Dem Lynch Mob Might Hang President’s Hopes - 07-16-09
A Varied Menu For You To Consider - 06-25-09
Notre Dame And Obama
Offer A Splendid Lesson - 05-21-09
Upsets Even Liberals - 03-26-09
‘Adults In Wonderland’
Need To Get Real - 01-15-09
This Time It’s Indians
Who Break The Treaty - 12-18-08
Me? A Grumpy Old Man?
One Reader Thinks So - 12-11-08
Top Athletes Should
Know When to Quit? - 7-24-08
Omaha Stars Again
On National TV Stage - 7-02-08
Obama ‘Stumbling’ To Victory? - 5-08-08
"‘Charisma’ Not Always a Good Thing" - 2-27-08
"Nosy Congress Makes
Three Bad Calls" - 10-26-07
"Right Decision Could
Help Both Fair, UNL" - 10-12-07
"Stop Trying To Make God A Republican" - 10-6-07
A number of you have told me that you don’t look forward to reading the column on your computer screen. That’s not necessary if you have a printer. Print out the column and take it with you to the breakfast table or wherever else you choose to read printed material. (You can also call up past columns in case you missed them.)
And, if you haven’t already done so, let us know your e-mail address so that we can send you a weekly reminder when a new column is available.
First, a reminder:
Attractive, hardbound copies of “Life With Marian”—a book which a good many readers have said they would be interested in owning—are still available for purchase (for $22.50) at The Bookworm in Countryside Village. If more convenient, you can now also send a check payable to Harold W. Andersen for $26.66 (includes tax and postage) and mail to me at P.O. Box 27347, Omaha, NE, 68127. A copy will be sent by return mail.
July 23, 2009
The legendary Satchell Paige, belatedly elevated to the major leagues after an outstanding career in an all-black league, wrote a book which helped explain how he could continue to pitch major league baseball in his mid-40s. His formulas for success included this advice: “Don’t look back. Something may be gaining on you.”
Somehow Satchell’s often-quoted advice came to mind as I considered the problems confronting President Obama. But in Obama’s case, I would reverse Satchell’s “don’t look back” advice.
Obama should be figuratively looking back and realize the extent of the opposition which is steadily gaining on him—opposition which includes fellow Democrats (including some of the wealthy liberals who voted for him) and, most importantly, opposition from a growing proportion of the American public.
A USA Today/Gallup poll last weekend found that a minority (44%) of the respondents approve of the way he is handling the health care issue. And his overall approval rating (55%) put him 10th among the 12 post-World War II presidents in Gallup poll ratings after six months in office.
Obama seems obsessed with pressuring (in some cases it sounds more like “ordering”) Congress to pass health care legislation before starting the traditional August recess.
Obama simply hasn’t satisfactorily explained why healthcare problems which have been building over a period of years must be started on the way to solution (his version of solution) by passage of a 10-year trillion-dollar program within six or seven months after he took office (as the least experienced president in at least the past half century).
In the first place, the health care problem is not as bad as Obama and like-minded reformers paint it. The fact that some 45 to 50 million Americans aren’t covered by health insurance does not mean that 45 to 50 million Americans are not receiving medical care.
Surely, the American health care system can be improved—any such complex, costly enterprise affecting all Americans is not without its problems. But our health care system serves Americans remarkably well, especially when compared with the socialized systems in neighboring Canada and in Great Britain.
Although his name isn’t mentioned in the ads, it is obvious that the Democratic National Committee is targeting Nebraska’s Democratic Senator Ben Nelson with a flood of television ads warning of dire consequences unless the Obama health reform program is adopted promptly.
The ads underscore the fact that Nelson, in his role as a member of a group of moderate senators who can be of decisive importance in case of close votes, is serving Nebraskans and Americans in general very well indeed.
* * *
After the first, second and third rounds of the British Open, with Tom Watson surprisingly if not amazingly at the top of the leader board. I told one or another of my golfing friends something like, “I hate to say it, but Tom Watson isn’t going to win the British Open.”
I was convinced that the improbable almost incredible feat of putting his name on the Claret Jug for the sixth time would almost inevitably escape the grasp of a 59-year-old golfer.
As Watson hit his approach shot on the 72nd hole, it appeared I was happily wrong. I assumed, as did one of the television commentators, that Watson would use all of his links golf experience to play a “bump and run” shot rather than try a shot that hit the hard links green, with the chance or the likelihood that it would not bite but run off the back of the green.
Tom chose an 8 iron (he later said he wished he had taken a 9 iron) and, wind at his back, the ball carried to the green and ran off the back.
His approach putt from off the green was too hard and his eight-foot uphill putt for a championship-winning par was woefully weak.
Perhaps not given proper attention in the atmosphere of disappointment over Watson’s misfortune is the fact that without his remarkably skillful and courageous run for his sixth British Open crown, there would have been a good deal more attention paid to the fact that another American long shot (you are, I think, fairly described as a long shot when you win your first major championship at 36) named Stewart Cink was the winner with a two-under-par performance.
In a sense, Watson’s performance was perhaps not quite as remarkable as it seemed. Those five previous British Open championships had taught him very well how to play British golf courses, including seaside links courses like Turnberry: Drive the ball straight, avoiding sand traps and the tangled rough, land most approach shots short of the hard greens, depending on the roll to put you on the putting surface.
