Thursday, July 5, 2007
Personal Aside: The Museum of Broadcast Communications FDR Program Giulianis Thriving a Testament to an Inner Skill.
The staging of the Museum of Broadcast Communications induction of Franklin Roosevelt to its Communicators Hall of Fame was imaginative and highly enjoyable. Probably the most astute political analyst practicing today, Michael Barone, was a highlight for me because I have long thumbed through his indispensable Almanac of American Politics. His landmark book on American history, From Roosevelt to Reagan captures as no academic has ever done, the political landscape from 1932 to 1989. Second came the genteel, professorial and deftly low-key David Broder of the Washington Post, , dean of U. S. political correspondents. What was particularly startling to me was the brief appearance of Anna Roosevelt, granddaughter of FDR and Jimmys daughter. She is a dead-ringer for her grandmother, Eleanor, whom I interviewed as a journeyman reporter in 1953.
I was about to say that the topping on the cake was the effective appearance of the actor Robert Vaughan, dressed up in pinch-nez, waving his hands, tossing his head with patrician style, reading the 1932 acceptance speech. Vaughan, who has a Ph.D in political science, was a superb Rooseveltuntil the very end when the real FDR was reproduced by the magic of audio tape. It caused me to remember once again the days when one could walk down the street during one of his broadcasts and catch the entire thing wafting through the windows, past barber shops and saloons with that fabulous voice conveying an accent that I have not heard before or since: not just an eastern New York accent, nor an upstate New York accent. Is it Groton or Hyde Park patricianbut it is an accent that will forever be with me.
The most honest speaker of the evening was David Broder. He paid tribute to Roosevelt the visionary, the orator, the dramatist, the magicianbut said, as the house reaffirmed his view in silence, that Roosevelt did not solve the Depression. Of course he didnt. He just made people believe he did. The Depression was solved by our entry into World War II. Just as old Colonel McCormick and my own father maintained.
I for one would be very happy if Fred Thompsons emergence as a candidate matches the hype that surrounds his pre-announcement but all the same, I must say that this man Giuliani has something special. If he wins the nomination and election, it will be because terrorism has frightened the American people to the roots of their hairbecause Giuliani has more disadvantages than I thought it possible to be collected by a single man in one lifetime.
He is far from good looking. Mario Cuomo decided not to run for president because as an Italian he didnt want to subject his ancestors and living relatives to the scrutiny he felt they wouldnt pass. Giuliani has pointed out that his own father was a minor league foot-soldier in the mob.
He is a recovering cancer victim. He is a fallen away Catholic who cannot receive the Eucharist unless he commits not just a mortal sin but the sacrilege of receiving the sacrament unworthily.
He has kids who are mad at him because he was, they feel, unkind to their mother. He married a cousin as his first wife without knowing it, prompting him to seek and get an annulment. He met his current third wife while cheating on his second. Not just cheating but trying to sneak her into Gracie Mansion for an affair while his second wife lived there, he being too cheap to get a hotel room. He has a fierce temper; he warred against all the high totems of New York the liberals, Democrats, the ACLU, the New York Times, the feminists, the gays, the blacks, the Hispanics.
And still because he tamed New York before 9/11 and because he was a spectacular hero at 9/11 he leads the pack, the indomitable Rudy. I greatly wish the ticket were Thompson and Romney but even more than that, I desperately want the Republicans to win. I am not sure Thompson-Romney can win, although they would be intellectually superior to anything the Democrats could muster. But I know this as well as I think I know American history. Let a terrorist attack strike here either successfully or unsuccessfully and Rudy is off to the races. I cant explain it satisfactorily.
Maybe if it happens its the same kind of dumb luck that has preserved this nation thus far a nation rather like a drunk who stumbles into good luck as it did with Roosevelt Eisenhower Reagan and I maintain (although quite alone) George W. Bushand as it just might again.
In fact, if there is no terrorist attack and the baton passes to someone else whom I favor more, Ill still be looking over my shoulder at Rudy---and imagining how exciting the country would be with him at 1600.