Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Politics, As Usual and Unusual

You might have noticed I’ve taken a short hiatus from political commentary. It’s hard, repetitive work continually finding fault with politicians. Look what Gail Collins of the NY Times has to do—each time she writes about Mitt Romney she has to figure out some way to include the fact he strapped the family dog to the roof of the car when he took his family on a vacation to Canada. If I were paid to write about politics, I’m sure my keyboard would be ablaze with fiery ire. But since this is just an avocation. I’m trying to keep my biases in check. At least for the short term.

Speaking of my biases, I’m against men showing skin when they cross their legs. So it was comforting to see President Obama learned his lesson and wore appropriate high socks during his Sunday 60 Minutes interview. Correspondent Steve Croft, on the other hand, exposed his shins to America. Disgusting.

(Real long-time readers of this blog might recall one of my earliest posts railed against the “shins of the president.” As it’s a short entry, I won’t make you click a link to it, I’ll just reproduce it here:

“Now a word about proper sock length. Watching a clip Sunday of Barack Obama on "This Week With George Stephanopoulos," I was struck by the fashion no-no displayed by the president. Sitting with his legs crossed, Obama showed viewers several inches of bare skin where his pants leg did not meet the top of his socks. It is inexcusable, it’s a fashion faux pas, especially considering his wife’s keen fashion sense, that the commander-in-chief of the United States does not wear knee-high socks when he is dressed up. Indeed, anyone, anyone who is in politics, in business or in any way in a public situation, should wear knee-high socks. There is nothing appealing or sexy about seeing a man’s shin-bone skin. Bottom line—if you’re going to wear socks, make sure they cover all of your lower leg. Here’s hoping someone in the White House reads this before Obama’s appearance on Letterman tonight.”)

Someone with sartorial sense and a keen eye must have gotten to Obama.

My “vacation” from political writing has coincided with the ascent of Newt Gingrich as a key player in the Republican presidential sweepstakes. How interesting that many evangelicals and other supposedly values-oriented religious voters have made light of Gingrich’s rather sordid past. They’ve thrown their support to the twice-divorced former speaker of the House. They’ve chosen to ignore his abandonment of the Protestant religion in favor of Catholicism. They’ve accepted his admission of past sins, even the one where he told a previous wife he was leaving her while she suffered from cancer. They don’t hold it against him that he twice (at least) had affairs while married, that he hypocritically tried to impeach Bill Clinton for actions from inappropriate extra-marital sexual activity while he himself was guilty of the same vice. How beguiling that he ignored one of Jesus’ most famous precepts, “Judge not lest ye be judged.”

But then, it is hard to fathom an electorate blind to the failings of their anointed leaders. Ronald Reagan impregnated Nancy Davis before they were married. Not to be outdone, Democrats stood by Clinton and John F. Kennedy. It’s only when they flaunt their improprieties, as Gary Hart did, or try to cover them up, as John Edwards did, that voters rebuff them. Gingrich, with his deep, stentorian tones, has embraced his imperfections, has recanted his sins, so attractive to an evangelical community that sees salvation in faith by atonement.

What they don’t see is how destructive GOP policies on health care, unemployment compensation, pollution, education support and other social issues have been and would be to the family. There can be honest disagreement over abortion rights, but when did the Bible lose its compassion for the poor, for the downtrodden, for the orphaned? When did it become religiously acceptable for the community to abandon the less fortunate? When did the Bible end its advocacy that the rich take care of the needy? The Bible is not a capitalist manifesto. If anything, it is a social contract where those better off are instructed to help the rest of society.

Perhaps if they studied which political ideology has time and again worked to make life easier and more comfortable for the vast majority of our nation, and not an exceedingly small sliver, they will rethink their support for those who would strip away benefits from the masses while safeguarding the treasures of millionaires and billionaires.

If Only He Had Taken the Bet....I’d be $10,000 richer. Like Mitt Romney during Saturday night’s Republican presidential candidate debate with Rick Perry, I proffered a $10,000 bet, the subject of which was, who hosted the mid-1950s CBS TV show, You Are There?. My adversary, a much smarter fellow than I, whose adult education class I attend, and who shall remain nameless so as not to embarrass him, said it was Edward R. Murrow. He said he had tapes at home with Murrow as the host.

I, on the other hand, vividly remember the host being Walter Cronkite. One of my earliest TV memories is watching You Are There. Cronkite would relate the background for the half hour program that recreated historical events as if they were developing news stories, then place an earphone to the side of his head while intoning, “You are there.” The show’s dramatization of the David and Goliath story stays with me even to this day. At least in my mind’s eye, the climactic scene begins with David reciting the 23rd psalm as he walks out to confront Goliath.

Google “You Are There Walter Cronkite” if you need validation of my claim. Murrow, it turns out, hosted another show, See It Now, a newsmagazine and documentary series, also on CBS.