Thursday, January 31, 2013

fish eggs in high style

It was what Alsop would say afterward to those people that really mattered to Jackie.  ---------------------- [excerpt, Mrs. Kennedy]  Alsop was one of the great Washington gossips, a prolific lette-writer for whom an opportunity to pass on details of the first dinner party at the White House was the equivalent of winning a lottery. 

Jackie knew that if all did not go well, Alsop, devoted though he was to the new president, would be only too happy to trumpet the news in the morning.

Given the fact that there had been no time to bring the White House food and décor up to Jackie's standards, let alone those of the finicky Alsop, there was every reason to believe that the evening might prove a failure.  Jackie approached it as a kind of high-wire act, in which a triumph would be all the more valuable and diverting in view of the perils.

...When Jackie entered the Lincoln Sitting Room, chosen in part for the imprint of history it conferred, it was evident that so far her strategy had worked.  Alsop, who wore round horn-rimmed spectacles on a bulldog face, and Roosevelt [Franklin Jr.], jowly and heavy-lidded with a mischievous glint in his eye, were chuckling over the centerpiece:  an enormous gold bucket filled with ten pounds of the finest caviar.  ...In Jackie's design the gold bucket proclaimed:  Isn't this fun and exciting!...It had another purpose as well. 

Jackie hoped to stuff her guests with caviar so that by dinnertime they would be too full to care about the execrable White House food.

{Mrs. Kennedy, by Barbara Leaming.  2001.  Simon & Schuster.}


Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Oh, Really? or, Strategies And Appearances

Jack and Jackie were consummate performers individually, but it was as a team that they were at their most dazzling, and they reveled in their joint performance.  That first Sunday night in the White House was to prove no exception.  Jackie, as was her custom, wrote, choreographed, and stage-designed an evening of pure theater.  Jack had only to make his entrance and hit his marks. 

--------- [excerpts, Mrs. Kennedy - Leaming] -----------

Jackie's one comfort, as she lay in bed listening to her mother's demands that she come downstairs immediately and perform her duties as hostess, was that she knew Janet would retreat the moment Jack arrived.

He thought Mrs. Auchincloss faintly ridiculous and found it difficult to understand how Jackie could take her ranting so seriously.  But then, Jack had not been a child in Janet's household.  Whatever faults his own parents had had, he had grown up in a house where both parents, especially the father, lavished praise on their children and carefully nurtured their egos in order to breed a fearless self-confidence that often bordered on arrogance. 

Janet...had from the first been as dazzled by him as Jackie was.  She remained at once in awe and "absolutely terrified" of Jack.  To Jackie's delight, Janet never dared try to push her around in his presence.

Despite her carefully constructed aura of fey innocence, Jackie was very much a realist, a woman who had lived an emotionally brutal life.  Though she worked hard to appear helpless, she was anything but that. ...

In the past four years, she had simply remained at home while Jack traveled....Henceforth, Jackie would be the one to leave....Central to her plan was a country retreat close enough to Washington to use on a regular basis.  The moment Jack was elected, she had begun to seek the right spot, and while in Florida they had finalized arrangements to rent an estate in the Virginia hunt country just outside Middleburg. 

In addition to weekends in the country with Jack, she intended to withdraw there with the children several days during the week....In the summer, she would spend three months with the children on Cape Cod, at the house they already owned in the Kennedy family compound in Hyannis Port.  Jack would...join her on weekends.

...She had not recovered from the birth of her son before it was time for her to begin her duties as First Lady.  It was nearly 5 P.M. when the Caroline landed.  Accompanied by Secret Service men, Jackie descended the steps of the plane, her over-sized dark glasses in place, as press and another crowd of the curious watched her.


On Saturday morning, Jackie started work immediately....Before she got out of bed, she called the usher's office to inform Mr. West that she would be down that morning to go through all the back rooms of the Mansion to meet the dozens of White House staff members and familiarize herself with their roles....

...Jackie was also on the phone first thing to the director of the National Gallery, keen to arrange a meeting about paintings for the White House.  What she had in mind, he learned, was not an appointment a few weeks later, but the next day at the very latest....There was already a stack of lined yellow memo pads next to the bed....When she thought of yet another matter she must deal with, she jotted it down on one of the long lists she habitually made.

The first major test of her skills was to be a dinner party that Sunday, January 22, only two days after their arrival in the White House. All weekend, in addition to interviewing staff, scrutinizing art and antiques from the National Gallery and the Smithsonian Institute, attending a swearing-in ceremony downstairs in the East Room for members of the Cabinet, and periodically halting everything to greet visitors whom Jack brought up to the family quarters, she tirelessly planned for Sunday night.

She went from room to room, upstairs and down, deciding which to use, devising the choreography of entrances and exits, and calculating how things would look from each guest's point of view.  She pushed and pulled heavy furniture in an effort to make the spaces more visually appealing....

She conferred constantly with Mr. West, whom she had quickly realized would be her most important ally, and whom she soon came to love for all he taught her as well as for his ability to make her laugh in difficult situations.  She made voluminous lists on the yellow lined pads that would soon become familiar to the White House staff, and wrote up every minuscule detail with the seriousness of a general readying his troops for a decisive battle.

Jack and Jackie were consummate performers individually, but it was as a team that they were at their most dazzling, and they reveled in their joint performance.  That first Sunday night in the White House was to prove no exception.  Jackie, as was her custom, wrote, choreographed, and stage-designed an evening of pure theater.  Jack had only to make his entrance and hit his marks.  ...

