Who Does U.S. Senator Ted Cruz Resemble? Fred Van Ackerman From Allen Drury “Advise And Consent” Series

I had to smile and post this as soon as I heard it from the mouth of Chris Matthews.  I did so as about an hour ago after I stated in a post how I consider Ted Cruz to be the reincarnation of Joseph McCarthy.

Being a long-time fan of Allen Drury’s Advise And Consent series–(if you have never read them please consider doing so either as a winter couch activity or a summer beach time event)–this made me do a hand clap in the living room as it is so true.

When speaking of Ted Cruz the host of Hardball said Cruz reminds him of Fred Van Ackerman in the Drury series.  Ackerman was the junior senator from Wyoming in the famed books.  I also love the fact someone on television has institutional memory and can invoke such a comparison!

For some background on Ackerman I provide the following.

The book’s Senator Fred Van Ackerman is a Joseph R. McCarthy (R-WI) of the left.  Each is a demagogue apparently barely interested in the Communism issue he finds leads him to sudden prominence, but only attracted by the notoriety it brings him. Junior senators previously of little significance, each insults his seniors and tramples on Senate custom and prerogative, leading eventually to his censure by the Senate and the quick evaporation of his popularity.  Thus far they are identical.  The differences are: 1) The McCarthy era lasted much longer, over four years; 2) McCarthy had much more power over the Senate in his heyday, serving as a committee chairman and directly causing the election defeat of the first senator to investigate him; 3) McCarthy’s censure was referred to a committee (the Watkins Committee, whose junior member, Sam Ervin (D-NC), chaired the Senate’s Watergate Committee 20 years later), and took the normal several months to complete, instead of the reflexive one-day floor vote on Van Ackerman; 4) Unlike McCarthy, Van Ackerman makes a comeback in the sequels; 5) And, of course, the difference in their opinions, Van Ackerman being depicted by Drury as a dupe of the Communists, while McCarthy’s declared aim was to remove Communists from government.

Meanwhile the complete Drury series in hardcover sits over my head in the office on a shelf reserved for personal favorites.


“Jack Kennedy: Elusive Hero” A Book Of Passion About Politics

Chris Matthews writes as much a nostalgic book about Jack Kennedy, as a historical text.  The book aims to illuminate how the character of the famed son from Massachusetts was created, and how his self-confidence was used to make sound judgment calls during the Cuban missile crisis.

Jack Kennedy: Elusive Hero allows the reader to know Matthews grew up in the midst of the moments of which he writes.  There are many who still gravitate back to their childhoods, and see the pivotal times of our nation’s history which they lived through as extra-special.  In the case of Jack Kennedy there is no doubt that Matthews is correct about his assessment of not only the times, but also of the man of which he is most curious.

The book makes a point to show that the lack of a loving mother for Jack Kennedy had to be a harsh blow. How could it not be?  As Matthews recalls warm memories about his own family life as a boy on the one hand, there is the absence of Rose when Jack is seriously sick on the other hand.  Matthews writes of Rose leaving to visit friends in another state instead of being by her child’s bedside.  It is a cold thought.

Readers feel the competition between the Kennedy bothers, most notably Joe, Jr., who wanted to best Jack who at the time had already become a war-hero in the Pacific.  We read of Joe on his cot clenching  his fists while muttering “By God, I’ll show them” as he contemplates another dangerous mission.  Joe would die in the skies over Europe when his bomb-laden plane exploded.

Perhaps there is no more personal tension to be felt than in the paragraphs spread over the book dealing with Jack’s father, Joe Kennedy.  History is not kind to Joe, Sr., and for good reason as there is not much to hold onto that does not sink with the weight of history.  But it is wonderful to read when Jack reaches out, up, and away from his father and breaks new ground for himself.

No one needs reminding of Jack’s bad judgment calls when it comes to being unfaithful to his wife.  Matthews, being a true student of history does not allow the fond feelings he has for his subject to shade a complete view of the then-candidate for the White House.

There is a sad scene that takes place following the West Virginia slug-fest of a primary where Jack is reveling in his victory.  Ben Bradlee, who would become editor of the Washington Post, recalls how Jack showed no attention to his wife that night as he greeted people as an exhilarated victor.  Jackie seemed miserable at being left out of things as she stood on a stairway.  As Jack had the greatest moment of his campaign, the moment he knew the nomination was his, Jackie would disappear and sit by herself in the car.

It is those images that leaves readers sitting back and wondering why JFK had such a huge flaw in his make-up.

But for all of the chinks in his armor there is no doubt that when things were rough President Kennedy rose to the occasion and proved what leadership based on a keen intellect was all about.

As a sick boy JFK had constantly read, and his curiosity about the world only increased into his adulthood.  His ability to stand up to his father, and the Democratic Party only added a foundation underneath him when he needed to stand up to the military leaders during the missile crisis.

The book shines brightly as we near those days in October 1962 when readers get as close as we can to what made JFK tick as a man, and respond as a president.   I suspect that is when Matthews wishes he could have been in the Oval Office, and witnessed the decision-making process play out.

Jack Kennedy: Elusive Hero is a book that will take you back to a time not so far removed from our own.  It is a book of passion about politics, but with a most candid view of its main topic.   This book is well worth your time.

Chris Matthews Warms My Heart With Teddy White Reference

It does not take much to make me smile.  It never has.  The best smiles are the ones that come when least expected.

