Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Say Goodnight, Mr. Cain

On Tuesday, Herman Cain reportedly told some staffers that he is reassessing the viability of his campaign for the Republican presidential nomination.  This, in the wake of an allegation from a woman who claims she had a long affair with Cain.

Memo to Cain:

Your campaign was never, I repeat, never viable, no matter who was telling you otherwise and throwing money your way.  Oh it looked somewhat promising (at least to you, I’m sure) when you emerged victorious in a straw poll in Florida.  But did you really believe that was a reasonable sampling of the folks from the Sunshine State?

You were only a little interesting because the national media fell for the novelty of your quest.  And once that happened, the newsroom pools were formed and wagers placed on just when you’d trip yourself up, or otherwise implode.

And as the campaign progressed, did you actually believe that you could get away with only 9-9-9 as a platform or that it alone would lead anyone to consider you qualified to hold the highest office in the land?

You dodged a few bullets when first one woman than another accused you of inappropriate behavior at some point in your life.  But with this latest revelation…well, there was just a little too much smoke to believe there was no fire, know what I mean, Herman?  Oh, you protested, of course, as you have more than once.  Me thinks thou dost protest too much.

Texas Gov. Rick Perry certainly helped your cause for a while, by his ability to stumble seemingly at will.  I'm thinking you owe him something for taking some of the heat off you, if only for a day or so.

So, go ahead, reassess all you want.  You’re being dropped like a hot potato by nearly everyone whose support you thought you could count on.  The mainstream GOP?  There never was the possibility of backing there.  The Tea Party?  Yeah, right.  Please.  Right now you are just background noise that is unwelcome.  And don't feel like a lone cast-off.  Gov. Perry will be joining you shortly, as will Rep. Michelle Bachmann.  Hey, one more and you'll have a foursome at golf.  You do play, don't you?

Maybe it was fun for you while it lasted, but I’m sure you’ll come quickly to the realization that there are other things you could be doing with your life.  Hint: maybe smooth things over at home?

Say goodnight, Mr. Cain.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Arrogance Versus the Uninterested

Sad, pathetic…those are just two words that could accurately describe the scene at a hearing before the House Natural Resources Committee, aimed at the issue of drilling for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.  On stage, front and center, undeniably arrogant professor Douglas Brinkley, and a congressman, who by definition is someone with questionable esteem, Rep. Don Young, Republican of Alaska.  It was little more than a schoolyard joust, that did nothing more than waste time.

It started by Young referring to the Brinkley, a Rice University professor and so-called historian, as Mr. Rice.  Brinkley, apparently presuming he’s from the everyone-knows-your-name club, interrupted to set the record straight on who Young was addressing, and informing the congressman that Rice was a university.

Young reportedly told Brinkley to “be quiet”, and went on to say that members of his committee were the ones to ask questions and that Brinkley was merely there to respond.  To ignite the flames further, Young insinuated that the hearing was an exercise in futility.

He didn’t like the idea of Brinkley’s interruption and referred to the ever full-of-himself prof as an ivory tower elitist.  Young lost his composure entirely when he said, “Boy, I’m really pissed right now.”

Okay, enough said.  I mean, no one expects Alaska to elect Mensa caliber representatives, or even governors for that matter.  Consider that pseudo moose-hunter, former Gov. Sarah Palin.  On that I rest my case.

Why Brinkley, who we’re told and often reminded is quite bright, would fall into an obvious trap and appear before a committee that will ultimately do nothing to protect whatever is there in what Young called a “nothing” kind of place, is beyond me.

In the end, the actions of the two verbal jousters set a poor example for anyone watching.
I can just imagine the thoughts going through the minds of visitors to a House committee hearing for the first time, presuming (incorrectly, for the most part) that this is the way of Washington.

They just need to know that this wasn’t a typical exchange (at least I hope not), but rather an example of when a highly arrogant individual gets involved in a contest with someone whose interest in hearing an opposing side ranges between zero and none.

No one wins.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

A Political Junkie Vents

Okay, let’s get one thing out in the open right away.  I am a bit of a political junkie.  But there are occasions during campaign seasons when I think perhaps we were wrong in adopting this democracy thing.

