;  Palin, among other Republicans.
     Oh yes, and other Republicans got votes:  Mitt Romney, a candidate last time, 28%;  former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, 27%; former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani, 23%.
     But that's not the point.  The point is that this is absurd, silly and wrong.  Nobody knows how many people will remember Sarah Palin four years from now--or any of them, come to that.  New stars may deck the GOP heavens by then.  Joe the Plumber may have a national organization.  You just can't know.
     I'm a believer in freedom of speech, the First Amendment, all that good stuff.  But if Congress decided to ban 2012 polling until, say, 2011, I might burst into applause.  I mean, wouldn't you? 

Sent via BlackBerry from T-Mobile

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

December 2, 2008

     With his time in office almost over, President Bush is expressing regret. 
     He is sorry about the recession, he told ABC News.  "Obviously I don't like the idea of people losing jobs, or being worried about their 401(k)s.  The American people have got to know that we will safeguard the system."  That's if we can figure out how to safeguard it, of course.  The evidence on that is, at best, mixed.
    But Bush said his biggest regret was what he called the "intelligence failure" that led him, with Congressional support, to invade Iraq in March 2003.  The rationale was that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction.  He didn't.  Would Bush have ordered the invasion anyway if he'd known that?  "You know, that's an interesting question. That's a do-over that I can't do...."   Most of us could, of course.  Most of us would not have invaded.  Many of us old enough to remember would have recalled the bad intelligence that led John Kennedy to the Bay of Pigs invasion.  But it's hard, I suppose, for a civilian president to question the self-styled experts who claim intelligence as something they own.
     Bush also called Barack Obama's election victory a "repudiation of Republicanism" which is doubtful and a vote "because of me" which is surely closer to the truth.
     It's always hard to knows how presidents will be remembered. John Kennedy's was an administration of great glamour, had wins and losses, and could probably most fairly be graded "incomplete."   Lyndon Johnson accomplished great things domestically--the Civil Rights Act, the Voting Rights Act--but was badly stained by his failure to end the useless war in Vietnam.  Richard Nixon did good things--detente with the Soviets, talking to China--but the word that first comes to mind is "impeachment."  Jimmy Carter?  Couldn't get the hostages back from Iran, couldn't turn the economy around--"unlucky" might sum him up.
     And George W. Bush?  I don't know, but "one of the worst" is what I think of first. 
Sent via BlackBerry from T-Mobile

Monday, December 1, 2008

December 1, 2008

     President-elect Obama's national security team is diverse, but its members have one thing in common--a lot of experience here in Washington.
     Hillary Rodham Clinton, who'll be Secretary of State, is an old Washington hand.  She's been a senator here and, of course, First Lady before that.  Robert Gates, the Secretary of Defense, has experience as well, Secretary of Defense.  And retired General James Jones, who'll be national security advisor, spent plenty of time here during his military career.
     The last president who attracted this much interest, John Kennedy, followed a different pattern.  His Secretary of State, Dean Rusk, was a Georgian, though he had done work for the State Department.  His Defense Secretary, Robert McNamara, came from the automobile industry in Detroit--imagine asking one of those CEOs for help nowadays--and his national security advisor, McGeorge Bundy, came from Harvard.
     Did it matter?  The Kennedy team, perhaps because they were still getting used to DC, had one early disaster--the unsuccessful Bay of Pigs attempt to invade Cuba and overthrow Fidel Castro.  It left Kennedy angry, vowing never to blindly trust the CIA's advice again.  But if his team was inexperienced, it - and he - learned quickly.  The biggest success of his short administration was the Cuban missile crisis, when the Soviets put missiles in Cuba which could hit the U.S. but, after some tense negotiation and a U.S. naval blockade of Cuba, took them out again.
     Background probably matters less than compatibility--who works well with whom.  Robert Kennedy wasn't officially part of his brother's national security team but was an advisor consulted on everything simply because the President trusted his brother to tell him the truth as he saw it.
     It will be a while before we know how successful the Obama team will be.  But they all, as far as I know, are smart and capable.  It's hard to see how that could hurt.

Get more done, have more fun, and stay more connected with Windows Mobile®. See how.