Well, here we are again – the end of an old year, the beginning of a new. As it has in the past, the column takes note today of some people we lost during the old year and whom we'll miss in the new.
Geraldine Ferraro died, a woman of charm and intelligence who proved you don't have to be mean to be in politics.
My personal list of those I'll miss starts with Andy Rooney, the longtime commentator for CBS' 60 Minutes. "I want to do this forever," Andy used to say. If there are gods and if they are kind, there is a corner somewhere in the afterlife where with a typewriter, a microphone and maybe a baggy tweed jacket we shared one year, he's doing just that.
On the Republican side Betty Ford, a remarkable woman who, among her many accomplishments, proved exactly the same thing.
Journalism lost David Broder, a reporter who covered politics. I had the same beat for a number of years and would have to say he was the best I ever saw. He probably knew more county chairmen by their first names than any reporter in America. Good night, David.
Those of us who covered politics will miss Sargent Shriver, a principled man whose greatest public legacy would be his stewardship of the Peace Corps.
Elizabeth Taylor died. She led such a turbulent life – multiple marriages, illnesses, tragedies, lots of movies which made lots of money. It's hard to know what to say about her because she transcended so many of our ideas about what is possible for one person, however gifted, to achieve. It's a life I really cannot imagine. Nor could I imagine that the legend of her violet eyes was true until I saw them.
There are three who died this year I will not miss-- North Korea's Kim Jong Il, Libya's Muammar Qaddafi and, of course, Osama bin Laden. All three were dictators in one way or another in stark contrast to another international loss: Vaclav Havel of Czechoslovakia/the Czech Republic, who emphatically was not. He believed in and fought for democracy. The world is a better place for the deaths of three; better, for the life of one.
We have reached, gentle reader, that curious time of year call The Holidays. Curious because nothing much ever seems to happen. We spend a lot of time and effort on presents for each other. A surprising number of them turn right around and head back to the shop they came from.
People don't do much either. President Obama is still the president, of course, but you haven't seen his name in the papers much recently. He's being what the scholars call "an inactive or passive president."
The Congress? That's a harder case. Sure, they haven't done much lately but, then, when did they?
You never run out of adjectives for Congress: passive or inactive, sure, but fulltime not just a seasonal lull like the one Obama is in.
You have to wonder what would happen if some country attacked us right now. Would Congress notice? And if it did, would it actually abandon its 535 golf courses and get together to do something for the country? The feeling here is probably not.
The harder question then is how did we get this way as a country? Answer: damned if I know.
There's an old saying which I always thought was preposterous: God is kind to drunks, fools and the United States of America. Who knows? Maybe it's true. That would be my holiday wish.
I begin with a really astonishing fact: the serious - real folks' actual voting - presidential season begins two weeks from today. That's when the good people in Iowa – Republicans only this time, of course – hold their famous caucuses. Sit in your neighbor's living room and try to determine who the next president should be.
Democrats have no voice in this, of course. They have a president who presumably is seeking a second term. The betting here is that he gets it. But that's beside the point.
Iowa is a good state in which to start things. Iowans are well educated voters who by and large like the process and have elected over recent years intelligent Republicans like Charles Grassley and Democrats like Harold Hughes.
This time Republicans can choose from amongst a varied if disappointing field: Mitt Romney (Gertrude Stein's old line keeps running through my mind, "There is no there there"); Rick Perry, the longest serving governor in Texas history, may be wondering just where his "there" went; Newt Gingrich, the former House speaker. He seems like a long shot this time around. There may be just too much "there." He may be the darling of the moment of the party's right, but that doesn't guarantee a thing.
Anyway, it will be a lot of fun. First the Iowa caucuses then the New Hampshire primary, South Carolina, Florida, etc – until, by golly, there's a nominee.
The view from is that he – or she – Michelle Bachmann, remember – will face an uphill fight. But so what? It's all good, clean American fun. Let the games begin!
The first computer memory of the day was of a group of letters – 12 maybe 13 – clearly lost and looking for a home. I wondered if it were easier or harder in Charles Dickens' day. David Copperfield begins, you may remember, with a chapter title that says simply "I Am Born." At least you knew what the rest was going to be about.
I miss those simpler days sometimes. Chapters that explain simply how so-and-so got hit by a fast ball or some other so-and-so plonked by a computer program.
I love computers, of course. I own one and stare at it some every day.
But I'm afraid we've gotten away from the good old fashioned letter that explained to a friend or a loved one how the world was treating you and how you were getting on.
I wouldn't give up my PC (well, maybe for a MAC) but I do sometimes envy Mr. Dickens all by himself in a bare room with only a desk, a chair, a pot of ink, a half dozen quill pens and some paper.
Simpler times, those. But maybe more wondrous. "I am born." Go, Charlie, tell on. LOL ': )
Morton is a retired political reporter who worked in Washington for CBS News from 1964-1993 and for CNN from 1993-2006. He attended his first political convention in 1960 and has been to most of them since then.