By late Tuesday evening as John McCain was conceding and hundreds of thousands of people were descending upon Chicago’s Grant Park to witness history-in-the-making as Barack Obama assumed the presidency of the Untied States, radio talk show bloviator Rush Limbaugh had to be feeling like a bigger self-made chump than Eliot Spitzer.
After all just a few short months ago Limbaugh had been predicting Obama would “lose big” in the upcoming presidential election because he would fail to attract traditional Democratic constituencies - blue-collar, working class voters. Sheesh, if this guy was any more wrong, he’d make Dick Cheney seem like Kreskin.
And indeed, since Tuesday night, Limbaugh has been inveighing against Obama, calling him a Chicago thug. Maybe, but if he is Barack Obama just might be the first Harvard educated thug in Chicago history.
What Limbaugh and his fellow radio henchmen refuse to acknowledge is that the Obama camoaign will likely be studied for years to come by political scientists and historians as perhaps one of the most flawless presidential campaigns in American history, with the possible fashion faux pas of Michelle Obama’s dress on election night.
What was she thinking? But that’s another story.
John McCain lost his race to Obama primarily because he was old, picked a crazy nut for a running mate and bounced around like a pin-ball from issue-to-issue, never finding his footing, or a coherent message to justify his election.
The Obama campaign from Day One, remained focused, even keeled, undistracted, on point and disciplined - in short presidential.
This was like Mr. Dithers taking on Steve McQueen.
And while McCain was whining about Bill Ayres, or vague references to “socialism,” and unruffled Barack Obama promoted a vision for the future.
Why did Barack Obama win? Because much like Ronald Reagan, 28 years ago, the Illinois senator offered a sense of idealism, optimism and the promise of a better day. John McCain talked about Joe the Plumber, who was busy hiring a public relations firm to promote him.
Despite all the lies, Obama prevailed against the chattering classes of right-wing radio.
He is not a Muslim. His is not a socialist. He was born in this country. He does not want to take your guns away. he does not ant to change the national anthem to “I Want To each The World To Sing.” He is a Christian.
And on his journey to the White House, Barack Obama, a former community organizer, organized tens of thousands of people to work for him, on the way to creating a sophisticated $700-million campaign, which utilized the latest in technology to raise money, mobilize supporters and promote his message.
And his critics claimed he had never managed anything?
The Obama campaign has transformed the American political landscape.
Rush Limbaugh will still have his audience of lemmingesq fellow travelers to carry for his gospel of shopworn rigjht-wing ideology.
If you want to tune in, Limbaugh will be easy to find. Just look in your rear-view mirror. Riding with John McCain, George Bush and Sarah Palin in a buckboard, falling further and further behind.
Some final campaign season scribblings.
Is it a state law, or something that Jimmy Buffet must appear somewhere in the Tampa area on the eve of every presidential election? Look, I like Mr. Parrothead as much as the next guy, but isn’t this shtik getting a bit old?
Can we please, please, please dispense with this piffle that former tampa Mayor Dick Greco is a Democrat? Okay, sure, fine, perhaps it might say “Democrat” on Greco’s voter registration card, but when you become an ubiquitous presence on the dais with every Republican candidate from Charlie Crist to John McCain and when the last time you voted for a Democrat, Thomas Jefferson was on the ticket, isn’t it sorta hard to maintain this mythology you still are loyal to the party of FDR, JFK and LBJ?
Oddly enough, Greco has probably done more stumping for McCain than Gov. Crist, who toward the end of this campaign cycle was playing more hard to get than a nun.
Perhaps no other politician in Florida history has been more adept at tacking with the prevailing electoral winds than Crist, who as it appeared the McCain campaign had attracted a major case of the cooties, began to ever so subtley distance himself from the Republican presidential nominee, perhaps as much as an expression of pay-back for not being named McCain’s running mate, as taking the first baby steps toward positioning himself for future White House considerations in 2012.
As well, Greco was more visible on the hustings than current Tampa Mayor Pam Iorio, who strangely played an extremely low-profile presence in the Brack Obama campaign during his frequent trips to the Tampa area.
There’s been a bit of musing as to how nasty this campaign as been and to be sure it has, but the 2008 presidential race still has a long way to go to match the vitriol of some past races, most notably the virulent contest between John Adams and Jefferson in 1800, in which both exchanged brutal accusation against each other. And they were supposed to have been once those closest of friends!
Prediction: If John McCain loses, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin will drop off the radar faster than the Hidenburg. By the time the 2012 presidential cycle rolls around again, the GOP presidential battle will see another crowded field with the possible likes of Crist, Mitt Romney, South Dakota Sen. John Thune. Mike Huckabee and probably some names we’ve never heard of entering the race.
Betcha can’t wait, right?
Who knew that when President Bush suggested Americans should go shopping as a gesture of patriotism, Sarah Palin would take it to Imelda Marcos proportions of “Give me liberty or give me Donna Karan!”
Perhaps it is not too late for the John McCain campaign to change its slogan to “Saks Fifth Avenue First!”
