Wednesday, June 27, 2012

JUNE 27, 2012

     Something unusual is happening right here in America.  A grownup is changing her life because she wants to help people change their lives for the better--wants to do good, to get right to it.

     This is not some boozy confidence shared with a stranger after the third martini.  It's not some kid's fantasy dream of adulthood either. I know the woman--yes, it is a woman and she's pushing fifty--pretty well.  Her plan is to keep the job she has (a public relations job, fairly nice work at fairly nice pay) and go back to graduate school (one has already accepted her) and study what might roughly be summed up as social work. Don't ask me exactly what that is;  I'm an old, retired English major myself.

     She would use these new skills, combined with her present ones, to help people. I don't know exactly how--with job problems maybe, or family ones.....the point is simply to help them improve their lives, in whatever form they want.

     I don't think I've ever known anybody to make a decision quite like this before.

     Go daughter. Your father loves and is proud of you. May success follow you every step of the way.    



Thursday, June 21, 2012

June 21, 2012

I wrote a column the other day about Watergate, which messed up the
country pretty badly for a while before the bad guy, Richard Nixon,
became the first US president ever to resign.  Do we now need another
one called "Here We Go Again-gate?"

I ask because of a story in the Washington Post today about how the
House Oversight and Government Reform Committee (the House is
Republican, remember, and this was a party-line vote) voted that
Attorney General Eric Holder be held in contempt after the Obama
administration, citing executive privilege for the first time, refused
to turn over documents inked to a failed gun-running operation.

My first thought when I saw the story was "Good grief,  not again!"
Reading the story, I thought yes, legal quibbles, ambiguities, grey
areas, just like the old model.  This time we do lack burglars caught
in an office but who knows what lies ahead?

Then I thought:  we survived Watergate.  Life went on then.  It will
probably go on this time too, no matter how many invesigatons and
hearings and grand juries it takes. I seem to remember a cartoon from
back when Watergate ended--could it have been the late Herblock of the
Post.  A couple of Americans were looking at a copy of the
Constitution, one saying to the other, "It works!"  Indeed, it did.

Monday, June 18, 2012

JUNE 18, 2012

     Well, we've had Father's Day.  Have fathers changed much since I
was, say, six?  I'm not sure.  More are middle class, I guess, though
mine kept his office job throughout the Depression and we rented an
apartment in a middle-class neighborhood full of people doing just
about the same thing.  By the time I had kids, we and our neighbors
owned their houses but I doubt that that had any great effect on their

     My father taught me to believe in honesty;  my kids do too, as
far as I can tell.  He believed in fighting when you had to and
believed in toughness.  Well, he'd grown up in coal mining towns and
they're tough.  He loved a story his father had probably told him
about a Scot on some battlefield who was sleeping with a rock as a
pillow until some superior made him stop;  it was unmanly.  When I was
a reporter covering the Vietnam War, there weren't many rocks.  I
think we mostly slept on our packs. I don't know how he'd have felt
about that.

     We disagreed about some very important things.  But we agreed, I
think, about many more.  I hope my now grown feel positively about
their pop too.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

JUNE 16, 2012

     Watergate was forty years ago.  It roiled the country.  Richard Nixon became the only American president ever to resign.

     It began as a burglary at Democratic Headquarters in the Watergate Office Building. Word spread;  the whole country followed developments. The thieves were thugs hired by the Republican Party. They got caught, arrested, tried. White House aides resigned and went to prison. The Senate held hearings to learn what had happened. The House held hearings to consider whether to impeach the president.  Heavy stuff.

     As more and more evidence came out (I can still hear the Senate's Sam Ervin of North Carolina, "Ah am addressing you in English, suh, it is my mothah tongue."), it became clear that while President Nixon may not have known about the burglary he certainly knew about, and helped, the coverup.

     The country took sides, Pro-Nixon Americans would yell at reporters covering the scandal (at CBS, where I then worked, White House reporter Dan Rather was a prime target) things like "Traitor! We'll get you!"   Going to work could be an adventure.