Both Kennedys were still in Florida when Joseph Alsop asked them to his Georgetown home on January 21, that same Saturday, to meet his fiancée.  The fifty-year-old Alsop, who had a secret life as a homosexual, was about to enter a platonic marriage with a friend's widow, and some people in Washington half joked that he was motivated by a desire to avoid embarrassment to the new president, whom he expected to see a good deal of socially in the next four years. 

...During his early career as a congressman, JFK had been a guest at a number of Alsop's dinner parties, until his flippant remark that there never seemed to be any pretty girls in attendance irritated Alsop, who cut off further invitations.  Kennedy was reinstated after he took up with Jackie....

Alsop had been an influential supporter of JFK during the presidential campaign....As the President was already booked for the evening of the 21st, Jackie invited Alsop and his fiancée to dinner on Sunday instead.  Exquisitely attuned to matters of status and favor, Alsop was certain to appreciate that the invitation was a coup, something to crow about to his vast network of rich and influential friends around the world.

It was what Alsop would say afterward to those people that really mattered to Jackie.  [end excerpts]-------------------------

====================  I began reading about Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy after 1994, when she died.  All these people being interviewed on TV talked about her -- Letitia Baldrige:  "Oh, she was so well-read!"  And Jack Valenti recalling Mrs. Onassis phoning him up about a book deal, etc.  I saw the photos and clips and listened to people talk, and became interested, involuntarily.

I read these descriptions, steeped in the style of their era, & they seem to me both close-by, and far-away, at the same time.  Both familiar and foreign.  Easily imaginable, and other-worldly. 
Now, total relatability;
now, bizarre.

The -- balancing, and management -- of high callings and crushing disappointments and mundane day-to-day and world peace, etc.

{excerpts from Mrs. Kennedy, by Barbara Leaming.  Copyright, 2001.  The Free Press; Simon & Schuster, New York.}


Tuesday, January 29, 2013

don't bring your wife

The hulking Mercury with Jackie in the rear seat pulled up to the terminal at Palm Beach International Airport twenty minutes after it left the Kennedy estate.  Here, to greet her, was another reminder of how her life had changed.
----------[excerpt:  Mrs. Kennedy, Barbara Leaming]------------  In addition to press, a small crowd had gathered on Southern Boulevard to watch her departure.  Wherever she went, it would be like this.  She was merely boarding a plane, yet here were people calling out "Hey, Jackie!" and assessing her with the same critical glare....

The public was intensely curious about Jackie, so young and so different from her conservative, grandmotherly predecessors, Mamie Eisenhower and Bess Truman.  A great many people had yet to decide whether they liked the stylish new First Lady....

As Jackie stepped out of the Mercury to confront the crowd, a faint trace of what an agent later called the "deer in the headlights" look appeared on her face....Jackie climbed the steps and disappeared inside the small cabin, but even now, of course, she was not alone.  Her Secret Service detail, the only other passengers, would share the flight to Washington.

As the plane took off that January afternoon, Jackie was at a turning point.  Its signs were everywhere:  in the crowd at the airport, but also in in the gun-toting men in the cabin....

Aware that by the very nature of things history would afford her no real privacy, she had nonetheless taken steps to limit her public life dramatically....She presented herself now as a reluctant public figure.  she issued a statement that she would not be an active First Lady, and that as much as possible she would pursue a private life devoted to the priorities of her husband and her children.

Determined to limit access to that private life, with all its mortifying complications, she ruled out press interviews and photo opportunities.  In the interest of further secluding herself, she even attempted to limit her duties as hostess during state visits by directing the Chief of Protocol to encourage foreign leaders to leave their wives at home.----------------------------- [end excerpt]

{Mrs. Kennedy, by Barbara Leaming.  Copyright, 2001.  The Free Press; Simon & Schuster, New York.}


Friday, January 25, 2013

order out of chaos

------------------ The first and most essential condition of Democratic success under a popular Republican President was party unity.  Johnson was mindful of Will Rogers's observation:  "I am not a member of any organized political party.  I am a Democrat." -----------------------

 [excerpt - Dallek, Lone Star Rising, Lyndon Johnson and his Times]

----------------------- He also remembered the old saw that a Democrat would rather fight a Democrat any time than fight a Republican.  In the winter of 1953, the Democrats seemed more divided than ever among conservatives, liberals, and moderates:  segregationists like Harry Byrd of Virginia and Richard Russell of Georgia seemed incapable of cooperation with southern and midwestern liberals like Estes Kefauver of Tennessee, Paul Douglas of Illinois, and Hubert Humphrey of Minnesota. 

These competing factions could swamp senators in the middle like Johnson.

All the Senate Democrats, except for Russell, were "very, very skeptical of the Johnson leadership.  Johnson did not get the leadership [position -- Senate Minority Leader] because anybody thought he could handle it," George Reedy says.  "But there was just nobody else.  No liberal could have stepped into that position at that point without tearing the Democratic party to pieces, and no conservative could have stepped into it at that point."  Democrats, Time magazine said in 1953, were members of "a party which is looking for an excuse to fly to pieces."

...At the start of the 1954 session, liberal Democrats demanding a legislative program separate from [Pres. Eisenhower's] challenged [Johnson's strategy of] bipartisanship.  In early January, Lyndon reiterated his commitment to the strategy that had worked so well in 1953.  "We Democrats are going to take the only prudent course through which we can truly serve.  It is to examine the President's program item by item and take our stand on the basis of the national interest." 