Let’s see if we have this straight.
We’re in the midst of the worst economic crisis since The Great Depression. Americans are losing their jobs, their homes, their life savings. People are scrimping by. Things are tough. Things are bad.
And in the middle of a presidential campaign, Republican John McCain, who has been preaching fiscal restraint, fiduciary responsibility, obviously approved a party expense of $150,000 to gussy up his running mate? A simple question. Are you nuts, senator?
To date, since McCain had the mother of all brain infarctions and selected “Gilligan’s Island’s” Ginger as his running mate the GOP has pent $150,000 in party faithful contributions in a sort of “What Not To Wear From Hell” to make over Sarah Palin’s wardrobe.
It’s probably not unreasonable to assume that when Palin was picked, somebody somewhere in the McCain camp said: “My Gawd, not only did John choose the Gidget of the NRA to be his running mate, but she has all the fashion sense of Ma Kettle. Get thee to Givenchy immediately!”
Sheesh, this is starting to make John Edwards’ $400 haircut look like a Rayhawk.
According to financial records obtained by Politico.com, Republican funds have been expended to buy Palin $49,425 in clothing from Saks, and an additional $75,000 in rags from Neiman-Marcus. This was hardly a Hockey Mom Wal-Mart moment.
As well another $44,716 has been spent on Palin’s hair and make-up. Wait a minute! They spent $44,716 on the Alaskan governor’s hair and make-up - and that was they best they do?
Good grief, the fashionista Stasi Mr. Blackwell, who just checked out to that “Devil Wears Prada” in the sky has to be spinning in his grave, thinking, “Why couldn’t I have held out for just a few more days?”
At the same time, the GOP ponied up another $5,000 for First Dude Todd Palin’s duds and another $295 in infant clothes. What? The governor never had a baby shower for her new tot?
Even if you are a well-to-do Republican, it has to be pretty galling to know contributions to the party were spent, not to advance the McCain presidential campaign, but to enhance the running-mate’s closet.
And yet, after all the money has been spent on sending Palin to Vogue school, the candidate still comes off looking like a 44-year-old woman trying to come off as a 24-year-old woman.
Please, please, please get rid the Fonzi leather jackets. Please do something with that hair, which looks like it was inspired by Lily Munster.
And especially please, stop being such flaming hypocrites.
It is awfully hard to being running around the country claiming you are a Joe Six-Pack kind of candidate when you are dressed to the nines.
It is awfully hard to be insisting how well you relate to Joe the Plumber when you are Versace the Pol.
And it is awfully hard to preach self-reliance and rugged individualism when you are accepting $150,000 worth of free - stuff.
What is truly amazing is it seems no one in the myopic McCain campaign could see how bad this looks, especially in the middle of a presidential run when the looming issue is a financial crisis crippling millions of American families.
Or perhaps, in the end, sadly, it’s not so amazing after all.
It was probably not a good idea to offend the Beelzebub of Business Class, but the AirTran gate agent apparently was willing to tempt fate.
The flight was only minutes away from departing from its Tampa International Airport gate for its brief trip to Atlanta when two very wadded passengers were escorted back into the terminal by one of the airline’s gate agents.
It was a young couple, who had become plenty steamed when they discovered they had not been seated in the business class section of the plane.
Now to be sure sitting in business class has its advantages. Somewhat roomier seats and of course so-called “free drinks,” which have really been pre-paid for with a higher ticket price.
To the best of our eavesdropping ability - hey what else is there to do in an airport? - the Bombshell of the Balkans and I casually sidled over to listen in on the dispute.
The couple, in their early 20s, would obviously never be confused with J. Crew models. The young man was wearing a well-worn t-shirt with a large image of Lucifer on his back. The ensemble seemed to compliment the Satanic tattoo on his leg. His Bride/Girlfriend/Significant Satanic Consort looked she had just been exorcised.
You know, there’s nothing like the understated elegance one finds when traveling.
The Honeymooners from Hades had seats on the Atlanta flight back in the coach section. But obviously some clerical boo-boo or perhaps sinful glitch had occurred leaving them high and for their cross purposes, dry when it came to getting into business class. Ergo the hissy fit from - hell.
By now a gaggle of AirTran gate personnel had surrounded the couple gently trying to reason with them to calm down and board the flight. One might assume they had been offered a refund of sorts on their tickets. It wasn’t to be.
Eventually the couple agreed to take a later flight leaving for Atlanta two hours later - this time they would be accommodated in business class.
Now there’s a reason why people wind up in the throes of perdition and being dumber than a sack of pitchforks is certainly one of them.
The flight from Tampa to Atlanta lasts one hour. The rednecks form the infernal regions were now willing to wait for two hours for another flight simply to sit in marginally better seats. And they obviously thought this was a great deal.
To pass the time the Prince and Princess of Darkness announced they were going to set off to find the airport bar, suggesting that by the time their plane would leave they might well be in no condition to fly.
“I don’t think they’re going to get on the 11 o’clock flight,” one of the beleaguered AirTran gate agents sighed, who looked like he could used a stiff pop himself.