     And then there was Nixon, facing the cameras, "I am not a crook. This president is not a crook."  Maybe not.   But the votes for impeachment gathered until it was inevitable. The House Judiciary Committee approved two resolutions.  I can remember one Republican Member saying, "This is bipartisan. I can vote for this"

     The count was in. Before a vote could be taken, Nixon resigned. Gerald Ford became president, and his first words to an anxious country were, "Our long national nightmare is over."

     It was.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

JUNE 14, 2012

     The Washington Post wins my award this week for the least
surprising news story of the, I don't know, year, decade, some longish
span of time. The headline says it all, really: "U.S. drone strikes
unpopular abroad, survey finds."

     Golly.  What thoughtful government researcher decided we needed
to spend tax dollars to learn that folks in other countries don't like
us bombing them, especially when our pilots are not at risk.  There is
a bonus bit of information--here in America 62% of us appprove of
drone bombing. Well, of course. Why not bomb pesky foreigners when our
military is safe at home?

     Drone strikes work.  A strike this month killed al-Qaeda's then

     So let's hear it for killing by remote control.  If you're a
young American, it's clearly the way to go.  If we stop and think
about it, surely we would mostly agree that wars are brutish and ought
to be a last resort.  Sadly, they are often not.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

JUNE 13, 2012

    It's an unusual summer here.  The Washington Nationals, an
expansion team who have never won anything, are in first place in
their division by three games. The Chicago Cubs, who have not won a
World Series in more than a century, are in last place in theirs. Some
things don't (can't) change.  Still, a small miracle may be happening.

    In politics we're not really really into high drama time yet--wait
for the conventions, please, but little hints keep piling up that Mitt
Romney has the wrong-sized glove for the job.  My latest favorite is
from Iowa where Romney ridiculed Obama saying,  "He says we need more
firemen, more policemen, more teachers….It's time to cut back on
government and help the American people." Granted, he and his team are
respinning those words now – perhaps realizing that most Americans
feel they are helped by teachers and firemen and policemen.  And the
Democrats are, of course, replaying them.

      I think Americans kind of like incumbents.  We elected Roosevelt
four times, elected Truman over Dewey when lots of people thought we
wouldn't, defeated Barry Goldwater (in our hearts we knew he was
nuts?).  We even elected George W. Bush twice.  Who would have
predicted that? Certainly not I.

     Anyway, it's started, if slowly.  Sure beats watching the Cubs.
Those Nationals now....

Sunday, June 10, 2012

JUNE 9, 2012

A word today about tennis. They've been holding the French Open this
week.  You may have noticed there aren't many American names in the
news stories about it.

A few years ago we'd have been reading about Pete Sampras or Andre
Agassi;  this year the names are European or Asian—Novak Djokovic and
Rafael Nadal.

Among the women, the Williams sisters gave us class for years. This
year Serena lost in the first round to Agnieszka Radwanska.   Venus,
as I recall, fell in the second to Virginie Razzano.

Tennis was never a big sport here--not like baseball or football.  Not
like British football there.  Maybe Americans are confused by a game
in which love equals zero.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

JUNE 6, 2012

     Big week for the British royals. Big week for the Brits.  The
whole country's been celebrating because Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth
II has been on the throne for sixty years now.  Only Victoria lasted
longer at sixty-three.  Elizabeth, of course, hasn't stepped down yet.
 She could do another decade, I suppose.

     Do what, exactly?  Not run the country, of course.  Prime
Ministers and parliaments to that.  Monarchs preside.  They go to
innumerable meetings and small events involving this group or that.
"Things can't be absolutely going to hell in a hand basket ," people
say, "There's the Princess Royal."

     They always have something to say.  It needn't be wise, but it
must be something, some calm response to whatever calamity may have
befallen them or the country.  Elizabeth has confronted nuclear tests,
scandals both royal and common, wars and, currently, a tough
recession.  Even through 1992, what she called her "annus horribilis,"
she stayed reliably constant--wearing those hats, carrying those
handbags, going to those receptions, hosting those garden parties.

     Reports from London say the Brits are feeling up these days
quoting anniversary goers as speaking admiringly of  "our great
Queen," and so on.

     Way to go, Majesty.  God bless.