Lyndon called it the "politics of responsibility" and suggested that the popular Eisenhower would do better with a Democratic than a Republican Congress:  "We understand the Republican National Committee has opened a drive to elect a Republican Congress. . . . It is rumored that the President contends privately this is an anti-Eisenhower plot."

...Johnson enlisted the support of other moderates and reformed party institutions to advance Democratic unity.  He asked Earle C. Clements of Kentucky to become party Whip with expanded responsibilities.  Clements was a southern patrician with unassailable liberal credentials.  As someone from an influential southern family who had served his state as a congressman and governor, Clements was accepted into the Senate club or oligarchy as soon as he came to the upper house in 1951. 

As someone who had compiled a liberal voting record praised by organized labor

and middle-class consumers

and had gone all out for Stevenson in 1952, Clements was attractive to Senate liberals.  Eager to take advantage of Clements's standing with both wings of the party, Lyndon made him party Whip, gave him a special office and staff, and relied on him to round up party members for legislative votes. 

"Clements had a great sensitivity to what Johnson was trying to do," an aide recalled.  "When a particular action of some kind was coming up, Johnson would explain to Clements in three sentences what he wanted, and Clements would just get the full picture.  It might take him an hour to give me my orders -- I was leg man for the whip -- but three sentences were enough from Johnson." ---------------------------------- [end excerpt]


~~ "We are going to take the only prudent course through which we can truly serve.  It is to examine the President's program item by item and take our stand on the basis of the national interest."

~~ "...the politics of responsibility"

~~ ..."three sentences..."

~~ "...the only prudent course..."

~~ "truly serve..."

~~ "...serve..."

~~ ..."take our stand on the basis of the national interest."

~~ "...the national interest"

~~ "...examine the President's program..."

~~ "truly serve"

~~ "prudent course"

~~ "three sentences"

{excerpts from Lone Star Rising.  Lyndon Johnson And His Times.  1908 - 1960.
author:  Robert Dallek.  copyright:  1991.  Oxford University Press, New York.}


Thursday, January 24, 2013

figs and dates and grapes and cakes

David Remnick wrote "notes-on-the-second-inaugural" in The New Yorker:

-------------- [excerpt] ------------ The conventional wisdom in much of élite Washington and beyond is that Barack Obama, for all his intelligence and political skill, cannot make a political deal because he is a loner, a snob, and a reluctant host.  It's as if the country has such trouble making progress on a range of issues because the President isn't big on inviting the Republicans over to the White House for a jackets-off, sleeves-up night of gin rummy, bourbon, and branch water. 

"He never goes out."
"He doesn't romance the opposition."
"He's not like Bill Clinton, who could make a deal with an enemy like Newt Gingrich."

...As Rick Klein at ABC News points out, Obama's social reluctance is largely a myth.  The Speaker of the House, John Boehner, has been invited to six formal state dinners -- every one the Obamas have thrown so far.  The Speaker has turned down every invitation.

Last year, the White House held a reception for new members of Congress; only twenty-seven out of eighty-seven new Republican House members bestirred themselves to attend.

Last month, Obama invited a small group of Congressional leaders to the White House to watch "Lincoln," Steven Spielberg and Tony Kushner's remarkable portrait of a founder of the Republican Party.  G.O.P. chiefs Boehner and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell spurned the invitation.

...In his last press conference of the first term, in the East Room of the WH, Obama replied to a reporter's question about his sociability with a wry turn:  "I'm a pretty friendly guy.  And I like a good party....I promise you we invite folks from Congress over here all the time.  And when they choose to come, I enjoy their company.  Sometimes they don't choose to come...."  Come on-a my house my house, I'm gonna give you candy
Come on-a my house, my house, I'm gonna give-a-you
Apple a plum and apricot-a too eh
Come on-a my house, my house-a come on

Come on-a my house, my house a come on
Come on-a my house, my house I'm gonna give-a-you
Figs and dates and grapes and cakes eh
Come on-a my house, my house a come on
Come on-a my house, my house-a-come on
Come on-a my house, my house, I'm gonna give you candy
Come on-a my house, my house, I'm gonna give you everything...

{written, Ross Bagdasarian and William Saroyan; a 1951 pop hit, singer Rosemary Clooney; melody based on an Armenian folk song}

[Remnick article, continued]-------------- The President allowed that the future may bring new opportunity:  "The thing is, now that my girls are getting older, they don't want to spend that much time with me I'll be probably calling around, looking for somebody to play cards with me or something, because I'm getting kind of lonely in this big house.  So maybe a whole bunch of members of the House Republican caucus want to come over and socialize more." 

Come on-a my house my house, I'm gonna give you Christmas tree
Come on-a my house, my house, I'm gonna give you
Marriage ring and a pomegranate too ah
Come on-a my house, my house a come on
Come on-a my house, my house a come on

Come on-a my house, my house I'm gonna give-a-you
Peach and pear and I love your hair ah
Come on-a my house, my house a come on
Come on-a my house, my house a come on
Come on-a my house, my house, I'm gonna give you Easta-egg
Come on-a my house, my house, I'm gonna give you
Everything - everything - everything

SPOKEN:  Come on-a my house-a !