There’s probably a very good reason, despite John McCain’s posturing comments to the contrary, why all the network and cable news outlets continued to promote tonight’s presidential debate in Oxford, Mississippi using the names of both Democrat Barack Obama and the Republican nominee.
For despite McCain’s broad hints he wouldn’t show up to debate Obama, everyone knew the candidate was full of beans - or words to that effect.
And just why was everyone so sure McCain was simply playing hard to get?
Ask yourself two simple questions.
Please name a single political figure running for the presidency of the United States, who would willingly pass up the opportunity for 90 minutes of free national face time on NBC, CBS, ABC, PBS, CNN, MSNBC and FOX, not to mention numerous radio outlets.
Now, please name a single political figure running for the presidency of the United States, who would willingly allow their opponent to bask in 90 minutes of free national face time on NBC, CBS, ABC, PBS, CNN, MSNBC and FOX, not to mention numerous radio outlets.
And that is why McCain’s arrival in Oxford was about as much of a surprise as the late William Faulkner coming back to his old home town.
Just how much McCain’s “No, No Nanette” act will effect tonight’s debate is, well, debatable.
For while McCain was flitting around Washington for a better part of the week, pretending to have influence over the economic bailout talks, Obama was preparing for the debate.
There are cynics - yes, it’s true, one or two of them, perhaps - who might hint, but just a bit that all of this debate kerfuffle was part of a broader conspiracy by McCain to have tonight’s debate cancelled and then rescheduled for October 2 in place of the vice presidential debate between Obama’s running mate Joe Biden and McCain’s surreal veep pick Sarah Palin, who has proven to have all the political skills of a hubcap since she was thrust into the national spotliglight.
Unfortunately Obama, who proved to be something of of a pretty fair poker player during his years in the Illinois Legislature, called McCain’s bluff, refusing to call off their first debate.
Tonight, we’ll see who wins the next hand.
Generally, post-mortem books on presidential campaigns are about as interesting as “How To Do Stand-Up Comedy,” by Vladimir Putin.
But when the dust settles on the 2008 run for the White House, don’t you suspect the behind scenes soap opera of the John McCain campaign could make for some compelling reading. Well, one can only hope.
Nominating conventions, by their very nature, are part pep rally, part re-education camp, part political high mass.
And with the Republicans meeting this week in Minnesota, the tone has also had a feel of “Elmer Gantry” meets “North To Alaska”?
Gracious there’s been more red meat chewed down to the bone here than Hannibal Lecter left unsupervised at Berns’ Steakhouse.
And, of course, there’s been no shortage of bloviating hypocritical foaming at the mouth.
You would have been forgiven Tuesday night if you had found your gin flying across the room in a massive spit-take as former Sen. Fred Thompson, whose own campaign for the presidency was often confused with “My Dinner With Andre,” weighed in with an attack on the Washington insiders who populate the Beltway cocktail party circuit.
After all, Thompson has been a frequent habitue of the very social crowd he was castigating. And from the looks of it, it appeared the senator had never met a buffet line he didn’t like.
But for pure cheekiness, former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who blew through $40 million on the way to winning a one-delegate landslide, took Barack Obama to task for his association with the political machine of Chicago Mayor Richie Daley. No! Really! He did! Honest!
Ahem, a New York glad-hander, himself the patriarch of a massive electoral machinef, was shocked by another candidate’s relationship with a big city political machine? Isn’t this a bit like Hugh Hefner being offended by nudity?
And there was Mitt Romney decrying Big Brother government, after eight years of a Bush Administration, which has treated the Bill of Rights as if it had cooties.
Although it is merely a guess, but you have to expect the books coming out of the McCain campaign will reveal a backstage political drama rivaling “The Best Man.”
In a sense it is a testimony to what hustings pros the likes of Thompson, Giuliani, Romney and Mike Huckabee were to take their marching orders, salute for the good of the party and take to the podium to defend McCain’s patently ridiculous selection of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin as his running mate.
Surely nobody expected the mandarins of the GOP hierarchy to publicly admit - “Beats me, I have no idea what John was thinking.”
And so these folks and their followers did what any group of seasoned political operatives do when the leader of the ticket decides to shoot himself in the head - smile, praise the decision and blame the media for having the audacity to raise the notion that Palin has about as much business being a heartbeat away from the presidency as Elmer Fudd.
Is was a masterful performance of spin.
Why absolutely John McCain vetted Palin. Of course he knew about her flip-flop on the Bridge To Nowhere. Of course he was aware of the governor’s efforts to fire the state’s safety director because he wouldn’t fire her ex-brother-in-law. Of course he was fully informed Palin, when then a small town mayor tried to fire the city librarian when she refused to remove some books Palin didn’t like from the library. Sure, McCain knew taxes went up in Wasilla during Palin’s mayorship. And absolutely he knew about the unwed pregnancy of Palin’s 17-year-old daughter. Of course, he knew Palin didn’t have a passport until 2007 and had traveled abroad only once in her life.
