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TV Documentary Slanted Toward Unrealistic
Images Of Theodore And Franklin Roosevelt
Marian and I have spent a good deal of time recently watching the PBS series focused on the fifth cousins who each became president of the United States—Theodore Roosevelt and Franklin Delano Roosevelt—and members of their families.
I think that, perhaps ironically, the star of the series was neither Theodore nor Franklin Roosevelt but rather Franklin’s wife, Eleanor.
Less Ego Doesn’t Slow Eleanor
With less ego-driven motivation that was such an essential part of the personalities of Theodore Roosevelt and Franklin Roosevelt, FDR’s often-neglected—or at least taken-for-granted—wife Eleanor came through as less ego-driven and in some respects more effective in her service to the public—I stress “in some respects”—than either of the two presidents.
Eleanor simply went about her wide range of public service activities without much concern for her public image.
The range of those public-service activities was remarkable—and the pace at which she performed them was equally remarkable. They need no detailing here. Suffice it to say that they made life better for a good many people here as well as, in some cases, in other countries.
‘Great White Fleet’ Deserved Mention
As to the overall quality of the TV series:
Reasonably good, as I see it, but not the best work of legendary documentary-storyteller Ken Burns. For example:
Some totally fictional versions of conversations between some characters. (In sharp contrast to the quotes from Eleanor Roosevelt, most of which came from newsreels or other recordings of events written in letters or newspaper columns or a book.)
Disappointing to me was the failure, in the telling of the flamboyant ego-centered performance of Theodore Roosevelt, to include any reference to an example of that flamboyance—Roosevelt’s decision to send a fleet of naval vessels around the world in a show of America’s military power built up during his White House years.
The global cruise of what later came to be known as “The Great White Fleet” (because the ships were all painted white), reflected Teddy Roosevelt’s ego-driven personality but also included a heartwarming story of a diversion of those 16 battleships on a compassionate detour.
Leper Colony Sail-By Deserved Mention
The legendary Belgium-born priest, Father Damian, asked that the round-the-world cruise include a detour to steam by the island of Molokai, where Father Damian presided over a colony of lepers.
So Roosevelt ordered such a diversion, and the ships dipped their flags in salute to Father Damian and his lepers assembled on the beach.
It’s difficult for me to understand how the story of the Great White Fleet was left out of what was supposed to be a TV series reflecting the personality and “world mission” of the flamboyant Theodore Roosevelt. Roosevelt’s response to Father Damian’s request alone made the story worth telling to the TV audience.
Cheap Shot At Detroit Industries
I think the FDR portion of the TV series took a very cheap shot at Detroit-based industries after Detroit had become known as “The Arsenal of Democracy” when Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor forced the United States into World War II.
The PBS documentary suggested that while Detroit’s manufacturing capacity was quickly converted to a remarkable outpouring of weapons that played a vital role in ultimate victory in World War II, the motivation of the Detroit manufacturers was, at least in major part, not any feeling of patriotism but rather seizing an opportunity for increased profits.
My bottom line on the PBS telling of the Roosevelt stories:
Too long and too often flawed. The Roosevelt stories are certainly worth the telling but not with only a slight suggestion, for one example, of Franklin Roosevelt’s consistent infidelity to his wife.
I would give the series a grade of perhaps B or B-minus—certainly not in the same class as Ken Burns’ earlier superb documentaries.
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Hassebrook Makes Path To Governorship
Rougher By Traveling The Low Road
To my surprise and disappointment, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Chuck Hassebrook has turned to the campaign low road in a television ad attacking his Republican opponent, Pete Ricketts.
The ad offers no proof of the truth of several allegations designed to depict Ricketts as planning, if elected, to promote policies that favor wealthy Nebraskans.
The TV commercial, repeated over and over, also asserts flatly that Ricketts’ campaign is financed by his “billionaire father” Joe Ricketts, without offering any proof of that allegation. (And so what if a father is indeed lending support to a son’s political campaign?)
Before descending to the political low road, the Hassebrook campaign already had to deal with the reality that he is the most liberal Democratic gubernatorial nominee to be offered to Nebraskans in at least 82 years. (My memory, combined with some research, don’t go back any further than that.)
During that long stretch of Nebraska political history, Nebraskans have elected and re-elected a number of Democratic governors—including Frank Morrison, Jim Exon, Ben Nelson and one-term Governor Bob Kerrey.
But none of them had the full-fledged liberal credentials of Chuck Hassebrook, who built his political reputation on effective service as the chief executive of the left-leaning Center For Rural Affairs. In that job, he functioned effectively without taking the political low road against those who disagreed with him.
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Young Huskers Emerge With 4-0 Record
After Escaping Potential Melee With Hurricanes
There was certainly a wide gap between what I saw—and a great many other Cornhusker football fans saw either in person in Memorial Stadium or on television—than the way an Omaha World-Herald reporter wrote what he saw last Saturday.
Cornhusker fans who watched the game in person or via television would, I believe, have reacted first to the fact of a Cornhusker victory but followed soon after with their reaction to a near on-the-field donnybrook after the Cornhuskers intercepted a fourth-quarter pass near the southwest corner of the field near the Miami sidelines.
The Miami reaction as the Huskers started to advance with the intercepted pass led to a melee fueled by the Hurricanes.
The World-Herald reporter’s account of the game got around to this highlight near the end of the news story. It wasn’t until then that we learned that the skirmishing which followed the interception led to two 15 yard penalties on the Hurricanes.
We weren’t told what the penalties were for. I made inquiry Monday and learned that the two 15-yard penalties were each for a “personal foul” by Hurricane players.
I don’t suppose I should be surprised at the news coverage. Increasingly, today’s journalists get around to the hard news relatively late in the story, frequently not before the so-called “run-over” to an inside page if the story started on a front page.
In any case, the Huskers came out of the Miami game with a 41-31 victory, perhaps better than they deserved when you consider that they had out-yarded the Hurricanes by only 21 yards—456-435—and watched the Hurricanes pick up a 65% passing completion mark for a total of 359 yards in the air.
Where does all of this leave the Huskers? With a 4-0 winning record and the prospect of going 5-0 against Illinois this Saturday evening.
But then comes the test on the road against formidable Michigan State at East Lansing.
The Huskers are a young team and should improve with each game—if their sophomore quarterback Tommy Armstrong can avoid performances like last Saturday when he turned the ball over twice, once by a fumble and once by an ill- timed pass that was intercepted.
An indication of how close the Hurricane “personal fouls” came to a full-scale donnybrook is suggested in the picture which accompanies this article. Miami Coach Al Golden is depicted struggling to keep more players from joining in the melee on the field.
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Good News In Husker Hurricane Survival
An upbeat ending today? This week?
How about the fact that the Huskers opened the season 4-0, surviving some tough tests and coming out of the Miami game donnybrook with the only penalties involved being imposed on the Hurricanes?
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