Wednesday, January 23, 2013

standing room and ambition

{Scenes from "All About Eve"}


Eve.  Eve, the golden girl.  The cover girl, the girl next door, the girl on the moon...Time has been good to Eve, Life goes where she goes - she's been profiled, covered, revealed, reported, what she eats and when and where, whom she knows and where she was and when and where she's going...

ADDISON has stopped applauding, he's sitting forward, staring intently at Eve...his narration continues unbroken.


...Eve.  You all know all about Eve...what can there be to know that you don't know...?

As he leans back, the APPLAUSE FADES IN as tumultuous as before.  Addison's look moves slowly from Eve to Karen.

KAREN -- leans forward now, her eyes intently on Eve.  Her lovely face FILLS THE SCREEN as the APPLAUSE FADES ONCE MORE - as she thinks back:


When was it?  How long?  It seems a lifetime ago.  Lloyd always said that in the Theater a lifetime was a season, and a season a lifetime.  It's June now.  That was - early October...only last October.  It was a drizzly night, I remember I asked the taxi to wait...



Karen moves toward the stage door.  She passes a recess in the wall - perhaps an exit - about halfway.

EVE'S VOICE (softly):
Mrs. Richards...

Karen hesitates, looks.  Eve is barely distinguishable in the shadow of the recess.  Karen smiles, waits.  Eve comes out....Her large, luminous eyes seem to glow up at Karen in the strange half-light.

So there you are.  It seemed odd, suddenly, your not being there...

EVE (very intense, and sincere):
Why should you think I wouldn't be?

Why should you be?  After all, six nights a week - for weeks - of watching even Margo Channing enter and leave a theater --

EVE:  I hope you don't mind my speaking to you...

Not at all.

I've seen you so often - it took every bit of courage I could raise --

KAREN (smiles):
To speak to just a playwright's wife?  I'm the lowest form of celebrity...

You're Margo Channing's best friend.  You and your husband are always with her - and Mr. Sampson...what's he like?

Bill Sampson?  He's - he's a director.

He's the best.

He'll agree with you.  Tell me, what do you do between the time Margo goes in and comes out?  Just huddle in that doorway and wait?

Oh, no.  I see the play.

KAREN (incredulous):
You see the play?  You've seen the play, every performance?
(Eve nods)
...But, don't you find it - I mean apart from everything else - don't you find it expensive?

Standing room doesn't cost much.  I manage.

Karen contemplates Eve.  Then she takes her arm.

I'm going to take you to Margo...

EVE (hanging back):
Oh, no...

She's got to meet you --

No, I'd be imposing on her, I'd be just another tongue-tied gushing fan...

KAREN (insisting):
There isn't another like you, there couldn't be the way, what's your name?

Eve.  Eve Harrington.

That same night we sent for Eve's things, her few pitiful possessions...she moved into the little guest room on the top floor...

The next three weeks were out of a fairy tale - and I was Cinderella in the last act.  Eve became my sister, lawyer, mother, friend, psychiatrist and cop - the honeymoon was on...


It's one floor above street level.  A long narrow room, smartly furnished.

Eve sits at a desk, arranging a stack of letters which she carries to Margo, with a pen.  Margo sits comfortably by the fire with a play script. 

Birdie comes in with a tea tray which she sets on a low table before the fire.

The phone rings.

Birdie and Eve both go for it.  Eve gets there first.


Margo is propped up in bed, still reflective.  Birdie comes in with her breakfast tray and a "hi" which gets a "hi" from Margo.  Birdie begins straightening things; Margo takes a sip of orange juice.

Birdie --


You don't like Eve, do you?

Do you want an argument or an answer?

An answer.

-- No.
-- Why not?
-- Now you want an argument.

-- She works hard.
-- Night an' day.
-- She's loyal and efficient --
--Like an agent with only one client.

She thinks only of me...
(no answer from Birdie)
...doesn't she?

BIRDIE (after a pause):
Well -- let's say she thinks only about you, anyway...

How do you mean that?

Birdie stops working and looks at Margo.
I'll tell you how.  Like -- let's see, like she was studyin' you, like you were a play or a book or a set of blueprints.  How you walk, talk, think, eat, sleep --

MARGO (breaks in, sharply):
I'm sure that's very flattering, Birdie, and I'm sure there's nothing wrong with it!

There is a sharp, brisk knock.  Eve comes in.

Good morning!

Margo says "good morning"; Birdie says nothing.

Excerpts from the Script for "All About Eve" -- written by Joseph L. Mankiewicz.  1950.  Re-released, 1967.


Tuesday, January 22, 2013

first time

People say "word of mouth" is the best advertising -- some words came out of someone's mouth, telling me about a book called Memoirs of a Poet, by Timothy Taylor Woldt, and a copy of the book came out of their hand and into my hand, so that helped to "advertise" it, as well!

It was a fun read -- I could hear the influence of Bill Cosby, Bob Dylan, and Dr. Seuss, I -- wrote my first Amazon "review."

If I couldn't say something positive, I would not have written a review at all -- I want to say nice things about writers -- do not wish to take example from Truman Capote, who, upon learning that Jack Kerouac had written On The Road in -- I don't know -- three weeks or something, is supposed to have snarked, "That's not writing, that's typing."

(Mr. Capote could pull that off; I wouldn't be able to -- I don't have what All About Eve director Joseph Mankiewicz called "the bitch virtuosity" required....Happily, none is necessary!)


Monday, January 21, 2013

lone events...