Yep, yep, yep, no problem.
Can’t wait to read the book now, can’t you?
How else then to defend Palin’s presence on the ticket than to attack her critics as sexist pigs going after a wonderful working mother? Those meanies!
You may have noticed that in many of the interviews with Republican women such as McCain advsor Carli Fiorina and others, Palin was repeatedly described as a “working mother,” to drive home the politically correct message that any criticism of the governor is an anti-feminist assault on women toiling away in the workplace. Balderdash.
We all know working mothers are an intrinsic force in the economy, who successfully balance their jobs and their families. In all likelihood most of us need to look no further than our own spouses.
There are legions of “working mothers” in the private and public sectors who are fine, decent, able, competent executives and office holders.
More to the point, the “working mother” brouhaha is a phony, manufactured GOP convention issue to divert attention away from Palin’s gender neutral political shortcomings as a vice presidential candidate.
At the moment Sarah Palin has been a national public figure less than a week. She has given two speeches. She has held - zero - press conferences. And yet the hard-core right-wing Christian conservative base of the Republican Party is more ga-ga over this empty canvas than a bunch of 14-year-old girls at a Jonas Brothers concert.
This could be a heckuva book, don’t you think.
All we need is a final chapter.
There’s an old line, while often attributed to many people, is more closely associated with Abraham Lincoln, which would seem to be guiding principle of the re-election campaigns of Hillsborough County Commissioners Brian Blair, R- Witness Protection Program and Ken Hagan, R-Marcel Marceau.
Better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than speak out and remove all doubt.
While candidates for various offices cavort about the county speaking to numerous community groups, while also participating in a number of panels, forums and debates, Blair and Hagan have been more AWOL than George W. Bush contemplating his Texas Air National Guard uniform.
Much to the consternation of their opponents, the two commissioners have ducked events like the Tiger Bay Club and the League of Women Voters, where they would run the risk of having to answer a question from the audience on their conduct in office, which might best be summed as a couple of lotion boys for the county’s development interests.
And oh yeah, they aren’t too crazy about gay people either.
Hagan traditionally has been more shy than Greta Garbo meets Osama bin Laden when it comes to public appearances. Even during his first run for office some years ago, he kept a lower profile on the stump than J.D. Salinger and still manged to get elected. So why change his stump stealth strategy now?
Well, for one reason, Hagan is now an elected official and if you are going to ask the public to return you to office, isn’t there an inherent responsibility to present yourself to the voters to justify your performance on the job?
Blair has insisted he has indeed appeared before the public noting a visit with the Republican Party Executive Committee and a two meet-the-candidate forums at Idlewild Baptist Church and Bell Shoals Baptist Church, where no questions were asked. Say, there’s a profile in courage for you.
It is certainly true if Blair and Hagan want to confine their campaigning before the National Association of Mimes, the Deaf and Dumb Society of America and the Order of St. Benedict, which practices a variation of the vows of silence, well that’s their decision.
There’s no question when a pol shows up an event there is always the possibility doom lurks only a question or two away revealing the candidate as a complete, unmitigated boob, who barely knows he or she is alive. And that could obviously explain the reluctance of Blair and Hagan to risk exposing themselves as a couple of gladhanders who are dumber than a sack of anvils.
Fair enough. More than fair enough.
But the next time either one of these chaps starts mouthing off during a county commission meeting about how brave they are, what great leaders they are and how they are out there fighting, fighting, fighting for you, it might be worthwhile to remember when it came to simply showing up to interact with the public that elected them, they were more gutless than the quivering knights in “Monty Python and the Holy Grail.”
To paraphrase George Bernard Shaw: “Some men see things as they are and say ‘Why?’ Some men dream things that never were and say ‘Why not?’ And some men spot their opponent on the campaign trail and run away, run away, run away!”
Look, I have no idea how good a Catholic William Donahue is. But if you equate buster to devotion, this guy is a walking College of Cardinals.
It’s also pretty fair to say the head of the Catholic League is easier to torque than Yosemite Sam meets Lou Piniella.
Not too long ago, a list was compiled of all the people and organizations the Captain Queeg of Catholicism has deemed not suitably respectful of the faith.
This thing is longer than a high mass. Oooooops, sorry
And low and behold, there I was tucked into the blacklist - just after Congressman Patrick Kennedy, Kathy Griffin, The Washington Post, Robin Williams, Bill Maher and Moveon.Org, but ahead of Michigan State University, Dennis Miller and Ian McKellen.
It’s not exactly clear just what I did to deserve Donahue’s ire.
Possibly it might have had something to do with some past columns suggesting Pope John Paul II and Bernard Law, the former cardinal for the Boston Diocese were guilty of being an accessory to numerous felonies associated with the pedophile scandal that rocked the church. But I would argue, truth is a defense here.
Or maybe Donahue was peeved with prior jokes - sort of - about being beaten by the Holy Sisters of Abu Ghraib throughout grade school. But again, truth is my side here, too.
