So far this year, was there even a one-day hiatus from mean-spirited attacks on our president? I mean, we're almost three-quarters through a year marked by one of the most vitriol-filled campaigns leveled against an American head of state in memory. The poor guy doesn't seem to be able to do anything right -- at least according to those paragons of rational thinking whose initials are Boehner, Issa, Cantor, and McConnell.
subject of presidential trials and tribulations surfaced at a small
dinner gathering I had for out-of-town friends a while back. One couple
was here from New Orleans,
the other from Columbia, Mo. They were in Austin for the annual
fancy-schmancy Texas Observer fundraiser that has come to be known as
Dinner. Named for Miz Ivins, the event usually features a bit of
a decent meal, a prominent speaker (this year it was Pulitzer
economist Paul Krugman), an honoree or two, and journalism awards for
writers who most reflect Molly's spirit and sense of social justice.
mention all this because my little cornbread-and-chili supper on the
evening preceding "The Molly," as it has come to be called, was almost a
repeat of a dinner gathering my living room a few months earlier. As
usual, we ended
up talking politics during a momentary hiatus from our feeding frenzy.
One of my guests was from Scotland, that Anglo-Saxon country we rarely
think about unless there's a golfer in the family. Greg the Scotsman
relatives across the pond couldn't make heads or tails of any reason to
any of the goofballs chasing the Republican nomination at the time.
now, Scotland is also home to a bunch of people named MacDonald. Greg
regaled us with his recounting of a Scottish nobleman who
rented rooms in his castle and had an in-house restaurant called
McDonald's threatened to sue. Their MacDonald threatened to sue our
McDonald's -- despite the fact that their MacDonald had been around some
400 years. Check and mate. Our McDonald's
backed down. But I digress)
The free-flowing conversation that evening made me wonder anew how Molly
might have responded to our Texas governor who thought Congress
should only meet every other year, like the Texas legislature; or to Newt, the
semi-aquatic amphibian who characterized President Obama as "the best
food-stamp president ever," who probably never in a million years
intending any racial innuendo.
And let's not forget Time magazine's Mark Halperin calling the president
"a dick" on MSNBC -- not to mention that bizarre episode of Arizona
Gov. Jan Brewer wagging her bony finger in the president's face as though
scolding a recalcitrant child. At least Newt is finally political toast,
Halperin got suspended and Perry only emerges periodically from beneath his
rock to make some goofy speech or other, as he did on a recent goofball
appearance on "Face the Nation." As for Brewer, if there is karmic
justice, hers will be ugly.
We lamented the loss of
Molly's singular voice, recalling some of her more acerbic observations
as aapplicable today as in years past. "If his IQ dropped any lower
we'd have to water him twice a week"; or "It's like, duh. Just when you thought there wasn't a dime's worth of
difference between the two parties, the Republicans go and prove you're
wrong"; One of my personal favorites, and one perfect for our times is, "Any nation that can survive what we have lately in the way of government, is on the high road to permanent glory."
So, in a way, she is still with us. Anyway, halfway
through the more recent 5th anniversary of Molly's death, we are
once again reminded how few voices like hers remain. I wonder how she
would react to the level of meanness to which congressional activity has
risen. I suspect she would despair of how few voices fearlessly speak
truth to power anymore -- although she owuld be delighted that Bill
Moyers is still in fine form on PBS -- which continues to give
congressional boos the heebie jeebies.. For the most part, though,
reporters who once spoke for the voiceless now parrot a corporate line
mandated by media moguls. We're left instead with the stunning new HBO
series, "The Newsroom."
Just as the slightly
overwrought opening episode addressed newsroom ego clashes, I'm hoping
that at some point a story line will deal with the extraordinary bigotry
reflected in the behavior of so-called law enforcement officers,
especially in the wake of President Obama's executive order allowing
children born in the U.S. to remain here with all the rights of other
American-born citizens. Specifically in mind is that guy out in Arizona.
in that treasure trove of wouldn't-it-be-nice-if-we-still-had-an-Edward
R. Murrow-among-us scriptwriting there must be a character based on Joe
Arpaio, Arizona's dreadful Maricopa County sheriff. He has got to be
the sorriest excuse for a law enforcement officer since Bull Connor. The
only satisfaction to be derived from his miserable presence on planet
Earth is the knowledge that somewhere down the line karmic justice will
bite him on the butt so thoroughly that he'll wish it was a pit bull
Alas, reporters who covered every minute of the Daniel Ellsberg Pentagon Papers
trial decades ago are long gone -- mainly because the spirited editors who put
themselves out there are also all but gone. Important publications like The Texas
Observer, The Nation, The Progressive, The Washington Spectator and
Mother Jones struggle to survive. A handful of truly brave web sites track,
collate and disseminate accurate information about a crazy Congress, loopy
candidates and avaricious corporations, but they too operate on a shoestring.
If anybody believes we still have mainstream media that consistently speak
truth to power, also believes, like the song says, eggs ain't poultry,
grits ain't grocery, and Mona Lisa was a man.
So here we are, rocketing toward a national election with standing room only
on the crazy train.