John McLaughlin Was My First
The very first political punditry show I ever saw was also the first one I fell in love with. It was carried on PBS and was at times witty, always filled with facts, was insightful, and also at times bombastic. John McLaughlin always sat in the lead chair and the political chat poured forth.
McLaughlin, a former Roman Catholic priest who became an aide to Richard Nixon in the White House and parlayed his fierce defense of the president into a television career as host of The McLaughlin Group died yesterday at the age of 89.
McLaughlin had been absent from the show this last weekend for the first time in more than 34 years. That fact alone is stunning. Politics and debating the issues kept the man alive and lively. At the end his prostate cancer had spread.
No one ever doubted where McLaughlin stood on the issues or the political parties. He heaped mounds of partisanship out each week for the viewers–who like myself were always entertained–regardless of his conservative leanings.
There is no dispute that The McLaughlin Group and Firing Line with William F. Buckley, Jr. (another PBS show I much relished) were two completely different attempts at educating citizens. One fast-paced and burly and the other content with long flowing answers and deep background. Each shaped many a mind over the decades. I am glad to have had the opportunity to be aided by both.
His trademarks were to allow someone to make a point and then say in a hearty manner, “Wroonngg”, and to always end his show with his usual robust “Bye-bye!”
Thanks, John, for decades of lively banter and so many political memories.