As I lay abed trying to recuperate from a three-day pneumonia-precaution hospitalization, plenty of time to ruminate on the American social scene—especially the American political scene these days, of course. Among the random thoughts which occur:
President Barack Obama badly needs a speech counselor. For a man known for teleprompter speeches which are designed to give the impression of extemporaneous remarks, no excuse for projecting an image of “Now listen to me. I’m smart and I’m your leader.”
How much better to project an image of non-arrogant leadership, of capability which encourages cooperation rather than a sort of oratorical coercion.
Two recent pictures of Obama in oratorical action illustrate my point. Self-confidence can look an awful lot like conceit.
Of special interest and some amusement to a Nebraskan like me is former Senator Bob Kerrey’s scrupulous avoidance of identifying himself as a Democrat in his campaign commercials.
Come on, Bob, it’s because you’re a Democrat that you are running and getting some substantial contributions when you go back east to raise contributions to finance your Nebraska campaign.
There is no evidence that the Kerrey-for-Senator campaign would exist except for your personal political ambition and the hope of national Democrats that you can retain for the Democratic Party the seat which Democratic Senator Ben Nelson is vacating. An upset victory by Kerrey might help the Democrats hold a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate. The campaign is clearly labeled “D.”
In his latest TV commercial, the 69-year-old Kerrey apparently had a better makeup man, and comes across more persuasively. But it is still a formidable challenge that, as the political odds would dictate, could very well prove too formidable for a former senator returning to his state after a 12-year absence and pull off a victory in the face of a registered Republican majority of well over 100,000 voters.
A formidable challenge, even if Kerrey has retained a substantial part of the personal popularity which he once enjoyed in Nebraska.
* * *
Tom Shatel Is Right On Target;
‘Futuristic’ Husker Football Uniform Looks Awful
There is an old description of journalistic commentators as observers who watch the battle from the hills and then come down and shoot the wounded.
I’ll concede that such a judgment might apply to some of my commentary—perhaps more than a little of my commentary.
But the truth is that I enjoy making positive comment also. It’s just that when you spend a good deal of time observing and commenting on political performances, the opportunity for critical comment often seems to predominate.
So let’s turn to a kind of non-political commentary to which I also give a good deal of attention; i.e., comments about athletics and athletes. In this arena of journalistic commentary, I confess to some controversial sharpshooting, including comments from time to time on the work of the World-Herald’s irrepressible, consistently clever, frequently controversial Tom Shatel.
So it was with a special satisfaction that I saw the opportunity the other day to try to redress the balance with several favorable comments about a single Shatel column.
First and foremost, “Amen!” to these comments from Shatel in regard to the effort (one hopes it’s a very limited effort) to give Cornhusker football uniforms a more “futuristic” look. Shatel said it very well (the man does have a way with words):
“I hate the idea of changing the Big Red look this week more than I did last week…it was good to hear from a good number of you who also want nothing to do with some of the “Battlestar Galactica get-ups.”
Two examples of “Battlestar Galactica” type helmets being pushed by a volunteer so-called “expert” consultant as an example of desirable change in Husker uniforms:
Are you listening, Tom Osborne? Do you want your athletic directorship to be remembered as the one which imposed “futuristic” uniform touches on the traditional Big Red uniforms and helmets?
(More favorable comments on Tom Shatel comments next week.)
* * *
Titanic’s ‘Fatal Flaws’ Weren’t The Ship’s;
They Were In Captain And Board Chairman
The two-hour History Channel whitewash of the way the Titanic was built, equipped with lifeboats and captained on that fatal night 100 years ago was totally unconvincing to me. Interesting but unconvincing.
At several stages the narrator said: “Did Titanic have a fatal flaw?” The video went on to build a case that the Titanic did not have a fatal flaw, that everything about the ship’s design and operation that fatal night was not properly subject to criticism.
My opinion: The Titanic did have a fatal flaw. His name was Captain Edward John Smith who made the foolish and fatal decision to ignore—or at least not pay enough attention to—several radio warnings that floating icebergs breaking off the polar icecap were a potential hazard to vessels in the North Atlantic.
The TV documentary defended Captain Smith on the basis that it was common to continue on course while keeping careful outlook for icebergs. (A “common” practice that helped killed some 1,500 people—reports vary as to the exact number—that night 100 years ago.)
To criticism that there were only enough lifeboats for a third to half of the passengers and crew, the TV crew of “experts” replied that this was not surprising, since it was based on the assumption that if there were reason to abandon ship, other vessels would come to the rescue before more lifeboats were needed.
So some 1,500 people die because the director of the White Star Line made a fatal miscalculation of the need for a lifeboat seat for every passenger. (A requirement which is now standard of maritime law.)
Very important fact totally ignored by the TV history rewriters: An American freighter, the Californian, was at anchor nearby having heeded the iceberg warning.
The Californian, a ship whose skipper made the right decision, was within clear sight of the Titanic as that huge vessel, with all its lights still functioning, paid the price of Captain Smith’s foolish decision.
The captain of the Californian had gone to bed. His lookout noticed flares being shot off by the crew of the Titanic. He awakened the captain and reported this. The captain said this was probably just a big cruise ship and they were having a party, rolled over and went back to sleep. He was later sharply criticized for not attempting to come to aid of the Titanic. But he had reacted properly to the dangerous floating ice warning.
The TV experts also said that the Titanic was so well designed that it held together for a remarkably long time. So a ship which breaks into three pieces in some 2 ½ hours was properly designed to withstand any threat to navigation in waters where the captain is speeding ahead despite warnings of dangerous ice? Obviously and tragically not so.
I will say, however, that the ship did perform significantly better than those responsible for providing the lifeboats and captaining her.
# # #