Donahue did get all huffy a few years ago when I gently chided then Gov. Jeb Bush, a Catholic convert and a tool of the “Christian conservative political agenda” religious right for his efforts to allow faith based school at public expense. See: truth, defense.
Perhaps this begs a question. What would Jesus think about such pinched silliness? I’d like to think that unlike Donahue, he would laugh.
What a pity Republican presidential candidate Sen. John McCain has decided not to heed his own advice. Or maybe he forgot what it was.
It was McCain, who in the heat of the hard-fought 2000 Republican primary campaign famously noted that: “Politics ain’t bean bag.”
And he was absolutely right. The hustings can be a tough neighborhood and nothing is more demanding than the long march of a presidential campaign.
So it seemed a bit odd the other day when the McCain camp started whining more than Nick Bollea over his Pinellas County Jail conditions simply because his Democratic presidential opponent Sen. Barack Obama is getting the rock star treatment on his current overseas travels.
After all, McCain had been taunting Obama to take the trip. So he did. And now the Arizona senator is getting all flustered that the media is paying attention?
“The media is in love [with Obama]” pouted a McCain campaign e-mail, which accused the press corps covering the Illinois senator’s trip of “being in the tank” for the candidate.
Uh, just what did McCain expect? That Obama’s travels abroad would be relegated to the back pages of the papers, a mere 15-second clip on the nightly news shows?
Did McCain expect that Obama would simply play tourist and stroll through the markets buying cheap gee-gaws for his daughters and take the obligatory photo of pretending to be holding up the Leaning Tower of Pisa?
Rather Obama has done precisely what McCain goaded him into - traveling to Iraq and Afghanistan, meeting with the troops and consulting with newly minted Central Command leader Gen. David Petraeus.
Is it Obama’s fault heads of state have being tripping over themselves to have a photo-op with the candidate? Was it Obama’s fault even Jordan’s King Abdullah traveled from Colorado to Amman to meet with the senator, even driving the nominee to the airport himself?
Did McCain think no one would notice Obama was in town?
And now McCain is miffed that the network news coverage is extensive of Obama meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olhmert, while he gets short shrift for yet another of many town hall meetings?
The fact is the travels of a candidate who might well become president of the United States visiting Iraq and Afghanistan as well as the numerous world leaders he would have to deal with is a major news story.
“The network news anchors are falling over each other to get their exclusive abroad interviewing Obama,” sniffed McCain campaign flack Jeff Sadowsky. “It’s clear he’s their darling.”
Okay, everybody now - Boo-Hoo.
The McCain campaign kvetching about media coverage is more disingenuous than Mitt Romney claiming to be an avid hunter.
Did the Arizona senator complain about being a media darling during his 2000 presidential campaign, when reporters flocked to travel aboard his Straight Talk Express bus? And was it not attentive press coverage, which kept McCain’s campaign afloat when it seemed on the verge of collapsing?
Indeed few national political figures have enjoyed more positive media coverage than John McCain.
Rather, would it not be unreasonable to asume that what is really at work here is more a sense of jealousy, or perhaps the sense that a political gambit has backfired?
For instead of exposing his opponent as weak on national security issues, or unworldly in the ways of diplomacy, as the McCain camp had hoped, Obama has emerged as quite comfortable on the international stage - presidential even.
Yes, it is true that politics ain’t bean bag. It is also, at times an object lesson in being careful what you wish for.
As offensive satire goes, you would have thought this week’s The New Yorker magazine cover lampooning all the lies, distortions and attempted character assassination of Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama fell somewhere between those Danish cartoons of Mohammad wearing a bomb for a turban and that insane “art” work from a few years ago depicting an image of Jesus Christ in a jar of urine.
This much we learned though, for a nation, which once prided itself on feisty, testy social commentary, we’ve sure become a culture of humorless, politically correct hand-wringers.
The brou-ha-ha revolved around a New Yorker cover featuring an Oval Office setting with Michelle Obama in a sort of Patty Hearst/Angela Davis pose dressed in military fatigues, sporting a huge Afro, cradling a machine gun in one hand while fist bumping her husband decked out a Arabesque ensemble. A picture of Osama bin Laden hangs over the mantle while an American flag burns in the fireplace.
All in all, it was a darn fine piece of political satire, perfectly capturing all the fibs and attempts to cast Obama and his wife as Islamic terrorist sympathizers who hate America. By the way, I have been a faithful subscriber of The New Yorker for more than 40 years. The magazine’s covers historically rank among the finest, sharpest, most dead on social commentaries you find anywhere in American journalism.
To be sure the cover had its desired effect - sort of.
The magazine was attacked for insensitivity, which is , uh, sort of the point of satire in the first place.
And the resulting national debate about its propriety also underscored what a strong piece of political humor ought to accomplish - debate, discussion, social intercourse.
Perhaps the problem with the cover though, is that is many respects we have also become a nation of complete idiots who: A) have precious little sense of history about this sort of stuff and/or B) sadly actually believe the images published by The New Yorker are (sigh) true.