A hunger to know the antecedents of things drives me to
listen to blues music to find where rock and roll came from,
to read Kerouac to see why Bob Dylan happened,
to look at the anti-war movement and see why Watergate happened.

The first time I remember being really blown away by the idea that music came from another, earlier, kind of music was in Boston -- or more specifically Cambridge.  On a warm, humid summer day, took a break from the laundro-mat, to walk across the street and go into an establishment called the Inn Square Men's Bar, because I could hear music coming out of there.

(In Watergate, they had to "follow the money."
I -- on the other hand -- follow the music.)

A band called The Jaguars was playing fast, exciting music -- they played
"Maybellene -- why can't you be true?
Oh Maybellene -- why can't you be true?
You done started back doin' the things you used to do!"
with that jumpy, bouncing guitar-playing style.

I thought that was excellent music -- couldn't even get my mind around it -- it was so much fun!  When the band took their break, I asked the leader, Bob-something (I think), What was that Maybellene song?  I never heard that before.  Did you write it?

He kind of smiled like he couldn't help it and said, "No -- no, that was written by Chuck Berry."
"Hey Maynard!" -- to another guitar guy with thick, wild, curly hair:  "She though we wrote 'Maybellene'!"

I didn't mind, if they were amused....Who is this Chuck Berry? I wondered to myself....The following month, in time for sophomore year at BU, I moved to a third-floor room on Beacon Street (#357, I think) and there was a guy there, down on the second floor, who had a guitar -- he knew who Chuck Berry was, and told me which album to get, to start off with.  He also played Muddy Waters records for me, and showed me how blues was an antecedent to rock and roll.

Now things like that are just Lucky -- you know?  I mean, (to paraphrase Rick in Casablanca, "of all the gin joints in all the towns...") -- Of all the rooming houses in all the cities in all the world...I rent a floor above a BU grad who could gladly explain t' me where this dynamite music came from.  Fortune smiled.

When I watched the film Nixon, I kept in mind that some of the unifying ideas the scriptwriters and director put forward may not be just how it happened -- because no one's talking, or at least no one's talking off-script, so to speak, government-wise, [oswald-acted-alone-that's-our-story-and-we're-sticking-to-it] on some of those topics -- the assassination of JFK drives people crazy --
("Oswald didn't act alone!"
"Conspiracy theories are all wrong!")...

over the years, letting info sift through consciousness, two things I have come to feel strongly:
1)  Heaping scorn and derision on anyone with a "conspiracy theory" is not an answer; and
2)  Things tend not to happen "in a vacuum" -- at that level, of that magnitude.

(Some anti-any-and-all-conspiracy-ideas enthusiasts might wish to bop me over the head for saying that, but that's the way it seems, to me.  Sure, accidents can happen, that's true.  But -- I just don't think things happen -- in a -- total -- vacuum.  Rock and roll didn't just land on us, one day.  It was based on something.  It came from somewhere.  Same way with public events, I think.)

I wonder if the anti-conspiracy-folks would rush around saying, "Chuck Berry acted alone!  Chuck Berry acted alone!  Never mind Muddy Waters and Howlin' Wolf and Robert Johnson!  Antecedents be damned!  Down with the concept of inspiration!  People just create their music in a vacuum, that's why they're so creative!!"


(Cadillac rollin' on the open road,
Nothin' out-run my v-8 Ford...)


Friday, January 18, 2013

18 & a half minutes

I remember, one of the stories about the CIA's anti-Castro efforts which came out in the 1970s was, that the Agency had had a plan to sprinkle a special powder into Castro's boots which would cause his beard to fall out.  The idea being that if his beard fell out, he would be deprived of his charisma, and power.


Oliver Stone's film Nixon shows a theory where -- there were "special operations" begun in the 1950s when Nixon was Vice President, to do secret things against communist take-overs in various parts of the world, and to try, secretly, to somehow topple Castro.  In the movie, they call it "Track 2."  Three components in Track 2 --
some Wall Street,
some Mafia, and
some CIA folks, planning and strategizing and carrying things out.  (Would have included some of the recruited Cubans....) 

Pres. Nixon, in the film, describes it in this hurried, nervous way, as "this -- thing, that doesn't even know it exists, and just eats people when it doesn't need them anymore...."

"His death was awful.  An awful thing for this country,"
is what movie-Nixon says about the 1963 assassination.

Haldeman asks the pres., "If Kennedy was so clean in all this why didn't he do something about Track 2?"
Nixon:  "Because he didn't even know about it!  I -- didn't want him to get the credit."

In a "Haldeman-Ehrlichman" conversation, one of them suggests, "Regarding the Kennedy assassination, I don't think the old man knows the details, but he believes one of the Track 2 anti-Castro excursions got fouled up and it somehow got turned back on Kennedy."

Like -- some would-be Castro-assassins kept trying to get the Cuban leader, and couldn't, and somehow went after Kennedy instead.  (Which would make no sense to me, or any other regular humans, but in the world of double- and triple-agents and para-military adventurers carrying a grudge, roaming the planet, feeling all James Bond-ish because they're workin' for the CIA -- a person could see where it could have happened that way.  When I "Googled" one of the Watergate burglars, reading along, it sounded like he was pro-Castro, then anti-Castro, and -- it was very confusing....That's, like, a different world.)

In the film, when Pres. Nixon is listening to his tapes, he finds a conversation where he talks about Track 2 and the above sequence of ideas and theories, and he erases it, creating the
unforgettable, and

18-and-a-half-minute gap,

on one
the tapes.

