Fred Thompson’s obituary reminded me of another time and place, when fewer public figures made me feel, well, I think the word is icky.
In the very early ‘70’s, I was a New York Times Appalachian correspondent based in Louisville.
There were giants in those days, who believed in government. Some of them were Republicans. I got to write about Sen. John Sherman Cooper of Kentucky, Mayor Richard Lugar of Indianapolis and a young United States Attorney from Western Pennsylvania, Richard Thornburgh, who gave me a private seminar in jury selection that informs me to this day.
One lovely fall day, I took a ride around Nashville with Sen. Howard Baker, who was running for re-election. He brought along his campaign manager, tall and droll, Fred Thompson.
I don’t remember a word. My story included Baker’s Democratic opponent saying Baker was too liberal toward the antibusing movement. I only remember good conversations in the car and Fred Thompson’s pipe. For a lefty from New York, I was not at all surprised to see things from their perspective, and to enjoy their company.
The Watergate break-in had taken place three months earlier. It was not mentioned in my story. None of us had any way of knowing Baker would be a major figure in the hearings, and that Thompson would become famous for whispering to Baker, as one of his chief assistants.
I was not the slightest bit surprised when Baker was seen as a stalwart, honest man who examined the evidence against President Nixon.
I followed their careers, as Thompson became an actor – well, he was always an actor – and a senator himself.
Recently, I came across a story I had written in 1972, about possible legislation to limit strip mining – ripping coal from the surface of hilly Appalachia. The two proponents were Sen. Cooper from Kentucky (who was about to retire) and Sen, Baker from Tennessee, both Republicans, from coal states.
I thought about the way current senators grovel in front of coal -- Joe Manchin of West Virginia (a nominal Democrat who sometimes seems like a nice guy) and Mitch McConnell of Kentucky (who does not, ever.)
In the year of Trump and Carson and the nebbish Bush and the twerp from Florida I call El Joven, I remember a sunny day driving around Nashville with Howard Baker and Fred Thompson – and not feeling like I needed a shower afterward. What has happened?
11/7/2015 09:43:23 am
As you know, what happened was Reagan begetting Newt begetting Rush begetting Cheney begetting dark chaos.
11/7/2015 10:19:56 am
Yeah. It's been interesting reading Bush 41's comments. Thanks, GV
11/7/2015 10:46:38 am
Amen, George, amen.
11/7/2015 10:54:02 am
Brian and Anybody Else:
11/7/2015 11:33:00 am
It's a very good and true rendition of recent history, but, alas, only half the story. Hope and change came and went. The rich get richer and the poor multiply in vast numbers as the middle class disappears like water on Mars. And the printing presses producing get out of jail free cards never missed a beat all the time since. Even on the one maybe, sort of accomplishment, single payer wasn't even allowed to be debated on the floor of Congress. Nobody had the nerve........ The best we're set up to get is an all too common choice: the Crook or the Stupid Guy? Take care, Bernie, it was nice to see ya.
11/7/2015 08:49:15 pm
I admired Baker very much. It will not surprise you to learn he was a very serious and good photographer, which may have something to do with my view of the man. Thompson I also admired, especially for his career versatility. He acted. Sometimes well. And sometimes he overacted. But I always had the sense he was playing himself. What a pity then that his last gig was as a shill doing tacky commercials aimed at senior home owners for the reverse mortgage "industry". I could have done without seeing a former US Senator stooping to doing something like that.
11/7/2015 08:54:56 pm
A friend asked me where all the decent Republicans went. I thought about it. And it seems they are almost all dead. No Warren Rudman's or Howard Baker's on the scene these days. The current crop of GOP crackpots and parrots would probably consider them closet Democrats. But they, and others like them, were, like Poppy Bush, fundamentally decent men who were committed to doing good for the country, not just for their party and their friends.
11/8/2015 09:12:21 am
John, all true, but then again, clearly these strange birds appeal to the anger and frustration of some segment of the population. Think of the people who have been Tea Partied out. Eric Cantor, known as The Putz in front of my TV set, got tossed out in his district. Yikes I mean, these people don't exists in a vacuum.
11/8/2015 10:07:10 am
I fell asleep during SNL. Connecticut Public Television aired the great West Side Story. Earlier in the evening. That movie, which I hadn't seen in decades, refreshed my recollection of the controversies and challenges of immigrants, from their relations with "natives" to their relationship to the police. Nothing much has changed.
11/8/2015 01:49:49 pm
Brian: 12.04 AM. Click. I think they hit Trump with the elephant stun gun, robbed him of his nastiness shtick.
11/8/2015 02:33:04 pm
West Side Story in my opinion is a better play than the Shakespeare play on which it is based. I remember when the Magnavox console stereo was delivered to our home at the dawn of hi fidelity. It came with audio recordings of Shakespeare plays and a book with wonderful but minimalist notes by poet and scholar Mark Van Doren. His progeny live in my town. His notes were all about capturing Shakespeare's brilliant references and word meaning twists which communicated on multiple levels. Those notes taught me the genius of Shakespeare and as a kid I decided that the only thing a writer could do to equal or top Shakespeare was to communicate all these nuances in modern language. In my experience that happened once: West Side Story.
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“I don’t think people understand how Covid affects older Americans,” Mr. Caretti said with frustration. “In 2020, there was this all-in-this-together vibe, and it’s been annihilated. People just need to care about other people, man. That’s my soapbox.”
---Vic Caretti, 47, whose father recently died of Covid at 85.
---From an article by Paula Span, who covers old age for the NYT, which currently has 2646 comments, the majority criticizing the American public – and public officials – for acting as if the pandemic is “over.”
Classic wishful thinking, at a lethal level.