America Did Not Get What It Needed During July 4th Weekend

Throughout the weekend I kept thinking of a line posted on twitter that read, and I paraphrase, ‘how can a president start a war of words with Native Americans on Independence Day weekend’?

The year has been a ragged and weary one for many Americans.  Many lost their jobs, business owners are beset with unforeseen hurdles, the nation is grappling with a renewed effort at dialoguing over racism, untold numbers suffered from COVID-19, and the most troubling and sad of all is many of our fellow citizens died during the pandemic. Clearly what our nation required this weekend was a leader who knew the mood of the land, the angst of a nation, the fear and dread of many, and the wish for something hopeful and uplifting as we venture into the second half of a seemingly overwhelming year.

Rather than a Jeffersonian moment, or a bounce of spirit with Reaganesque language our nation was instead splattered by Donald Trump’s use of the July 4th weekend as an occasion to assail segments of the country that do not support him.

Late Friday night as I was reading The New York Times reporting on the Mount Rushmore performance, I thought of one of our most colorful and dynamic personalities that ever step foot in the White House.   Alice Roosevelt, Teddy Roosevelt’s daughter, had once remarked that TR always wanted to be ”the bride at every wedding and the corpse at every funeral”.  He had an enormous dominating personality and often used it for the betterment of the nation.

Trump has such an appetite for being the only noticed one in any setting, but he lacks a serious bearing, gravitas, a genial nature, or any trait that endears him to others.  When given a platform to show what he is all about it becomes clear only one thing matters.  It is always all about him.

This weekend we watched and heard the self-absorbed nature of Trump as he lashed out at the ones around the nation with whom he disagrees.  Using the holiday for his own narrow and partisan aims he missed the higher call from John Adams about the intent of the 4th as a time for the holiday “to be solemnized with Pomp and Parade”.  Instead of a call to the grandeur of our independence, Trump made the event a snarling ‘pick the scab’ moment to open and widen the wounds of a nation.

A true leader, in a time like our nation now finds itself, rises to reach out and comfort, to instill confidence in the citizenry that effective governing will meet the needs of the moment.  With a rich history of the nation to fall back on as a foundation, a real leader could have hit the ball way over the back wall in proclaiming why the citizens should have faith in the future.  A true leader would have made it clear that hope has always been in our view as we press forward.

None of that, however, was stated to the American people.  What this nation needed to hear was never uttered.  It was not only a wasted moment for a nation, but another most-telling moment concerning who, and what, Donald Trump is as a man.

Mrs. Patrick Lucey, George McGovern, And Why I Post This

In 1972 there was a mad dash to find a vice-presidential candidate for George McGovern.  The Democratic Convention that year was one of the most perplexing and disorganized events that could possibly unfold on live television.  At least in 1968 the party could blame the protesters, but in ’72 they could only blame themselves.  In the hunt for a V.P. nominee many names were considered.

Patrick Lucy, governor of Wisconsin, also Catholic? (His wife, some people feared, was another Martha Mitchell.)  The party was seeking a Catholic running mate.

I am not a fan of reality television and can honestly say to have never watched any such programming over the many years such fare has been offered on TV.  But after reading that line today in the closing pages of Nixonland by Rick Perlstein I thought what a delight it might have been to have had Jean Lucey, who made many a colorful story in Madison, the famed Martha Mitchell, and the always character-rich Alice Roosevelt Longworth all drinking wine and telling tales.   Allow nothing to be censored and let the cameras roll.  Just imagine!

After Thomas Eagleton was nominated the storm came crashing down as his medical past caught up with him.  He announced that he had undergone electric shock therapy.  As such the political class came up with jokes.

(The week’s funniest came from Julian Bond, riffing on reports that Nixon has several times come close to dumping Sprio Agnew: “At least we know ours had treatment.”)

As the fall campaign continued the polls showed bad news and then at one event a glad-handing emcee announced at the South Dakota Democratic Convention, “Come January I’m going to stop calling him George and start calling him Mr. President.”  A New York Times reporter murmured under his breath, “If you do, people are sure gonna look at you funny.”

Why do I post this tonight?

This morning after waking up I was greeted with some vile feedback on articles I had posted about Senator John McCain.   They were from those who felt the Arizona senator had undermined his party and had not propped up Trump to the degree they wanted.  Later this afternoon one even posted that she wished he rotted in hell.