I guess I come to the political games genetically.  My grandfather was a two-term state representative, and we had many conversations about the fate of the nation when I visited him.  Of course, one conversation centered on my registering as a Democrat.   He was a staunch Baptist and about as Republican as one can get, even cringing at the thought of the late President John F. Kennedy, a Democrat and worse yet, a Catholic, becoming president.  But I don’t think he harbored ill feelings toward me because I happened to favor Kennedy.

Mother, too, was acutely aware of everything politic to the day she died, just shy of her 98th birthday.  Strangely, even though her legislator father indoctrinated her into the Republican way, she did hold a certain fondness for the late great liberal lion of the U.S. Senate, Edward M. Kennedy, D-Massachusetts.  Go figure.

I guess my interest in politics became further heightened when I made a shift in my journalism career from sports editor to political reporter.  It wasn’t much of a transition, really.  As my mentor at the time, Rod Paul of the Concord (N.H.) Monitor, explained, the only difference between pols and athletes was the fact that politicians don’t wear numbers or their name on the back of their shirts.  He was right about that.  Yes, politics is a game, but one that can have more dire consequences than any contest played on a basketball court, ice rink, baseball diamond, football or soccer field.

So what’s the point of all of this prattle?  I was listening to some campaign commercials that have been airing of late and I realized that so-called attack ads are about 95 percent lies, or at best twisted truths, and the remaining five percent pointless.  Unfortunately, some potential voters will be swayed one way or another by them, and that strikes me as a shame.  It is evident that we’re going to run through a presidential preference primary season hearing nothing of substance and an increasing amount of vitriol.  And the run-up to the general election in November 2012 promises to be more of the same.

Just once I would love to hear candidates say what they will do if elected to whatever office they seek, and forget about whomever they are running against.  There is no point in demonizing an opponent or foes without explaining how you would do things differently if given the chance.  And please, can we do away with the phrase “sick and tired”?  If a candidate is indeed sick and/or tired, he or she doesn’t warrant my vote.  I don’t need someone representing me who might sleep during their time in office, missing a crucial debate and vote, or who is too ill to be involved at all.

Okay, not that I’ve flushed those thoughts from the area of my mind that’s labeled “gives-a-damn”, let the games go on.  Maybe there’ll be a good halftime show.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Wednesday's Child - The Cover-Up

Andover, Maine town common
A while back I suggested that when researching ancestors we can't always rely on the authenticity of unearthed records.  Indeed, recordings of the past in particular were often a result of reports filed by interested parties and little verification was required from the purveyors of the information.  In the course of my search for a family that neither my mother nor I had ever known, I found this to be true.

Mother was born out of wedlock to Myrtie Lena Wyman, an 18-year-old single woman from a small town in the northwest corner of Maine, September 19, 1908, according to her record of birth signed by Frank E. Leslie, M.D.  The certificate noted that there was “no name recorded” for the newborn at the time of birth and no father.

The name Beatrice Wyman was later given, according to adoption records I obtained from the Cumberland County Register of Probate in Portland, Maine.  Her name was changed upon her adoption on June 14, 1909 to Shirley Stanton Maxell, by her new parents, Oscar and Susie Maxell.  They were the only parents she ever knew.

Myrtie, my birth maternal grandmother, came from a very well known, rather large extended family in the town of Andover, population in 1908 of fewer than 900.  Her ancestors were among the little community's earliest settlers.  Given all that, I presumed it would be quite easy to find a record of mother's birth among Town of Andover records of 1908.  I was wrong.  What I found instead was an indisputable cover-up.

In researching lists of births in Andover for that year there was no birth listed to Myrtie Wyman.  But, on page 25 of the Annual Report for the Town of Andover was the recording of a birth to "Mr. and Mrs. Edward A. Martin, Sept. 24, 1908, a daughter".

Now, that might not have stood out to most folks, but the family listed in the report was actually Mr. and Mrs. Edwin A. Martin (not Edward) and they happened to be Myrtie's sister Eva and her husband.  Edwin and Eva did have a daughter, given the same name of Beatrice, but their daughter was born almost 11 months earlier, on Oct. 31, 1907, in Portland, Maine.  There was no child born to a Mr. and Mrs. Edward A. Martin on Sept. 24, 1908, in the town of Andover.

Who was behind the deception?  Myrtie and her newborn didn’t stay in Andover very long after the birth, moving back to Portland where she had previously been living with her two sisters and brother-in-law.  I doubt it was Eva and her husband, though they were probably in on the attempt to hide what at the time would have been frowned upon, probably even an embarrassment to some.

