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November 23, 2010

Angry Politics

Roy Meachum

The raging anger in political debates leaves me perplexed, as readers know very well.


Because the younger Bush’s administration was bereft, bankrupt in morals, killing thousands and wasting trillions. I wanted to blame the rage that the recent elections reflected, not on George W., but the twins behind his throne, Karl Rove and Richard Cheney. But it’s not their fault.


Bill Clinton must belly up to the bar. As probably the most intellectual chief executive in the 20th century, his foolishness in the matter of the intern received virtually a pass. He should have been taken to a woodshed and thrashed thoroughly. He wasn’t.


Properly choking on their own exasperation, Republicans tried and failed to extract articles of impeachment. He was a dumb ass, agreed. But other presidents surpassed the man from Arkansas in arrant stupidity; many were members of the GOP.


Good friends worship Ronald Reagan’s record; that’s their choice.


A good case can be made against Richard M. Nixon’s crimes against common sense and intelligence. But I consider him more to be pitied than condemned.


As readers know I’m working on a memoir; my editor explained the first three Eddie Fisher pieces at the time of his death in this space were taken from my struggling to bring the manuscript up to today’s date. It’s a long way short.


This week I spent wrestling with the 1965 White House Festival of the Arts; I worked very hard with Social Secretary Bess Abell to bring off the event successfully. We didn’t succeed. Oh, people in my area, the performing arts, were ecstatic; the National Gallery of Art’s Carter Brown soiled the knees of his khakis pulling off his end of the festival. I leave to the memoir my finding of the specific that went very wrong. But in general, nobody was really at fault.


The hopes of everyone involved were the unavoidable targets of a destiny so much larger than the arts, infinitely more than the petulant anger that fuels Sarah Palin and Tea Party ranks.


As a reporter, I was present when the anger began to build.


Assistant Secretary of Labor Daniel Moynihan observed on Jack Kennedy’s assassination: If you’re Irish the world breaks your heart. But you didn’t have to dote on shamrocks to be sorely disappointed at how things turned out, including the Boston Irishman’s death in Dallas.


Bear with me.


After World War II, the Army stationed me in Germany, which meant I missed the initial chaos that resulted from the impact of winning against a formidable foe. Harry Truman barely managed to hang in against a national mood to throw out of office men who reminded the electorate of dark days’ doubts; basically, people resented the wartime leaders who scolded and cajoled them through wartime crises.


Franklin Delano Roosevelt died and Winston Churchill was tossed out on the sidewalk, in front of 10 Downing Street. People in the winning nations really wanted the fruits of their victory, something very large.


Dwight David Eisenhower presided over a golden age, unfortunately. Everybody loved Ike. His term saw both the District’s last polio epidemic and Jonas Salk coming up with vaccine so it would never happen again. Many families moved into houses just built. In all sorts of ways, the American dream was working all over the place.


It was not enough, of course.


England’s Carnaby Street delivered spectacular although mini fashions, along with the Beatles, the Fab Four. Meanwhile, scientists were coming up with a pill that could prevent pregnancy. The code of conduct went out several windows and doors. Jack and Jackie Kennedy were the king and queen of misrule, as Mardi Gras has it. The assassination was a nightmare from which America never recovered.


In rapid succession we were faced with the Civil Rights movement, the reality that older citizens needed Medicare and the dreary war dragging on in Vietnam. Furthermore, the AIDS epidemic slowed down the sexual freedom that resulted from the pill. The body politic went into shock and has never recovered.


What good is being citizen of the richest, most powerful country in the entire universe if you must live a very ordinary life?


Those wealthy among us are expected to pay heavily to Washington for the privileges they feel they personally earned all by themselves, in the first place.


The growth of government because people demanded more and more out of Washington was found to be repugnant.


In short, Americans find themselves exactly in the same emotional state as their predecessors in the 19th century, an age in which all political dialogue was acerbic and very angry. Much like these times.


Teaching at Harvard, Spanish philosopher George Santayana observed that failure to learn the lessons of history man will only repeat the failures, words to that effect.


The anger in politics I have lamented is neither new nor attributable to any individual. It keeps on happening; being volatile, it bursts out into consciousness on certain occasions.


Like now.


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