Friday, August 18, 2006

Personal Asides: Stunned…Stunned that Nobody Got the Spectacles Quote…To Africa Lynn Sweet Will Go with Barack Obama…Steve Huntley’s Columns Make his Paper Look Grown-Up: Well, Sort of.


Answer to the first one where the speaker says his last thoughts will be “the Corps the Corps and the Corps” was indeed General MacArthur but WFD got the location wrong. It was not MacArthur’s address to Congress but his valedictory address to West Point graduates. I am shocked…shocked…that Pat Hickey calls him “Dugout Doug” when he was the only five-star general to win the Medal of Honor. I know many GIs didn’t like him but he was probably our greatest general. Hickey got MacArthur and the second one right—Queen Elizabeth I. I can understand why nobody got number four right—about the faithful dog…but number three mystifies me. The quote about the speaker saying his hair has turned to gray in the nation’s service and now he is about to go blind came from George Washington. After the revolution, unpaid soldiers pressed him for their wages. After he used the affectation of putting on his spectacles and saying the lines, they became so ashamed of themselves that they dropped their appeal. It was a quote all of us learned in elementary school.

Now, the big one: about the dog: “when all other friends desert, he remains.” The quote is truly famous but the one who uttered it was Senator George Graham Vest of Missouri who served from 1879 to 1903. He had been a member of the Confederate Congress during the Civil War. The touching speech was made as a young lawyer in Georgetown, Missouri and repeated hundreds of times during his life. It is my favorite because I am squishy sentimental about dogs including my own Bichon, growing blind, growing deaf and arthritic who is fifteen.


I presume Lynn Sweet, the Sun-Times’ Washington bureau chief who is the one-person Washington bureau, is going to accompany destiny’s tot, Sen. Barack Obama, to revisit Africa. And always, lurking in the romanticized media is the specter of his father…the man who abandoned his family to go to Harvard. She is his Boswell although just what inspiration can be drawn from this strange excursion to a site from which his father deserted his responsibilities is problematic. I have mentioned before that the hero of the piece should be Obama’s Kansas-born mother…after which his supporters rushed to point out that he did indeed say nice things about her also in his book.

Dear God, I would hope so—but that’s not the point. The emphasis both from the book’s title and the publicity attendant on it sends forth the idiosyncrasy of the Senator wistfully wishing for an absentee father. In God’s name why? Having written this, I am sure I will receive a deluge of outraged comments from white liberals who call me unfeeling because I don’t sympathize with a son’s evident yearning for his biological sperm donor who skipped town on his family.

Over the years I have known several men who have had the same experience with cowardly weakling fathers who shirked their responsibilities…and none of them romanticized their deadbeat Dads. What is it that we are supposed to draw from this highly publicized pilgrimage? The spectacle of absentee fathers has contributed to ruin much of a generation of young African Americans who could not escape the poverty engendered by single family homes. The other day the superintendent of the Chicago public schools, Arne Duncan, confronted an outpouring of men who were lined up for the television cameras to protest lack of educational opportunity for their children…lined up as a theatre prop for one who is fast becoming our ranking racial demagogic successor to Rev. Jesse Jackson: Reverend and State Senator James Meeks who wants to parlay this tragedy into the mayoralty.

Duncan observed that these men with their arms upraised in angry protest might serve the cause of the children…presumably some of whom they fathered…and in whose behalf they protest for more city and state money…by at the very least becoming tutors. But there they were, storming for the taxpayers to provide more for many abandoned kids bereft of fathers and husbands. Barack Obama has done very well without the aid of his natural father unlike many of his confreres who were similarly abandoned. It is indeed strange that this excursion, subtly memorialized in the absentee’s name, is being conducted at all. But liberal, guilt-ridden white media have determined that this excursion is supposed to be the beginning of a presidential drive—about which I am sure Ms. Sweet will clue us shortly in the Democratic party’s newspaper of record.


The world’s worst job for anyone of faintly conservative mien…and Steve Huntley fits that description…is to have to preside as editorial page editor for a paper that has determinedly, from a marketing perspective, pointed itself to the left—not just in editorials but in the entire news flavor. There is nothing wrong and everything good about a newspaper that coordinates its interpretative news-gathering with its editorials. A newspaper can be the Democratic party’s slavish printed record and still not lose its soul. But with the Sun-Times, the lefty push together with the garish headlines and almost pop-up double entendres that editor Barron has provided has truly made what was once a decent paper into a voluptuous tabloid reminiscent of those who dot supermarket racks. Still, the Sun-Times remains the better paper of the two from the standpoint of aggressive local news coverage which Barron has not seen fit to sensationalize —as yet.

But Huntley has made the best of a bum deal by writing commentary for his own page that is generally liberal but also sprightly, sensible and well-researched. In a newspaper that adores the left, his foreign policy pieces support Israel which is fast becoming a mark of maturity for any publication following the problems of the Middle East. Here’s hoping that Huntley can continue the columns uninterrupted by the marketing tone of Cruickshank & Barron.

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