Wednesday, May 25, 2011

May 25, 2011

     Oprah Winfrey's TV show says good-bye today.  It's probably not the last we'll see of her.  She's only fifty-seven and bound to be back in some vehicle or other one of these days.  But the show that's been on the air now for twenty-five years is ending.  Winfrey's had a stellar career and, boy, did she have to do it the hard way.
     Born to a single teenage mother, she was raised in poverty.  The mother went north.  Oprah spent her first six years with her grandmother often wearing dresses, one clipping says, made of potato sacks.  But her grandmother also taught her to read when she was three.
     At six she moved to Milwaukee to be with her mother.  She was molested, she has said, by a cousin, an uncle and a family friend, starting when she was nine.  At 13 she ran away from home.  Well, who wouldn't?  Then she went to live with her father in Nashville and became an honor student, voted Most Popular Girl.  A local radio station hired her to do news part time. Then she became the youngest news anchor and the first black woman anchor at a Nashville TV station and, you might say, never looked back.
     Now, of course, she has her own network--OWN.  She gets about 20,000 e-mails a week.  In 2008 she made 275 million dollars.
     Her program, over the years, has reflected the values that worked for her--determination, self-reliance, self-help.
     You're a big success, lady, and you've earned it, every step of the way.

Monday, May 23, 2011

May 22, 2011

     Well, no, it didn't.  End, that is.  The world, that is.  Earthquakes everywhere, they predicted, at 6PM local time on Saturday, May 21st.  The saved--a group I was sure would not include me--whooshed up to heaven, the rest of us left to suffer and die until the planet finally disintegrated this coming October.  But no.  No quake, no heavenward whooshing, the morning after was much like the one before.
     So now, I guess, we go back to the real stuff--can we keep from blowing up the planet (we have that power now)?  Can we lessen hunger?  Or poverty?  Or misery?  All the old questions remain.
        Most of us, I suspect, will want to try regardless of our race or nationality.  We have made some progress.  Not enough, of course.  But surely there is less wretchedness in the world now than there was a century or two ago.  It's a struggle we will never win, of course, but one we must continue to wage.
     "And so we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past." (F. Scott Fitzgerald – "The Great Gatsby")

Thursday, May 19, 2011

May 19, 2011

     Have you noticed that the Republican presidential contest this year seems to be all about sex?
     I mean, politicians have had affairs before.  Franklin Roosevelt had a mistress (Lucy Rutherfurd, if memory serves) but still managed to lead us through depression and war.  But this year?
     Pick up the paper.  There's Newt Gingrich, who had a long affair with the woman who became wife #3 while still married to wife #2.  There's Mitch Daniels, the governor of Indiana, whose wife left him and their children to run off to California and marry a doctor but later changed her mind and came back.  There's John Ensign, a married senator who had an affair with a staffer who was the wife of his chief of staff.  There's Christopher Lee, a former Congressman who resigned after the story broke that he'd sent a bare-chested photo of himself to a woman he'd met on, I think, Craigslist.   And, of course, there's Arnold Schwarzenegger and the story about the illegitimate child he had a decade or so ago while married to Maria Shriver.  Well, maybe the last three aren't running for president, but still....
     Very strange political year.  What do you suppose will happen next?  And do we want to know?

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

May 16, 2011

     Will the Republican nominee for president please raise your hand?  It's hard to tell who you are from here.
     I guess Mitt Romney, the former Massachusetts governor, is the front runner. But as goverrnor, he signed a state health care plan which somewhat resembles President Obama's.  Many conservatives just flat hate that part of his record.
     Mike Huckabee, former governor of Arkansas, has said he won't run.  He's personable and carried Iowa last time, but he doesn't want to do it all again.  He's a host on Fox News now and may feel that's an easier line of work.
     There's former House Speaker Newt Gingrich of Georgia.  He's against the House Republicans' plan to overhaul Medicare, but so are lots of people, of course.  It would end the program as we know it and issue the elderly vouchers with which to buy health insurance on the private market.  A lot of conservatives really like orthodoxy and might dislike his marital history:  a long affair with wife-to-be #3 when he was still married to wife #2.
     Tim Pawlenty of Minnesota?  He got elected governor twice but has said Social Security and Medicare should be cut to balance the budget.  Would voters like that?
     Then you have the real long shots.  Godfather's Pizza executive Herman Cain?  Pizza at state dinners?  Former Utah Governor Jon Huntsman, Jr.?  But he was Obama's ambassador to China.  One-time UN ambassador John Bolton?  Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachman, a Tea Party stalwart?
     I have no idea who'll win, but it sure looks wide-open.  Wanna run? 