(Whew!  exhausting....)

In 1976, during a time when hyper-criticism of JFK had become the trend, Hubert H. Humphrey wrote,
------------ [excerpt]------ 

The ideals of the U.S.A. and, indeed, our accomplishments remain a beacon in darkness.  In the life of humanity, it is still the dawn's early light.

If nothing else has demonstrated that identification with America, reactions to the death of John F. Kennedy should have.  Jack and those of us in his party, those in his administration, those of us in the Congress, had displayed many faces to the rest of the world:  we had done things wise and decent,

thoughtful or rash,

statesmanlike or stupid. 

Yet people wept in villages of Africa and Asia, in barrios of Latin America, in cities everywhere.  The legacy of our President and my friend has been a mixed one, and historians will go on sorting it out eternally.  But the life of the man, what he meant to us, was a beacon.  If the hopes of the world were diminished by his death, America remains, and must remain, the hope of mankind.

...That day had begun like many other days:  breakfast at home with Muriel, orange juice, two fried eggs, crisp bacon, toast and coffee, the Washington Post, the New York Times.  Then to my Capitol office and the morning hour in the Senate, kidding, chatting with my colleagues....

Muriel and I arrived at the Chilean embassy about 1:10 P.M., joining about forty other guests....Presently Ed Morgan was called to the phone, came back quickly, obviously upset.  He whispered in my ear that the President had been shot in Dallas but was still alive....

I went out to my car in front of the embassy to listen to the radio for a moment.  I heard that two priests had gone into the hospital and the thought pounded into my consciousness that the President was dying or already dead.

John Kennedy was my colleague, my opponent, my President, and my friend.  As a colleague in the Senate, I had sometimes resented him and been angry with him for doing less than I thought he could and should in the tough work of getting legislation passed.  As an opponent in the presidential primaries, I had envied him -- his charm, his grace, his money, his success. 

As President of the United States, I grew to respect his intelligence and how he put it to work, his commitment and how he stuck by it, his vision and how he communicated it to our people.  As a friend, I grew to love him for his warmth and wit and compassion, and for what he gave to me personally by sharing those qualities.

...Muriel and I rode Andrews Air Force Base to join others waiting for Air Force One....Jackie Kennedy, blood-splattered still, moving in shocked grace...Kenny O'Donnell, Larry O'Brien, and Dave Powers, tenderly watching over and handling the casket as it was lowered from the plane and moved into the ambulance.

Lady Bird Johnson came down the ramp and walked to where we stood, kissed us both, and said quietly, "We need you both so much."

...Jack Kennedy -- like any man -- had shortcomings, to be sure, but he did enunciate and articulate a beautiful dream and vision for this nation.  He gave young people inspiration and strength....

What Adlai Stevenson gave in depth to limited parts of our society, John Kennedy gave to a broader audience: 

a belief that politics and government could be an honorable calling, worthy of the best of us, producing light and hope and joy and compassionate concern for the least of us.  Not many men in our history have been able to do that, and particularly not when times are relatively good.  Some called it charisma,

but that is an inadequate description. 

Possibly, like love or jazz, it is something felt, which to the unfeeling cannot be explained.    [end excerpt]---------------

{Book excerpts from The Education of a Public Man, by Hubert H. Humphrey.  Copyright, 1976.  Doubleday.}


Thursday, January 17, 2013

what's Cuba got to do, got to do with it?

"We created a Frankenstein, with those Cubans...."
Haldeman says wearily to Ehrlichman, in the movie Nixon.

The five Watergate Burglars were
James W. McCord, Jr.
Bernard Barker
Frank Sturgis
Virgilio Gonzalez
Eugenio Martinez.

Some of those people were Cubans.

In the movie All The President's Men, a Washington Post news editor looks at Bob Woodward's original break-in story & says, "We don't know what we've got here -- it could be a story, or could just be crazy Cubans!"

In the movie JFK,  there's some reference to Cubans --

and at some point while reviewing one of these films and recalling the others, the question exploded in my mind, "What is it with Cubans??!!  How come in the two biggest and harshest events that happened in America, during my youthful existence -- the assassination of President Kennedy, and Watergate -- somehow...Cubans keep popping up in the investigations and unfolding-of-the-story.  Why are Cubans attendant on all of these deals?"

It's got something to do with -- after the communist Castro took over and ousted Battista, then I think a lot of Cubans fled -- to Miami and whatnot, and the CIA must have tried to use some of them as double agents, or -- agents, or helpers of some kind.  And I think there were some of these Cuban refugees, or immigrants, who fervently hated communism and Castro, and would take part in covert operations to "get after" Castro.  The CIA saw that it could put some of that enthusiasm to use....

Those plots and plans started coming out in the news during the 1970s, and there was then a widespread perception that the CIA had gotten a little out-of-control.

(In Nixon, Sam Waterston as CIA director Richard Helms says it has never been "CIA policy" to accept communism in Cuba.  Anthony Hopkins as Pres. Nixon reminds him, "CIA policy.  The CIA has no policy except what I dictate to you.")

People Getting Carried Away
is an often-occurring problem in politics and a sometimes-occurring problem in government. 
The attitude of
"I need to do an excellent job and accomplish good things"
gives way to
"I must save the world, and -- maybe I'm God...!"