The other day my son arrived home from a friend’s house, where the parents are well-educated, fairly affluent people to tell me these folks also believe the now famous fist bump Michelle Obama playfully traded with her husband on the night he clinched the Democratic Party presidential nomination is really some kind of terrorist gesture. Yes, you may now start drinking heavily.
And despite voluminous evidence to the contrary, there are people out there who believe Obama used to the Koran when he was sworn into the U.S. Senate.
What does this suggest? Perhaps it is there are citizens among us who are wilfully clueless - and proud of it.
Have we lost our humor bearings somewhere along the line?
If the public is going to get all huffy over a magazine cover, I wonder sometimes if a much revered biting comedy series like “All In The Family” would ever be allowed on the air today. I tend to think not.
Gracious even time-honored satirical shows like “Saturday Night Live” seem more tempered and measured than in its earliest days.
If you are one of those individuals who got the vapors over The New Yorker cover, let me recommend a piece of reading for you.
“Infamous Scribblers” was published a couple years ago by veteran television correspondent Eric Burns.
It’s a terrific book on the very earliest days of American journalism. The title comes from George Washington view of newspaper people.
If you think The New Yorker cartoon was offensive, or unfair, or insensitive, it was mere child’s play when compared to the editorial abuse our beloved Founding Fathers experienced from the journalists and cartoonists of the day.
And yet, somehow the nation survived. The Founders survived. Journalism survived, too.
What can be expect from a future New Yorker? John McCain as a druid, perhaps?
One can only hope.
Could this be the fastest case of cold feet since “March of the Penguins”?
Just mere days ago, Florida Gov. Charlie Crist proclaimed his undying love for New York socialite Carole Rome, who got DeBeers in her recent divorce settlement.
The governor popped the question. Rome apparently said “Yessssss! Yesssssss! A thousand times, YESSSSSS!” and the happy couple suggested they would exchange their vows sometime this fall, probably after the Nov. 4 elections.
Fair enough, more or less. Crist is reportedly on John McCain’s sort list to become the presumptive Republican presidential nominee’s running mate. Things could get busy. There could be a move to the vice presidential mansion, which would certainly be a very nice wedding gift.
But then the other day the governor dropped a hint that the happy occasion might not occur until later, much, much later, perhaps not until next spring and that could stir up speculation maybe this whole wedding thing is little more than a political manipulation on the part of the Crist to use the prospect of an engagement to make his vice presidential prospects more appealing.
All this whispering and conjecture could easily be avoided is Crist and Rome simply got hitched - right now.
It’s not all that hard, you know.
Sixteen years ago this month the Bombshell of the Balkans and I got married in a quiet, simple, dignified ceremony. Well, it was about as dignified as a wedding can get in Las Vegas, at a place called The Little Chapel of the Bells, presided over by a minister who sounded like something out of “Deliverance” meets “Blue Hawaii.”
And we’re still happily together.
Both of us, much like Crist and Rome, had been married before, thus obviating the need for some big wedding ceremony.
The simple fact is Charlie Crist could make an honest woman out of Rome in very short order.
It’s hardly that big a deal to get a marriage license. Surely the governor of the fourth largest state in the union, a guy who can sign death warrants, could find a notary public or at least a half-way decent Elvis impersonator to conduct the services.
It doesn’t take that long and let’s face it, most of us who are invited to weddings are pretty well stultified by the service, waiting only for the reception to begin.
Plenty of people are very busy in their lives and still find time to marry the love of their life.
This is purely friendly advice, but I would gently suggest to the governor that there is something awfully romantic about eloping.
It’s not that hard, really, once you give it a try.
For starters, you need to know that Ralph Hughes and those of us in the scribbling racket got along about as well as Alberto Gonzales and the Constitution.
Hughes regarded reporters as if we were a cootie-infested alien life form and we pretty much thought of him as … well, no sense getting into that. After all, the political gadfly has passed away at age 77.
It was an interesting, strained non-relationship. And now it’s time for a truce.
Still, it is fair to say the take-no-prisoners Hughes would be uneasy with some sort of faux syrupy hail-fellow-well-met remembrance.
Hughes liked to play hard-ball politics. He really liked to play high inside brush-back hard-ball politics. And he was very good at it.
If you were a conservative politician in this county, this state, preferably one so far to the right you made Vlad the Impaler seem like a week-kneed, card carrying ACLU sob sister, you had no better friend than Ralph Hughes and his even better friend, Ralph Hughes’ checkbook.
Political Charm Bracelet
Hughes lavished his dollars on the likes of Hillsborough County commissioners Jim Norman, Brian Blair, Ken Hagan, Al Higginbotham, Mark Sharpe, Kevin White and Ronda Storms, as well as Tax Collector Doug Belden, and perhaps the shiniest trinket on his political charm bracelet — Jeb Bush.
You had to believe Hughes relished the role of kingmaker, using his financial muscle to make politicians currying his favor pucker while wielding influence over the affairs of the day, from inveighing against government waste to promoting school vouchers.
