Jul 01

Will hope once again trump experience?

I just caught a fascinating C-Span retrospective on past presidential elections that raised an interestingBarack_and_mccain question: will the upcoming national election parallel the 1960 Kennedy-Nixon epic?

The similarities are striking.

Both battles featured a Republican candidate who played the ‘experience’ card and a Democratic contender whose message was ‘hope.’

Forty-eight years ago, Richard M. Nixon had just finished two terms as Eisenhower’s vice president, briefly ‘served’ as chief commander while Ike convalesced from a heart attack and famously ‘out-bullied’ Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev in the so-called kitchen debate.

Heading into the November election, John McCain can point to decades of service in the Senate, a distinguished military career and a perception of a politician who votes his beliefs as opposed to the party line.

In 1960, JFK was portrayed as an inexperienced lightweight, despite his war record and years of service in both the House and Senate.

Today, Barack Obama finds himself in a similar position, courtesy of the Hillary and McCain propaganda machines.

Nixon and McCain were the safe, experienced candidates. Kennedy and Obama offered hope, and made the case that America could do much, much better than it had in the recent past.

Kennedy won because, in face-to-face confrontations with Nixon, he projected confidence. That image, coupled with his message of hope, carried the day. Obama’s moment of truth will come in face-to-face debates with McCain this Fall.

There’s no doubt in my mind that the upcoming debates will be the most pivotal in recent history. And, it will all come down to which candidate projects the more presidential image. Will hope once again trump experience? Let the games begin. Lights! Camera! Action!

May 14

Ask not who wrote the original draft

Ted Sorenson’s new book, ‘Counselor’ finally confirms what many suspected. He wrote most ‘…first draftsTed_sorensen_kennedy
of chapters’ in ‘Profiles in Courage’ and, along with Adlai Stevenson and John F. Kennedy, authored JFK’s memorable inaugural address.

Sorenson says the significant sum proffered by JFK for contributions to ‘Profile,’ ‘…diminished any interest I might otherwise have had in recognition of my role.’ Hmmm. That must have been some payday.

I’m a huge Camelot fan and continue to read anything and everything I can about JFK, RFK and all things Kennedy. But, this admission is a real image and reputation bummer. It not only confirms that Kennedy wasn’t the intellectual heavyweight many thought he was, but also shines the spotlight on a less-than-honest author.

Beyond his well documented recklessness, womanizing, drug ingesting and other curious lifestyle choices, it seems JFK was also quite content to take credit for someone else’s work.

Despite this latest bombshell, JFK will undoubtedly remain one of our all-time favorite presidents. After all, he’s forever frozen in time as a dashing, daring and direct chief executive who left us much too soon. But, if he hadn’t been assassinated, one wonders what sort of image and reputation he’d enjoy today. I have to believe that, instead of being at or near the top of most ‘favorability polls,’ Jack would find himself listed alongside Franklin Pierce, Warren G. Harding and the current incumbent at the bottom of the barrel.

Apr 24

Before Oprah, Ellen and all the others, there was Edward R. Murrow

I’m in the midst of watching a fascinating DVD compilation of Edward R. Murrow’s landmark televisionEdwardmurrow
series ‘Person to person.’

Broadcast on CBS between 1953 and ’59, the series featured one-on-one interviews between the uber journalist become talk show host and celebrities from all walks of life. There’s John F. Kennedy, speaking from his Boston apartment just one month after marrying Jacqueline Bouvier in 1953. Another segment shows Norman Rockwell discussing his painting techniques from his Stockbridge, Massachusetts, art studio. A third follows Eleanor Roosevelt around her Manhattan apartment in 1954.

There’s also Liberace, Marilyn Monroe, Sammy Davis, Jr., and so many other legends.

Murrow’s ‘technique’ was to sit in his New York studio and, via newly-developed technology, speak to the celebrities directly from their homes.

Person to person is a fascinating snapshot into a long gone America. It was a simpler time and Murrow served up simpler questions. There’s no antagonism, no hints of scandal or intrigue, and no discussion of anything other than blue skies and happy times. That said, the interviews are anything but bland.

Murrow and his guests are direct, to the point and, dare I say it, humble. The watchwords of Person to person are civility, urbanity and compassion; three words that are nearly absent from any contemporary talk show.

It may have been superficial in content, but Person to person reflects Murrow’s impeccable image of truth and honesty. Compared to the Jerry Springer’s, Howard Stern’s and others on our airwaves today, Edward R. Murrow is a breath of fresh air (despite his omnipresent cigarette).