So it was then and there I turned off all my devices and picked up one of the several books I am reading, grabbed a large mug of coffee, and headed outside.  I sat in a chair and read the stories above, along with others about the ’72 election and started laughing.

Not a snicker but full-out laughs as the entire chapter at this point in the story is just crafted in a truly remarkable fashion.  Or at least I thought so since I needed to get off the crazy train that passes for our current political culture,  The pages from the past keep me rooted to the stronger foundations of our nation and its people.

Yes, the Nixon Administration was another time of high drama and stress in our nation.  In ’72 we still had tens of thousands of soldiers in Vietnam and at the time of the above nuggets the Watergate break-in had already occurred.  Outside of Nixon giving a shove to his press secretary people still had large doses of civility and decency.   Many were determined to get to the bottom of the criminal activity but the professional political class still needed to be mindful that voters back home expected common-sense to guide their actions.

Today it seems nothing is too bombastic, horrid, or rancid to be outright stated.  And I am profoundly dismayed at that fact.

When there are those–and many if you start looking on social media, including a progressive who ranted on Facebook that McCain was a “***** racist”–who can attack a dead person who fought a year-long battle with a most dreadful cancer then I say matter of factly something VERY disturbing has happened to our nation.

I find, more and more, that I just turn everything off for chunks of the day and get into a book as what the current headlines offer are unreasonable and utterly dismaying.   And to top it off the civility of the nation seems to have taken a severe dive.

At least Nixon had a modicum of honor and resigned.

And so it goes.

Spending Time With Alice Roosevelt Longworth

If you had been to dinner here recently, or sat outside with us one evening you would have walked away with at least one story about Alice Roosevelt Longworth, the eldest daughter of Teddy Roosevelt.  She was also one of Washington’s most important and celebrated ladies.  Ever.

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I was remarking to a history professor who had come up from Monmouth College to spend an afternoon with us about “this amazing book”, along with a short story found within the covers when she stopped me by asking if this book was Alice by Stacy Cordery.  I told her yes, in fact it was.  The professor then stopped me cold with “My office is two doors down from Stacy.”  That is when the afternoon took off.

I told her that the author’s research was impeccable. the narrative sweeping in scope, and Alice the political power-house who was the longest-lived of all presidential children, most remarkable.

Alice Roosevelt Longworth has always intrigued me, but Cordery’s book was the first one that took me so solidly into her world.  I think this is due to the fact the author uses so much material from Alice’s personal papers.  We watch over the decades as Alice becomes the strong and enduring presence that made her an international sensation.  She molded her own image, and lived life on her own terms.  From a father who was emotionally remote, to a husband who was a drunk and womanizer Alice reined in her own personal feelings, and offered the world a strong dynamic force that after all this time is still one that bounces off the pages.

When Nick Longworth dies Cordery writes one of those many killer lines that makes this book a gem.  “Alice had entered her marriage to Nick without bridesmaids, but she was flanked by black-gowned grieving women at his funeral.”

Readers will find so much to smile, and marvel at between the covers of this book.

The book is offered to readers chronologically, and it is very detailed in many ways.  At nearly 600 pages there is no way not to feel akin to Alice when this book is completed.  Beginning with Alice Lee Roosevelt’s birth on Feb. 12, 1884, which include the terrible events that occurred when both her mother and grandmother (TR’s mom) will die within 11 hours of each other, we find TR going from one deathbed to the other.  It is here again that Cordery uses her pen to make one of those points.  “It was the last time anything would eclipse Alice Roosevelt.”

The book takes us every step of the way through her life, and leaves us at her bedside as she dies February 20, 1980.

Alice was the first ever to be known around the world with one name, and it made for impacts far and wide.

When TR had sent Alice on a diplomatic trip during the time of the treaty between Russia and Japan there was an incident that makes my point.  The Secretary of War, along with members of Congress (including Nick Longworth, her soon-to-be-husband) were all a part of the overseas trip.  Meanwhile the wife and family of the war secretary were traveling in Europe.  At one train station a conductor was very impatient with the family who wanted to hold a train until their luggage arrived.  The train had to run on time, the mother was told.  She informed the conductor that she was the wife of the Secretary of War to the President of the United States.  Still, she was told the train would have to leave on time.  But my husband is on a trip to the far East with Alice Roosevelt, she continued, and can not be here to give assistance.  It was then she heard “Did you say Alice?”  “You know Alice?”   The matter of the train and the luggage was suddenly resolved.