Society wasn’t nearly as tolerant or accepting in the early part of the 20th Century, so I can understand why the birth of my mother would have been hush hush - translation: covered up.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

How to Lose Support

When groups of protesters began forming on Wall Street in New York, in Boston and in other venues across the country, I said "Good.  Time to send a message that things are not as intended in this country".

Now, I knew from the outset that the majority in power would scoff at their sit-ins and label them rabble-rousers, lay-abouts and generally lazy free-loaders whose message should be not only ignored but stopped in its tracks.  Their tent cities that they were setting up from New England to California have turned into something of an eyesore, I'll admit.  And I'm not certain that the protesters have a clear idea of their target or targets.  Unclear messages can certainly lead to disdain, no matter the worthiness of their cause.

But regardless of the vagaries of the assorted messages - they vary from encampment to locale - I was still a cheerleader for their efforts.  I was, after all, around during the Vietnam War protests, which initially drew the same reaction from leaders in Washington and elsewhere, but ultimately succeeded in getting their singular message across: the war was wrong and our involvement unwarranted.

Today, the group camping out in Boston took a giant step away from my support and sympathies; some of its members declared justification for use of facilities established to aid and feed the city's homeless.  A spokesman in the mayor's office even gave support to the group, noting that the shelters which survive primarily through charitable donations and grants are open to anyone who is homeless.

That 's okay, so long as this is true.  But members of the "occupy" movements are not homeless.  In fact many could easily blend in with the country club set and might otherwise be seen having afternoon tea at the Ritz or the Parker House.

My message to the occupiers in Boston and in cities everywhere is this:

In the case of an emergency, use of the facilities which are in annual struggle to survive even in good times seems to me fine.  But to take advantage of food and hot showers intended for the genuinely homeless among us doesn't cut it.

If there is need for a shower, go home, take one, and return.  If hunger sets in, go back to where food is plentiful, or trek to the nearest market and stock up.

But above all, you need to stop taking advantage of the generous nature of society.  Being homeless because of the lack of housing is a hell of a lot different from choosing to camp out on the city's streets.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Truly Outside the Box

I read an interesting, though as the writer suggested, out-of-the-box idea this week.  It was written by Scripps Howard New Service columnist/editorial writer Dale McFeatters, and suggested that the Republican Party’s best hope for defeating President Barack Obama is none other than Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who just happens to be a Democrat.  Really?

McFeatters goes on to note that a Time magazine poll had her topping all leading GOP candidates by an average of 22 points.  But all this would mean Secretary Clinton would have to switch parties and do it quickly if she were inclined to take part in the not-to-distant primaries.

The party switch wouldn’t be the first for her.  In 1964 she was a volunteer for the late Republican Sen. Barry Goldwater in his unsuccessful bid for the White House, and in her college days at Wellesley she was a member of the Young Republicans, a group of Rockefeller-types, and was a supporter of the late mayor of New York, John Lindsey.  She was also a supporter of former U.S. Sen. Edward Brooke, a Massachusetts Republican.

It is said that her ideology changed during the civil rights movement and the Vietnam War, and she jumped onto the bandwagon of the late Sen. Eugene McCarthy, D-Minnesota.  She even embraced the ill-fated candidacy of Sen. George McGovern, D-South Dakota, an outspoken critic of the war in Vietnam.  Actually it was Richard Nixon who pushed her over the edge to the Democratic Party, because of the way he chastised Nelson Rockefeller and the 1968 GOP convention's alleged racist messages.

There is no question Clinton has a strong following eager to right what it believes was a wrong when she was denied the White House by Democratic Party leaders who favored Obama.  And there is little doubt these supporters would be on board quickly should she choose to launch a campaign.  But switch back to the party she abandoned?  I doubt it.

But since we’re talking outside the box here, how about this: Hillary Clinton as an independent candidate?  Now that’s what I call really thinking apart from the mainstream.
Foolish thinking?  Maybe, but consider the following.

Secretary Clinton has no financial backing to jump quickly into the primary races, though she certainly has a following that would come to her aid in time.  She is married to one of the more popular former presidents since FDR, William “Bill” Clinton, who labeled himself the comeback kid.  And, lets face it.  None of the GOP candidates to date are loved by the Bush family, which has demonstrated a great fondness for Bill Clinton.  Romney?  He's shaping up as the hold-your-nose and vote pick.  Herman Cain?  Yeah, like that will happen.  Rick Perry?  Please.  There are limits to reason.