Wednesday, January 16, 2013

oooh, I bet you're wonderin' how I knew

a "Time-line" of Watergate and related events:

late 1969  

Daniel Ellsberg makes copies of classified documents which revealed that the government had knowledge, early on, that the war could most likely not be won, and that continuing the war would lead to many times more casualties than was ever admitted publicly

[approx. 2 months later]
January 1970 - June 13, 1971

[for 1 and a half years] the copies of the documents "floated" privately, being shown to some U.S. senators who opposed our involvement in the Vietnam War, and a few other people -- Ellsberg wanted senators to release them on the Senate floor, & told them they shouldn't be afraid to go to jail for 10 years, if it would mean ending American involvement in Vietnam

June 13, 1971 

 the first of nine excerpts from, and commentaries on, what became known as The Pentagon Papers -- published in the New York Times

[2 mo. go by]
August 1971 --

a couple of guys who work for Pres. Nixon (who was said to be incensed over the documents being made public -- "We've got to stop these leaks!") met with E. Howard Hunt and G. Gordon Liddy in a basement office in the Old Executive Office Building.  Planning to break into the office of Daniel Ellsberg's psychiatrist to get personal information about Ellsberg (the "leaker") that could be used to publicly discredit him.  They called themselves "Plumbers."  ("We're gonna plug leaks...!")

[1 month goes by]
September 1971  

The office of Lewis Fielding, Daniel Ellsberg's psychiatrist, is burglarized.

[9 months later]
June 17, 1972  

the break-in at the National Democratic Party HQ in the Watergate Hotel in Wash. D.C.  -- five men arrested

[1 year later]
summer, 1973

hearings being held in the U.S. House of Representatives, chaired by Sam Ervin (North Carolina), on the Watergate case

[2 months later]
October 20, 1973

the Saturday Night Massacre
Pres. Nixon tried to stop the Watergate investigation by having the Special Prosecutor, Archibald Cox, fired.  Elliott Richardson quit, rather than fire Cox, as did William Ruckleshaus -- someone else fired Cox, but what good did that do, for the president?  Soon another special Prosecutor, Leon Jaworski, was appointed, and the investigation went on.

[approx. 1 mo. later]
Nov. 1973

The 18 1/2 minute gap on one of the president's tapes was discovered.  The public was outraged because it seemed like someone was erasing stuff from the tapes -- dishonesty and misuse of power seemed to hang in the air, like smoke

[9 months later]
August 1974

President Nixon resigned; Vice President Gerald Ford became the President.  (Meanwhile, in a side note -- Gerald Ford did not run with Nixon in 1968 -- Nixon's original Veep had been Spiro Agnew, who resigned his position in the administration in October 1973...whole other thing....)

It was a lot of stuff.

It was during, like, a period of 4 years and 8 months, approximately.
"Late" 1969 (let's say November),
August 1974.

I remember hearing about the Pentagon Papers.
Later learned of the Watergate break-in.
I didn't link those together, then -- but -- it was the same guys, or some of the same ones -- E. Howard Hunt, G. Gordon Liddy -- (Here -- here's a Rule:  Never do business with men who have no first name, just an initial....would that work??...)

When I was in junior high and starting high school, I saw what was going on with the Watergate "case," but did not connect it with the war in Vietnam, but now I see it does connect.  The controversy, the protests, brought some people in power into a frame of mind where the "Plumbers" seemed like a good idea....

Also -- the Plumbers only got put together (bunch of grown-ups playing cloak-and-dagger games) because of the Pentagon Papers, and that happened due to Vietnam involvement.

It's enough to give you "an Excedrin headache."
I would like to have these items drawn on a big sheet, going along an actual line, a real, visual "Time-Line" that you could look at like a map.
Because then a person can see it better, and understand it better....


Tuesday, January 15, 2013

tread lightly, right across into Buffalo...

Perusing some paragraphs about former President Richard Nixon, I came across an article which displayed a photograph of Nixon's family -- Mrs. Nixon and Tricia on the right-hand side of the frame, Julie on the left-hand side, and in the middle a headless dad -- the president's suit, sitting there, and the head had been removed from the photograph.

(Asked self, "Is this really necessary?")

And it was not a silly or weird-looking website, it was some sort of -- I don't know, legitimate journalism, or at least I thought so when I went to it.

And someplace a writer referred to Nixon's "banal venality."
Yikes, forty-years-on, may we lighten up?

Don't pile on.
Tread lightly.
Be nice; don't kill people.

Banal venality.
(Would you care for some banal venality?
No thanks -- we're all stocked up.)

online dictionary:  banal -- devoid of freshness or originality; hackneyed; trite.  origin:  1745 - 55, French; Old French.
commonplace, trivial, old-hat, shopworn
lacking force or originality

venality -- the condition or quality of being venal; openness to bribery or corruption
origin -- 1605 - 15, Late Latin  (venalitas)

1. easily bribed or corrupted; mercenary
2. characterized by corruption
3. open to purchase, esp by bribery

from L.L. venalitatem (nom. venalitas) "capable of being bought"

Reading these definitions, the idea suggests itself to me that venality is not even the right word -- in the movie Nixon -- (and the film follows pretty closely what we know of him, from reading, media, listening to his speeches and seeing the news stories when we were children), I don't see him being bribed at all, or considering a bribe -- I see him working for world peace, to neutralize any China-Russia "togetherness" which would have put the U.S. at a disadvantage, with too big of a communist "block" ("bloc"?) to face....His flaw, was getting carried away with -- not with power, but with concern, and -- for want of a better word -- "uptight-ness" about current events and how to manage them.