Make this book part of your summer reading.  I know Alice, a lady of grit and politics will become a part of your life as easily as she became a part of mine.

My readers will note that I am always impressed with authors who research a topic to the point that I want to have a separate chapter on just how the book project came about.   That is especially true with the work Stacy Cordery has done with Alice.   Having been so impressed with everything about this book I offer a link to the author to further entice you to pick up the volume, or perhaps just to help you to learn more about one of America’s treasures.

May we forever remember Alice Roosevelt Longworth.

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Nicholas Longworth Political Hero To Speaker John Boehner

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Hat tip to Christine

I am having a most wonderful time reading about the colorful life of Alice Roosevelt Longworth.   Alice by Stacy Cordery is simply a book that should not be missed.  The eldest daughter of Teddy Roosevelt was highly intelligent, witty, and also could be quite bitchy if she wished to put you in your place.  There is simply no way not to love her.  She married Nick Longworth, a congressman from Ohio who turned out to be a drinker, a womanizer, and an all-around cad.  He would also become the Speaker of the House of Representatives.

Tucked into the last paragraphs of a long read in the Washington Post yesterday about the governing style and political abilities of Speaker John Boehner were these words about Longworth.  I found this all rather timely, and interesting.

Boehner cares more about the process of governance than any speaker since World War II, often telling private audiences that as his legacy he wants to be known as the speaker who made the system work again.

One of his political heroes is Nicholas Longworth, a Republican speaker from Ohio who served three terms beginning in 1925. Boehner cited Longworth when eliciting his goal for the model House: “quiet in its effectiveness, but unmistakable in its pride and purpose.”

“The oft-repeated phrase was, ‘You can’t help liking Nick,’ ” said Stacy A. Cordery, a professor at Monmouth College who has studied Longworth. She said Longworth, like Boehner, was known for defusing tensions with jokes and an after-work drink.

In his first days as speaker, however, Longworth cracked down on several Republicans who had broken party rank during the 1924 presidential election, demoting them to the lowest rung of their committees.

Alice Roosevelt Longworth: A Rare Recording of Her Voice

In a recent post about Thomas Mallon’s Watergate: A Novel I made mention of the beloved old crone of a character, Alice Roosevelt Longworth.  She has made for many an interesting story in her lifetime, and Mallon had pure fun with her in his book.

I tried to find some footage of her on You Tube and could only locate a rare recording of her voice.  It intrigued me–and that was good enough reason to post it on my blog.  Thanks for photo and video to Carl Anthony.

Please note the writing on the pillow–marvelous!

“Watergate: A Novel” By Thomas Mallon Is Brilliant, Fun Historical Fiction

I wondered at various times while reading Thomas Mallon’s Watergate: A Novel if other readers less interested in Richard Nixon, and the themes surrounding “a third-rate burglary” would be as amused with the book.

To be honest, I am not sure of the answer.

Since my teenage years I have loved the rollicking career of Nixon, and from reading too many books can separate my Magruder from Hunt and Mitchell.    While I wanted to tell others I met about the book I was unsure how much one needed to have already known–or cared–about the topics to find this book a gem.  I suspect that Mallon is writing for a crowd who already has a fair  amount of Watergate knowledge.

Mostly I have stayed quiet about the read, though the critics have been vocal in their love for the work.

Even though Mallon is one of our most esteemed historical novelists lets face the truth that Nixon is not everyone’s favorite topic for a spring-time read.  While I think this a great book for the beach this summer I can see many a reader to this blog smirking and disagreeing.

While I am trying to be honest with my readers, I also do not want to dissuade anyone from picking up this novel.  If you might be taken in by Mallon’s work about Watergate than by all means please pick up a copy as I can attest the writing and humor is superbly delivered.

There were times when reading late at night I needed to move to a different room if the character of Alice Roosevelt Longworth was making a scene so my hearty laughing would not wake up my better half.  Longworth proved to be the most lively and colorful of the  kaleidoscope of personalities that Mallon brought back to life.  I dare one not to snort over “The clock is dick-dick-dicking”.

The author creates a work of inference to weave all the plots and acts and questions of the time into one volume which then allows the reader to think that perhaps by the end of the book they know the inside story.

But in the end will we ever know?

Richard Nixon took many a secret with him to the grave, and I think HRH did too.