Clinton has viewed her self as, in so many words, a fiscal conservative and social liberal.  And as U.S. senator from New York, she demonstrated an uncanny ability to work successfully across party lines.  Let's not overlook also the fact that she is known and highly regarded worldwide.  Not a bad asset for a president.

An independent candidacy would allow time for the dust to settle on the two major parties, and avoid the costly and probably unsuccessful primary wars.  And as things are shaping up now, we’re headed for one of the more boring presidential elections ever between Obama and whomever the GOP anoints as its flag-bearer…probably Willard Mitt Romney.  Secretary Clinton has openly called herself a morally and fiscally conservative and a social liberal.  Nothing wrong with that.

Outside the box?  Sure.  Way outside.  But maybe, just maybe it is time for a different approach to government, one that only a true independent can offer. 

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Hijackers Getting Hijacked

It's hard to argue with the initial mantra of the Tea Partiers: cut govenment spending.  But somewhere along the way their message was translated into: just say "No" to anything supported by the Democratic Party and the Obama administration.  How it happened is anyone's guess, but I suspect in the Tea Party's campaign to control the Republican Party - which it has succeeded in doing to this point - found its only target was the White House and anyone aligned with the President.  And it found a willing, albiet weak, co-conspirator in House Speaker John Boehner.  The staid old Republican Party had been hijacked.

Now, Boehner is a nice enough fellow, but it is obvious the overt threat of ouster from individuals behind the resulting Tea Party movement has diminished his ability to seek compromise, which has long been the basis of good government.  The late Republican President Ronald Reagan knew about the art of compromise and was successful largely because of his ability to work with the powerful House Speaker Thomas P. "Tip" O'Neill, Democrat of Massachusetts.

The Tea Party masterminds have now found themselves facing a dilemma that they could not have predicted: their own hijacking.

When the whacky season known as the presidential nomination process began, the Tea Party GOP believed it had the ideal candidate in U.S. Rep. Michelle Bachmann.  She had the looks, was a woman running for an office held until now only by men, and was not afraid to air her ultra conservative views, including:
  • The movie The Lion King should be considered gay propaganda.
  • If the minimum wage were abolished, jobs would be created.
  • A visit to Iraq was not unlike a trip to the Mall of America.
Those are only a few, which now have her on the verge of elimination from consideration, even from those within the Tea Party leadership who initially supported her candidacy.  In the interim, it had a second candidate it could wrap its arms around: Texas Gov. Rick Perry.

Then came Herman Cain, the outspoken former CEO of a pizza chain and a proponent of most things Tea Party.  Things were beginning to look up again when Cain emerged from Florida the winner of a straw poll among GOP attendees at a September gathering.  Bingo!  The Tea Party had two potential saviours, particularly with its most active supporter, Sarah Palin, opting to sit out the campaign.

Now the story comes out that Cain was involved in a sexual harassment suit.  His attempts to distance himself from the story have not gone well, tripping over his explanations on more than one occasion.  And revelations of this sort cannot set well with those who were eager to jump onto his bandwagon.

So where to turn for the Tea Party?  It would seem Perry is the party's only hope of taking on President Barack Obama, dim as that prospect seems.  Former Massachusetts Gov. Willard Mitt Romney?  There is no chance the perceived architect of a health care policy that is universally despised by the ruling body of the Tea Party can obtain their blessing.

Perry has a long uphill battle to upend Romney's campaign for the nomination.  The true test will be New Hampshire's first-in-the-nation presidential preference primary.  And Romney is viewed as a favorite son of the Granite State because of his summer home on the shores of Lake Winnipesaukee, in addition to the fact that none of the other candidates have resonated with the voters of that state.  He's as well known in New Hampshire as in Massachusetts where he lives.  There's a lot to be said for familiarity.

Romney is clearly the only choice of GOP traditionalists, many of whom are eager to reclaim the party that they saw hijacked in the off-season elections of 2010.  Speaker Boehner seems to be considering a more moderate stance, as evidenced by a reported unofficial agreement with Minority Leader Nancy Peolsi on deficit reduction.

As noble as the Tea Party experiment might have been in the beginning, the party of  "No" might just have worn out its welcome.  At the very least, perhaps it will re-examine itself and consider a less threatening, more moderate approach.