Earlier today I was musing about the excitement generated by the Republican Primary in Michigan.  I mentioned Teddy White, who seems to always be on my mind on Elections Day, and hoped somewhere tonight he was able to look down and watch the action.

With that in mind as I watched MSNBC’s coverage (flipping along the various news channel options for this and that interview, etc.) I landed on Chris Matthews talking with longtime newsman and political watcher Tom Brokaw.  As they discussed the political landscape of Michigan, and the various components of the contentious nominating process this year, it was Matthews who invoked the name of White, and how much he would have enjoyed this night.  Matthews added that it was White who talked about “the primitives” in the GOP during the 1964 Goldwater election.

I was sitting in the living room, and just smiled.

Yeah, I know there is a huge segment of the younger viewers that have no idea who Matthews was referring to, and no idea what the “Making of the President” series is all about.

But for the segment of the audience who recalls the curious and informative man who loved politics, and had forgotten more than anyone around him ever knew about elections and campaigns–it was a great moment.

Thanks Chris!!


Iowa Caucus Coverage: Holograms, Serious Journalists, And Partisan Hacks

Election coverage of the Iowa caucuses turned out to be a perfect way to start the Election 2012 season.  I can not think of how it realistically could have been better than what played out all night long as the all news networks followed the almost impossible results to the very end.

When there were only 57 votes between the first and third place contenders (as happened for a period of time Tuesday night) I asked myself how can anyone be bored or restless?  A real political brawl was taking place and it was being brought in living color to our front rooms. It was after all  the tightest GOP contest in U.S. history. 

As I watched the networks a few things came to mind, and not all of them positive in relation to the coverage.

First, there are no better computer gadgets and viewing pleasures to be found than on CNN.  For a couple of election cycles CNN has amused me with computer touchscreens, and ‘magic walls’.  Iowa caucus night also produced holograms that explained a caucus setting as actual reporters stood around looking at the clear table-top in front of them where the display took place.  It was fun, light-hearted, and futuristic.  I am sure Walter Cronkite would have found it interesting and asked how it was actually done.  (Recall how he always wanted to know more details of the space launches, or how the Lunar Rover vehicle on the moon operated?)

As always the large map of a state during CNN coverage, along with the various ways to view the votes with easy manipulation of a finger tip, makes me wonder if we need something like that in our living room.  Every election I ask James that question, and every time I get  the same response.  I will make the same appeal during the New Hampshire primary coverage.  Or should I just skip that state ( like some candidates) and wait for South Carolina? 

Meanwhile on MSNBC there was a serious problem with some of the faces that were presented as seasoned analysts. Really, what were they thinking? The network gave up on journalism (for the most part) and turned coverage over to partisan hacks.  If I hate that type of coverage on FAUX News why should I like it on another network?

I am always pleased with the institutional memory and political knowledge of Chris Matthews, and know that he anchored a very substantive expanded edition of Hardball leading into the evening coverage.  But there was no way to take Rachel Maddow seriously as she anchored for the night.  It is not that she was not capable of asking questions, or lacked interest in the outcome.  But there is just a real lack of gravitas when she is on the air in that role.  If there was a desire for a female anchor they should have placed Andrea Mitchell  in the chair,  a woman who is a highly informed reporter and anchor. 

I really enjoy Lawrence O’Donnell  and find him informative.  But seated next to him was the guy you love to hear at a political rally but should never be anywhere near election night coverage.  Al Sharpton’s role for the night was not clear to me.  I am not even sure Sharpton knew what he was doing there. 

Both Maddow and Sharpton have shows on MSNBC, and they fit comfortably into their partisan envelopes.  But on Election Night there has to be a more complete and rounded ability to shape the coverage and inform the audience  in ways that give full context.  That was not case on MSNBC.

The one time my remote landed on FAUX News, and I kid my readers not, Sarah Palin was being interviewed.  She was giving her reasons why Michele Bachmann might want to consider leaving the campaign trail.  With the pot calling the kettle black I went back to CNN where I spent the bulk of the night watching well-done political coverage with real reporters and journalists anchoring the coverage.

“Rick Perry Does Not Have The Brains To Be President”

Words just uttered live on MSNBC by Chris Matthews.  The coffee shop in Iowa where “Hardball” is being staged burst into applause.

Words that needed to have been said a long time ago.

My only additional thought is how in heck did the people of Texas ever think Perry was capable to be elected Governor.  Might that be a reflection on Texans?

“You’re Carrying A God Damned Gun At A Presidential Event”

Chris Matthews tells it like it is.  The protestor is as I have stated on another post, an angry white man.  And stupid.   The Feds better be all over this creep, breathing down his neck and looking at him inside and out.

Chris Matthews Gives Credit To Howard Dean

As stated here on this blog, many feel that Howard Dean should have been given a job in the Obama Administration.  That of course seems not to be the case.  Most have noticed that Dean is on the outside looking in, and have made note of it.  Including Chris Matthews who understands great political moves, such as the work Dean did over the past four years.

Chris Matthews Not Running For U.S. Senate

I really wanted Chris Matthews in the U.S. Senate.  I also knew I would miss him on “Hardball”, the fantastic MSNBC program where I love to get his take on the issues of the day.

The news this morning is that he has signed a long-term contract with MSNBC, and will be staying on as host of the fast-paced and insightful political hour each weekday.  No Senate career for Chris.  But we still have him as a national voice, and that matters.

A formal announcement of the new contract will come later this week.