May 16, 2011 #1

    The Donald huffed and puffed and roared some mighty roars.  He made a lot of people nervous, but today he said no, he won't run for president.  Being rich and famous and being on television a lot is more fun than being POTUS.  Of course, he's probably right.
     "I have decided not to pursue the office of the Presidency," his statement says. "I maintain the strong conviction that if I were to run, I would be able to win the primary (actually, Mr. Trump, there are several) and the general election....Ultimately, however, business is my greatest passion and I am not ready to leave the private sector."
     Well, that's about what guys who don't run always say, of course.  My own feeling is that voters would have looked at Trump and shouted "You're fired!"  Never mind, it's over.
     Fate is sometimes kind.   I still would like to have seen what Marine One's rotor wash might have done to that hair.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

May 11, 2011

     If you're president and your country knocks off a famous terrorist, guess which way your polls ratings will go.  Yes, folks, "up" is the answer.  Barack Obama is finding that out this week, big time.
     An Associated Press-GfK (it's a marketing research group) poll taken after Osama bin Laden's death shows the president's approval rating at a whopping 60%.  More than half those polled say he deserves to be reelected.  Suppose the Dems would like to move up next year's election?
     73%--well, why not--say they think he can handle terrorist threats.  His ratings improvement isn't just limited to foreign affairs.  52% say he's handling the economy well, his best rating since early in his term.  The same 52% like how he's handling unemployment, even though it hovers around 9% and your Uncle Fred may be looking for work.  
     You can analyze these numbers endlessly, of course, but the bottom line is surely pretty simple.  The U.S., under Obama, knocked off bin Laden, and nothing, nothing succeeds like success.

Monday, May 9, 2011

May 9, 2011

     Former Republican House Speaker Newt Gingrich has announced he's running for president.  This is about as surprising as announcing that the sun will rise in the East tomorrow, but at least it's now official.


     Gingrich, a Georgian, became Speaker in 1994, the first Republican to hold the job in fifty years.  He left the Speakership and the House in 1998.  There've been some scandals, but he's been a vocal and popular Republican ever since, always mentioned as a presidential possibility.  Now, it seems, he's ready to run.


     How will he do?  Pretty well, I would guess.  There's no dominant frontrunner yet, no Ronald Reagan.


   Mitt Romney is pretty well known but as much for hauling his dog around on the roof of the family car as for anything else.  As a governor he championed a health care plan which resembles the one President Obama got Congress to approve for the country.  Republicans hate that, of course.


    Tim Pawlenty?  Mitch Daniels?  Sure, maybe, but they aren't exactly household names.  Sarah Palin?  The Donald Trump?  Again, maybe, both are household names but neither one has announced yet.  If they did, would anyone take it seriously?


     Liabilities for Gingrich?  Well, he's on his third marriage.  I don't know if most voters care about that kind of thing as much as they did, say, thirty years ago.  The  conservative base might.   He criticized Obama for intervening in Libya right after he demanded that he should.  Flip flop is a tough sell.  And, too, there is that pesky old House ethics investigation.  He's got some baggage to tote.


     Anyway, he's just made 2012 a more interesting year.   Well done, Mr. Speaker.   