"The kids, the protesters, the Black Panthers, they're all out to bring me down!"

Some critics called Nixon "paranoid."  But he was not the only leader adversely affected by the tumultuous times:  heck, Lyndon Johnson quit -- well, not during his term, but he quit in the sense that he didn't run for a second
term -- that was a shocking decision, in 1968.

--------------------- Every human being, to survive and thrive and do their job, looks at --

the world
his surroundings
his challenges
and creates strategies to deal with them. 

The way I see it, that's what Nixon was doing. 

Some of Pres. Nixon's strategies were a little far-out...ill-advised...etc., etc.
Main Lesson:

Don't encourage shady characters to commit burglary on your behalf. 


So -- his strategies were imperfect.  But -- who among us would be perfect enough to cast the first stone?

The writer who referred to the 37th president's "banal venality" was off-the-mark, I think.  (Showcasing the French and Latin-based words in his vocabulary, perhaps -- or maybe he just thought it was an insult....)
Rather than "banal venality" I think Pres. Nixon's fatal flaw, or immobilizing flaw, was misplaced pugnacity -- his father taught him life was a battle, a struggle, a fight.  I think RN looked at things from that point of view too much....

At the time President Nixon resigned, there were some voices calling for a trial and decrying Pres. Ford's pardon of Nixon -- I didn't agree with that.  Even though I was jaw-droppingly, absolutely wide-eyed fascinated by the whole unfolding story and process, I also wanted it to -- stop, and to be -- OK.

("Leave him alone, for God's sake!  He resigned the most awesomely powerful and honorable job in the world, which he really really wanted, and went home to San Clemente, because the House of Representatives was going to vote in favor of impeachment; he understood that, absorbed that repudiation, and we all understood that.  I don't want to see a former Pres. of U.S. put on trial for a bunch of reel-to-reel tapes, two midnight burglaries, whatever.  Just stop it -- leave 'im alone!!"

We have a president.  His name is President Ford.  Now we all have to go on with our lives.)

After Pres. Nixon resigned and made a speech, in August 1973, he got on a helicopter to fly out to CA.  He turned around, in the helicopter doorway, and saluted and smiled -- smiling to acknowledge all the people who were there to say good-bye, and also for everyone watching on TV.  He couldn't have been smiling because he felt good.

He smiled, in order to be civilized and encouraging and pleasant -- to us, the American people.)

I thought, at that time, that they should -- leave 'im alone already...
And finding a family photo on the internet with Nixon's head torn off, now, seven Washington administrations later, seems like -- gratuitous meanness.  (Of course, some people think that's what being political means, but it isn't.)

One day when it was quiet, I was looking up the lyrics to "Rip This Joint," a song on the Rolling Stones' Exile on Main Street album -- was shocked / surprised / totally amused to find that two of the lines hollered out at break-neck pace by Mick Jagger were --
"Dick and Pat in old D.C.,
Well they're gonna hold some shit for me."

(You know, I totally admire and am inspired by both the Rolling Stones and the Beatles, with all the wonderful Lennon-McCartney lyrics...but -- it takes Jagger and Richards to write, "Dick and Pat in old D.C., they're gonna..."
To write it, and sing it!   L.)

As if President and Mrs. Nixon would be "holding" anything of a -- recreational -- nature, for the likes of the Stones.  But I thought that day, when I discovered those words, Oh! I wish someone had played him that song, back then, because I think he could have really used a good laugh!  He over-worked himself -- as did LBJ, as president.  So much pressure, and they both just made it worse with over-work and personal isolation, probably an occupational hazard.

And if anyone argued with me that Nixon wouldn't like the song, or wouldn't "get" the joke, nope, I'm not buyin' that -- because the presidential candidate who went on "Laugh-In" in 1968 and said, "Sock it to meee?" would -- Get It.

So -- some may want to say that American politician Richard Nixon had "banal venality" -- (how about Venal Banality??...) and some may want to cut his head out of a family photo and place it on the internet for all to be unimpressed by, but --


only want to

play him this song!  Mama says yes, Papa says no,
Make up you mind 'cause I gotta go.
I'm gonna raise hell at the Union Hall,
Drive myself right over the wall.

Rip this joint, gonna save your soul,
Round and round and round we go.
Roll this joint, gonna get down low,
Start my starter, gonna stop the show.
Oh, yeah!

Mister President, Mister Immigration Man,
Let me in, sweetie, to your fair land.
I'm Tampa bound and Memphis too,
Short Fat Fanny is on the loose.
Dig that sound on the radio,
then slip it right across into Buffalo.

Dick and Pat in old D.C.,
Well they're gonna hold some shit for me.

Ying yang, you're my thing,
Oh, now, baby, won't you hear me sing.
Flip Flop, fit to drop,
Come on baby, won't you let it rock?

Oh, yeah!  Oh, yeah!
From San José down to Santa Fe,
Kiss me quick baby, won'tcha make my day.
Down to New Orleans with the Dixie Dean,
'Cross to Dallas, Texas with the Butter Queen.

Rip this joint, gonna rip yours too,
Some brand new steps and some weight to lose.
gonna roll this joint, gonna get down low,
Round and round and round we'll go.
Wham, Bham, Birmingham, Alabam' don't give a damn.
Little Rock fit to drop.
Ah - h - hhhhhhhh -- let it rock!
[take it away, screaming saxophone, r & r, You bet your sweet bippy]