Thursday, March 5, 2009

Personal Asides: Three Examples of…Well…You’ll Find Out by Reading This! “Now for…(pause)…The… Rest… of,,, the… Story of Paul Harvey.…and Kissinger Slams the Bush Foreign Policy.


The…Rest…of…the…Story: Over the Wall Harvey.

I’ve never been all that hot for Paul Harvey. He always sounded a bit like Bill Stern to me…a dramatic sportscaster who in the `40s would conclude his program with this jingle: “Bill Stern the Colgate Shave Cream man is on his way! Bill Stern the Colgate Shave Cream man had lots to say! He told you tales of sports heroes, the inside dope he really knows…listen in next Friday night! C-o-l-g-a-t-e!” Bill Stern who had one leg (nobody ever heard how he lost it) would liven up his broadcasts with unbelievable fiction.

The very first time I heard the phrase “bullshit” was at the age of 10 when…believe it or not…the phrase was brand new. Oh there were scatological references to lying and duplicity: but not this.

I was 10 in 1938 and with my Dad was listening to Stern on the radio as he breathlessly told the story of how Abner Doubleday invented baseball. Doubleday, he said, was a Union general in the Civil War who fired the first shot in the defense of Fort Sumter. During long periods at camp, he said Doubleday invented baseball. Doubleday’s game was a hit with some of the troops but he wanted to make it national…and so he planned, as soon as his war duties were over, to bring it to the attention of the president of the United States to get him interested. He had a friend who knew Abraham Lincoln well. As soon as the war was concluded, Stern told his radio audience, Doubleday arranged for a leave and went to Washington, D. C. to try to get an appointment with Lincoln. He arrived in Washington on April 14, 1865.

He tried to get an appointment that afternoon but was told Lincoln was busy…that he should come back the next day. That evening after he had dinner, Doubleday noticed…Stern said…a great crowd standing outside Ford’s Theatre. He was told the president was at the theatre. He jostled into the crowd just in time to hear that the president had been shot…and to watch attendants carry the unconscious body of Lincoln across the street to a house owned by the Peterson family. All night Doubleday stood outside, Stern said, but since he was in the uniform of a general, he managed to convince a guard to let him inside. Inside, Stern said, he squeezed his way down a narrow hall to the bedroom where he was admitted.

Just then, Stern said, Lincoln was coming to. And for about 30 seconds Doubleday expressed his sorrow that Lincoln was shot and described the game he had invented. With a gasp Lincoln looked at him…Stern said…and murmured “that’s wonderful, General! It sounds like your game would be good for the country!” Then his jaw dropped open, Stern reported with a catch in his throat, and the life of Abraham Lincoln ended.

This is when my father uttered the immortal words that I had never heard before.

I said: what is that?

He said: A phrase I heard on the farm. Forget it. It means spectacular lying.

Even before Father had said it, I knew…but could not identify it with special language…that Stern not only purveyed b. s. but embodied it. The only thing right about what he said was that Abner Doubleday was the first to fire a Union shot at Sumter. Everything else was scandalously inventedf by Stern. Lincoln, as I knew, never gained consciousness. But in those depression days when audiences cherished fiction as a way to take their minds of reality, Stern got away with it. I am sure thousands of people knew the correct story but Mutual network, of course never tried to clean up or apologize for his flagrant lie.

Just as the network never corrected the time that Stern was doing an excited play-by-play of a Big 10 football game. He was yelling excitedly as a player ran for a touchdown…extolling the player’s name all the while (“There goes Schultz! Brilliant! He’s down to the 30…the 20…the 10 and heading for a touchdown!”). Then he noticed that he had the wrong player running for the touchdown: it wasn’t Schultz at all!…Schultz was far downfield—so on the spot he announced that Schultz just executed a neat lateral to the correct player and with stentorian rhetoric extolled the right guy as he scored.

Over the Wall Harvey.

I never did get over Bill Stern so when Paul Harvey began here…when I was in my early 20s… I was properly suspect. Then…which has not been covered in any of the obits that I’ve seen…when he was trying to build up his audience, Harvey decided to uncover what he hoped would be a national story. Joe McCarthy was on the ascendancy in those days, claiming that our national secrets were being loosely guarded so that they could easily be purloined…in fact, McCarthy said, they WERE BEING PURLOINED…by Soviet spies. Harvey decided to take a long shot and personally demonstrate how lax national security standards were.