Thursday, May 5, 2011

May 5, 2011

     What if the Republicans held the season's first debate for presidential wannabees and hardly anyone came?  It's happening today in Greenville, South Carolina.
     Just for comparison, the GOP held a similar debate four years ago this week.  Ten candidates showed up--four former governors, two sitting senators, and so on. Today's debate has drawn just five possibles.  The only one most of us have heard of is former Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty.  The others include former Godfather's Pizza executive Herman Cain, former Senator Rick Santorum, and libertarians Representative Ron Paul (Texas) and former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson.  (Who?)
     Not there?  Well, former, Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney, former Alaska governor Sarah Palin, Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich...I could go on.
     Why?  Well, it's early, of course;  those Iowa caucuses are still, what, nine months away.  But of course that's never stopped anyone before.  Has the attack on bin Laden has made Obama unbeatable?  No,I'll guarantee that's not so;  he could still blunder and lose.
     I don't know what it is, really.  I'm tempted to sum it up in one simple line:  count your blessings. 

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

May 3, 2011

     Years ago I interviewed Bill Mauldin, the famous World War II cartoonist whose soldiers, Willie and Joe, were part of the American force invading Europe.  I remember Mauldin saying he didn't think the war had made the world a kinder or better place, or anything like that, but then he added, "Of course we had to kill Hitler."   And of course he was right;  we did.
     I feel that same way about Osama bin Laden.  Of course we had to kill him.  I'm glad we did, though "glad" is an odd word to use about someone's death.  Will that make the world a kinder, better place?  I very much doubt it.
     Terrorism will continue.  Al Qaeda and various other groups will continue to hate America, continue to look for ways to damage or destroy us.  Their hatred is longstanding and not dependent on any one man.  So the long struggle, the long war, will continue.  We're used to that.  Did we have real peace between the two world wars?  How long did the Cold War last?
     We've won a victory.  A wicked man is dead.  Are peace and happiness just around the corner?  Oh, no. 

Sunday, May 1, 2011

May 1, 2011


     Well, they're married.  Not off on their honeymoon, they've announced they'll do that later.  But they're married, The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, and it all went off without a hitch.


     But so did the only royal wedding I ever covered, the one between Charles and Princess Diana at St. Paul's Cathedral in 1981.  The wedding was splendid, the marriage which followed was, sadly, not.  Infidelity, separation, divorce, and then Diana's death--she hadn't even turned forty--in a Paris car crash in 1997.


     The odds seem better for William and Kate.  Charles was a lot older than Diana; she was just a teenager, nineteen, when they tied the knot.  She knew the hot fashions, the latest dances.  He didn't.  He was older and, judging from the snippets we saw on the news, he seemed a bit on the stodgy side.  


      Kate and William are of an age--she's, what, five months the older.  They've lived together in a house with others and presumably got along.  Of course, they'll stay in the spotlight.  Swedish royals or Danish ones, if they still are any, come and go without Americans much noticing.  Not so the Brits.


     So we'll be watching, young Royals.  This column wishes you the best of luck.

April 30, 2011

     Thirty-five years ago today Saigon (now Ho Chi Minh City), which had been the capital of South Vietnam, fell to the Communists making Vietnam one country under Communist rule with its capital Hanoi.  America had withdrawn its last troops earlier, on orders from President Richard Nixon.  Once they left, the outcome was virtually certain.


     It's so long ago it's hard to remember why we got involved.  Were we trying to restore French rule in a colony they could not hold themselves?  That's what Vietnam had been, of course, though the Japanese occupied it during World War II. Did we simply think Communism must be opposed everywhere?  At least we seem to have gotten over that.


     And we've become friends with Vietnam, at least sort of.  The last time I was there a few years ago, you'd see American veterans, even in Hanoi, telling their wives and kids when and where they'd served in that long-ago war..


     So we can get over wars.  We travel to and trade with Japan and Germany, our foes in World War II.  I wonder if we'll be as lucky in  the future--if today's U.S. soldiers will take their families to see the sights in Baghdad or Kabul.  Must we now add Tripoli to the list? 


     We don't know what the future holds, of course, but the past can sometimes teach us things.