Hughes was also famous for issuing frequent manifesto-du-jours on his Cast-Crete Corp. letterhead. Martin Luther wasn’t this prolific.
To be sure, Hughes was the Big Daddy of Hillsborough County politics and yet, it always seemed odd to me why a man who was so critical of perceived government waste and inefficiency never expressed the slightest desire to run for office himself.
But really, why bother to run for say, a single seat on the Hillsborough County Commission, when you could basically take out a long-term lease on virtually the entire board?
Which begs a question: In the wake of Hughes’ passing, who did the mogul bequeath Norman to in the will?
Perhaps there’s a fair point to be made that Hughes exerted a disproportionate degree of influence on local government by virtue of his wealth.
Yet money has always been the mother’s milk of “good government.” There have always been individuals of affluence who imposed their view, their will, their ambitions on public figures through their bank accounts.
And it should be noted that whether you loved or hated Hughes, there is no evidence he broke any laws in his political contributions.
As well, there was never any prohibition against some fat cat, rich liberal using their financial clout to rent a commissioner or two.
I suspect Hughes would have loved that kind of political fight.
But it’s just a guess, Hughes would have never admitted something like that to an ink-stained, cootie-infested wretch of a scribbler.
Some years ago when I was with the Chicago Sun-Times, I wrote a travel story about the efforts on the part of some resorts in Jamaica to rebound from the devastating effects of several hurricanes.
As part of my tour of the island, I was taken to a place called Hedonism II, which as you might imagine promoted itself as a destination point for the va-va-va-voom set. The resort held out the promise of unbridled sin and most of all, hyped its “clothing optional” beaches as a gathering spot for all the beautiful people.
So I thought I’d take a peek. Bad idea.
Look, I have nothing against nudity. It comes in handy when one wants to take a shower, for example. And it’s sorta required when two people decide they want to ..., well ....
But I learned an important lesson on that trip. There is no real gentle way to put this, but in my scientific opinion 99.999999999 percent of people who are attracted to nude beaches have absolutely no business flitting about in the altogether in a public place. So stop it, stop it right now! Please.
The nude beach in Jamaica was about as sexy and alluring as a Calcutta ghetto.
And yet, human nature being what it is, there are still people out there who insist in taking their clothes off in public settings. Let’s have a rule - if you are a man unless you have a body that compares favorably to, I don’t know, how about a young Sean Connery, don’t go naked in public. And if you are a woman, unless you are frequently confused with Jessica Alba, or Angelina Jolie, the same goes for you too.
I mention all this because a condo complex here in Hillsborough County recently announced plans for a “clothing optional” swimming area at the Arbors at Branch Creek. One can only hope sanity will eventually prevail.
To be sure some residents were alarmed by this development, fearful their children will be scandalized and they will, too once they get a gander at some middle-aged, balding, guy strutting about in the Full Monty.
I suspect there will be precious little erotica to be found around the pool area, which will more closely resemble a pack of pink beached seals.
Of course, the nude pool area could be a real selling point for Arbors at Branch Creek, offering its residents a place to go to after a hard, stressful day at the office when one really could use a few laughs - big, huge, enormous belly laughs.
Not that this is information you really need to know, but it would appear - perhaps in a cost cutting move - the producers of hard-core pornography have decided to do away with such extraneous and needless time-wasting filmmaking devices like plot and dialogue.
Up on the screen at a quaint establishment called Buddies Adult Video, men are doing things to each other that defy most laws of engineering, orthopedics and certainly good taste.
“Boys Town,” this is not. But Tampa Police Detective Mark Dinsmore, a 26-year veteran of force thought it would be a swell idea for me to experience what he and his undercover partner Mike Victor have been dealing with for the past six weeks in an intensive operation to attack some mighty naughty behavior going on in Drew Park.
“Uh, what do I do if I get groped,” I nervously asked Dinsmore.
“I’ll let them grope you for a minute and then I’ll arrest them,” the cop smiled. How comforting.
As fate would have it, it was Victor who was getting groped a few rows back in the pitch-black darkened theater, which would never be confused with Radio City Music Hall.
Upon entering the theater, Victor had noticed one of the patrons of the arts with his pants down around his ankles masturbating. Within moments the man had moved next to the detective and began aggressively rubbing …, well let’s just leave it at that.
“I was getting ready to pull my badge, it was that bad,” Victor later recalled.
Suddenly the theater was filled with officers waving flashlights, as a suspect, 57-year-old James Laird of Wesley Chapel, was escorted from the building, to be charged with lewd and lascivious behavior and exposure of a sexual organ.
Are you beginning to get the impression, this is probably the worst job in law enforcement? And if you aren’t, stick around. Bad word choice, perhaps.
Since May 1, the TPD has been engaged in an intensive $130,000 effort, which might be dubbed “Operation OH-MY-GAWD!” aimed at bringing the various adult use businesses which fester in Drew Park into some form of compliance with city decency codes.
To date, counting the Thursday night busts, Dinsmore and Victor, aided by officers from other units within the police department, have made at least 108 arrests mostly for lewd and lascivious conduct.