The Argonne National Lab in DuPage was involved in early atomic bomb research. One night Harvey drove out there, parked his car, went to what he thought was an obscure place in the wall covering the plant and somehow heisted himself over the wall. He had a crayon in his pocket and he was going to write his name on the wall, then heist himself over the wall again and when he would next be on the radio…the next day…he would break the story of how lax Argonne’s security was…citing for proof his own signature on the wall!

But no sooner had he landed inside Argonne than he was besieged by guards and damn near shot on the spot. He was hauled in, kept there most of the night answering questions and was finally released. He was released to a torrent of publicity making him the butt. He was called Paul “Over the Wall” Harvey and it took him years…literally years…to shake the story. I note he finally did when he died at the age of 90 since nobody reported the story.

Now I have to go and spoil it. But it verified once again my initial impression at age 7…that he was a very good story teller…a sensationalist…but also one who was very careful to move away from conservatism when he feared he was outnumbered. As he did from defending the Vietnam War to becoming a dove. Once a pro-lifer, he switched to the (then) far more popular “pro-choice” side…a switch he credited to his wife Angel.

The only time I met him was at a reception about a decade ago where obligatorily the audience was marshaled up in a line to shake his hand. There he was…then 80…with the expensive toupee colored yellow and a face so pulled up tight from what looked like multiple facelifts that the extra, flabby skin must have been stapled behind his ears.

When I was introduced and Bruce DuMont gave him my name, Harvey said, “Ah, Mr. Roeser and your significant other!”

“No,” Lillian said clearly so as not to accept this concession to modern decadence. “I’m his wife!”

As we walked away, I felt my father’s assessment of Stern was appropriate here. Something…somehow…seemed faux.

This guy they compare to Limbaugh? Not a chance.

Henry the K Raps Bush Foreign Policy.

The news yesterday carried the rather obscure report that speaking somewhere in England, Henry Kissinger rapped the Bush foreign policy as being a disaster for the United States.

Enough stories have circulated about Henry the K’s duplicity and pathological insecurity in office that explain the sudden criticism…never before uttered when Bush was in office. The fact that we have not been attacked by terrorists may not be irrevocable proof that his policy worked—for we’ll never fully know.

But we do know, don’t we, that this nation was mis-led seriously by a statement that echoed around the world and especially with the U. S. electorate on October 26, 1972 when Henry the K appeared before the White House press corps and uttered his immortal words: “Peace is at hand!” …delivered with a smile and typical German mystery just days before the presidential election.

We know now that that was bullshit don’t we? And with duplicity aforethought. It was not a misjudgment: it was purposeful. The war wasn’t close to being concluded. But the election was coming up and nothing better to give it the final tip toward Nixon than to mislead the American people.

The war wasn’t even close to ending. It ended in April, 1975 Sixteen months after Kissinger said “peace is at hand.” And knowing Henry the K’s willingness to please any boss he works for…and anybody else he wishes to court…we know that HE KNEW when he said it that peace was nowhere at hand. A lying little auburn-haired guttersnipe.

This is the same guttersnipe who worked on Nixon to get him to believe that the American people did not have the stomach to endure the war until victory. His theory of foreign policy was that at no time should we take any risks to rupture the “realistic” negotiations for peace…which he specified in his doctoral dissertation on Klemens Wenzel, Prince von Metternich…a very strange Harvard dissertation by the way since it was accepted without footnotes.

Ronald Reagan, with no doctorate but a bachelors in economics from Eureka college, did what Nixon and Kissinger did not have the will to do—pushed the Soviets to the wall by calling them what they were—perpetrators of “an evil empire”…and so built up our defenses that Gorbachev realized he could not compete. And when the USSR collapsed, on the bookshelves was the posthumous book written by Nixon, cooperated in by Kissinger, telling us that our negotiations with the Soviets would last another generation.

So pardon me if I accept the Kissinger judgment on Bush with the same grains of salt and the same explective with which I heard Bill Stern the Colgate Shave Cream man on Lincoln and Harvey’s the…rest…of…the…story.

For here I have told you the rest of the story.

1 comment:

  1. Is it typical of conservatives to say "...individuals who post such comments will be turned over to authorities."?
    Is there yet one more prison conservatives have been wishing for?
    And who are those authorities?