Watson’s knowledge of these requirements, based on long experience, and his ability to drive the ball accurately a very high percentage of the time made possible his improbable run for a sixth title.
Watson said it was a loss which “tears at your gut.” Then he said he had particularly appreciated the Scottish crowds’ display of “warmth and love.”
I was particularly interested in Watson’s statement that these days, in contrast to the enjoyment he had in playing the Turnberry course again, “I don’t like to play Augusta anymore. I feel I’m a ceremonial golfer there because I can’t play that golf course anymore unless I play perfect.”
Tom did not explain his current feelings toward the Augusta course, where he won Masters championships in 1977 and 1981. I’m assuming that he was contrasting his enjoyment of driving the ball on the hard, long-rolling Turnberry fairways with driving to the longer, softer Augusta fairways.
In any case, a tip of my golfer’s cap to courageous Tom Watson, with the hope that he will continue to play his respected role as a good deal more than “a ceremonial golfer” at Augusta during the Masters tournament each year.
* * *
As I see it, American news media fell well short of superior performance in reporting and commenting on the recent death, at 92, of former TV newsman Walter Cronkite.
Cronkite was regarded by many as the brightest star in the firmament of television journalists (which included such other well-known and listened-to personalities as David Brinkley and Chet Huntley and John Chancellor). He had a warm on-air personality which made some viewers feel as if they were listening to a friend—“Uncle Walter,” he was sometimes called.
But in obituary stories, both print and broadcast, too many journalists went overboard, repeatedly describing him, for example, as “the most trusted man in America.” (“Public opinion polls” were offered as authority for this description).
Then there were statements like this in a Newsday story: “For millions, a day was not complete until they heard his signoff: ‘And that’s the way it is.’”
(What did those millions of Americans do after Walter Cronkite had made their day complete? Go directly to bed?)
Normally sensible Tom Brokaw, well-known from his years as NBC evening news anchorman, wrote that Cronkite “guided the nation” through everything from “the assassinations of two Kennedys” to the Viet Nam War to Richard Nixon’s resignation.
Brokow concluded his column with praise for what he described as Cronkite’s “skill in getting them (the American people) through rough seas.”
A sort of deification of even extraordinary mortals does not play well with me nor with a good many other Americans, I believe.
What is cited in a number of the obituary reports as a praiseworthy achievement by Cronkite was, in my opinion, a negation of his role as a journalist who followed the traditional pattern: Bring readers and viewers the news, fully and objectively, so that they can make up their own minds without being told by Uncle Walter or anybody else how to think.
This basic departure from a traditional journalistic role was, of course, Cronkite’s four broadcasts with negative reports about the way the Vietnamese War was going and his recommendation that negotiated withdrawal was the best way out for America.
The broadcasts were aired in February, 1968, as most American news media were erroneously describing the massive Vietnamese TET offensive as a defeat for the American and South Vietnamese forces.
The truth was that the TET offensive was a defeat for the Viet Cong and North Vietnamese forces, beaten back after suffering massive casualties.
So while history has recorded the TET offensive as a military defeat for the communist forces, the negative tone of American journalists’ accounts, including Cronkite’s, had a negative effect on American public opinion in regard to chances for an ultimate favorable outcome in Vietnam.
Another example of what I would consider less than praiseworthy performance by Walter Cronkite came during his retirement. In a telecast celebrating Cronkite’s 90th birthday, CBS and Cronkite himself contended that Cronkite had brought the Watergate story from the obituary pages to a top spot in the CBS Evening News, implying that this played a major role in disclosures which later led to President Richard Nixon’s resignation.
The facts: In October, 1972, Cronkite took14 minutes to report on Watergate, followed by an eight-minute segment four days later—a fairly shaky basis for hinting at a major influence on Nixon’s resignation two years later. The nation’s newspapers had been covering the Watergate story during those two years, and in his memoirs, Nixon made clear that American newspapers exerted the major news media influence in his decision to resign.
Nixon wrote: “The Chicago Tribune called for my resignation, while other old friends, including The Omaha World-Herald, The Kansas City Times, The Cleveland Plain Dealer and The Charlotte Observer echoed their sentiments or even endorsed impeachment. They were joined by The Los Angeles Times, The Miami Herald and The Providence Journal…”
There was no mention of CBS News in connection with his resignation.
The World-Herald did not “echo” the sentiments of the Chicago Tribune. The Trib did not call for his resignation but rather suggested consideration of either resignation or impeachment.
A World-Herald editorial headlined “A Matter of Morality: Nixon Should Resign” was published on May 8, 1974, the day before the Chicago Tribune’s resignation-or-impeachment editorial.
(Incidentally, the index to Nixon’s memoirs indicates that in his book Nixon made 13 references to CBS and 52 references to The New York Times.)
A final thought: Walter Cronkite was a television journalist with a generally praiseworthy career which did indeed earn him a preeminent position among television journalists, a career marked by some shortcomings, as is true of any leader among us. Journalistic reaction to his death could certainly have done him proper credit without language like “for millions, a day was not complete until they heard his signoff.”
* * *
A special friend shared the following story with Marian and me. I hope you enjoy it as much as we did.
It was during a performance of the Broadway musical “Chorus Line” when the precocious 12-year-old son asked his father in a loud voice:
“Do you think this is an appropriate show for a 12-year-old?”
Marian asked our friend how he replied to his son’s question.
“I told him to be quiet,” the father reported
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