The net has been wide and embarrassing. To date, Robert Linger, who had been vice president and general manager of WTVT, Channel 13 and Victor Martinez, a well-known Tampa lawyer, have been charged with lewd and lascivious conduct and exposure of a sexual organ.
As well, the cops have nabbed businessmen and even a doctor from Miami. Indeed, Dinsmore noted about 60 percent of those who have been arrested have come into the Drew Park hoochy-coochy scene from outside Hillsborough County.
If you’re wondering why men engage in such tawdry behavior putting their lives, their reputations, their career at such high risk, neither detective had a definitive answer.
“It’s all walks of life,” Victor said. “People have a private life, a public life and a secret life.”
And both detectives agreed that while the charges imposed on these offenders are misdemeanors, in same cases, this sort of behavior can mark the first step for some defendants on the road to becoming a sexual predator, which might explain why the city is willing to spend $130,000 to disrupt the cycle of sleaze.
Part of that money goes to undercover officers to buy an $11 ticket to enter Fantasy Land on North Lois Avenue.
This time Victor was accompanied by TPD undercover narcotics Detective Stephanie Haley, and the two posed as a young couple.
Up on screen this piece of cinema verite made “9 1/2 Weeks” look like “Heidi.”
But the real drama was taking place in the audience of film lovers.
Earlier, in another, smaller theater within the Fantasy Land building a middle-aged man had exposed himself in front of Victor and Haley, who had now moved to a larger auditorium. So had the middle-aged man.
After about 30 minutes of watching a movie that made “Last Tango In Paris,” look like “Driving Miss Daisy,” a man who appeared to be in his late 30s stood up behind the couch where Victor and Haley were sitting and began to masturbate.
Soon, he was joined by the man from the first theater and another older male, all exposed, all fondling themselves in a loose semi-circle around the cops. The man behind the couch was standing only inches from the back of Victor’s head when Haley asked if he intended to consummate the moment on her “boyfriend.”
“That would be a beautiful thing,” the man replied, suggesting perhaps that beauty truly is in the eye of the beholder. Okay, now do you agree this is the worst job in law enforcement?
Before life could get any more beautiful, TPD officers flooded into the theater, arresting Michael Hubbard of Hudson, John McThune of Tampa and Jesus Miranda Morels of Lakeland. By now, you’ve figured out the charges.
Proving that law school probably isn’t a career option, McThune insisted to Dinsmore that he didn’t think he was committing a crime. “Not really, I wasn’t bothering anybody,” he argued. “Nobody was around.”
Not quite, Dinsmore explained. He had exposed himself in a theater filled with people. Doesn’t that bother him? Doesn’t he think it’s wrong?
“Now it does!” McThune sighed as he stood handcuffed in a parking lot.
A mortified Hubbard – Mr. Everything is beautiful - who said he had been married for 12 years, “… until now, maybe,” added he was supposed to be in Gainesville for a business meeting instead of one of Tampa’s seedier neighborhoods. “I’m just stupid.”
And Morales, at 69, insisted he couldn’t possibly have committed a crime because of the “limitations” of his age. But he still went to jail, probably for giving it the old college try.
So far, since May 1, “Operation Put That Away, Now!” has resulted in the closing of at least eight coo-coo-ca-cho establishments. Prostitution arrests have dropped to almost zero.
Dinsmore drove past one of the closed businesses, XPosed, which had a sign reading – “We are open for business.”
“You are not open for business,” he smiled.
“Do we have enough cuffs?” one of Dinsmore’s officers asked before heading back out into the night.
More than enough. And plenty of anti-bacterial hand lotion, too!
He was the reluctant politician.
In 35 years of scribbling, covering the hustings and hanging around pols, I don’t believe I ever a met a man more ill-suited to the demands of retail politics than Bill James, a career federal and state prosecutor, who died earlier this week at 75.
Uncomfortable with the press and about as much of a backslapper as J.D. Salinger, Bill James still managed to serve two terms at Hillsborough State Attorney, before being ousted from office by the very strange, very weird, very eccentric and in the end, very sad, Harry Lee Coe.
That ended James public career as a prosecutor, but it was a career spent bringing down Mafia hitman, corrupt politicians and other assorted bad guys.
I won’t pretend to claim I knew James well, although I covered his office and had nothing but cordial, albeit social awkward dealings with this painfully shy man. So I’ll leave the more complete eulogies to those who knew him far better than me.
There is this though about Bill James, which friend and foe could readily agree. He was a lawyer’s lawyer, a prosecutor’s prosecutor.
More pointedly, he is the poster child for why somebody should want to go to law school.
All too often bright, intelligent, ambitious young people pursue the law for all the wrong reasons, usually having more to do with billable hours, rather than justice.
Bill James loved the law. He pursued his career as a prosecutor in order to serve the cause of justice, to do right wrongs, to honor the Constitution.
That’s a pretty good legacy to leave behind. And being true to his understated nature, chances are Bill James would be embarrassed by the all generous words.
But the truth is solid defense in this case.