Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Election Day Headgear and Other Stuff

President Ronald Reagan looked great in a hat. But he knew when to wear one and when not to. At his Geneva Summit in 1985 with Soviet Premier Mikhail Gorbachev, he stepped outside hatless and coatless to greet the premier. The photos showed proud, tall America next to huddled Russia, and the Iron Curtain began to rise. It all worked out well for Gorbachev: he was free to get rich posing for Louis Vuitton ads. This photo is in the public domain, thanks to the Reagan Library.

I'm stuck at home, waiting for the plumber, not exactly how I expected to spend the morning of this exciting midterm election day. This little ditty is running through my head this morning:

The Giants won the pennant!
Can the GOP take the Senate?

Depending on which cable news channel one watches, one might think the Senate is in play. Or not.

It is amazing how very different the cable newsrooms' points of view are this year. Fox News says Gallup and the Wall Street Journal (the Journal now having the same owner as Fox News--Rupert Murdoch) are predicting an "unprecedented" change in the electorate and thus, in the outcome. And on MSNBC? I saw Rachael Maddow calling Republicans a bunch of racist white people. Such drama! Imagine that some of us are actually voting the issues ...

Among my conservative friends, people question my disdain for Sarah Palin. All I can say is that she reminds me of Huey Long, but in Spanx. "Every woman is a queen!" I dislike demagogues of any ilk or party, but I understand their popularity. Huey Long was very popular with a lot of working poor people in Louisiana who felt they had not gotten their due. They had a good point. Unfortunately, Long was not a good solution to the problem. Nor is Palin. The good news is that she is a shooting star and will have burned out long before 2012. American politics is a marathon, not a sprint. Ask Jerry Brown about that ...

Technically, former California governor, Jerry Brown, should be term-limited, since he has already served two terms as California's chief executive. But he served from 1975 to 1983, before the term-limit law took effect. That loophole is bigger than the San Andreas Fault, and wily Jerry walked right through it. Republican gubernatorial candidate and former eBay CEO, Meg Whitman, did not float like a butterfly nor sting like a bee--not quick on her feet, in other words--and no one on her team even mentioned this term limits thing. She was far too inexperienced to take on an old pro like Brown. It appears California will be stuck with him, again ...

All over the country the so-called tea party candidates are duking it out with their Republican rivals in almost as many cases as they are with the Democratic contenders. Not a good strategy. But groundswell movements are always unpredictable. My father voted for Ross Perot in his independent run for president in 1992, and I always told Dad, the conservative Republican, he should be proud of himself: he helped elect Democrat Bill Clinton president. That wasn't Dad's goal, but my father was voting his conscience and felt that President George Bush (#41) needed punishment for breaking his promise--"Read my lips. No new taxes." But does that mean a Republican voter should help elect a Democrat? My father was an idealist, so he refused to consider the consequences of the ethical stands he would take. We argued about this. I think I'm an idealist too; but, don't ethics include the outcome of our actions?

I covered the first President Bush and found him to be much more interesting in substance than he appeared on television, just as I think he was a better president that he was a candidate. His handling of the first Gulf War, in 1991, was a study in international coalition building and the success of decisive, overwhelming force--as opposed to the lingering war we are presently stuck with. Yet, it was all forgotten by 1992, because we were in a small recession.

That is the luck of the draw. His son, President George W. Bush (#43), seemed to have few of his father's skills: on the other hand, the second President Bush was dealt a pretty mean hand on September 11, 2001, and I'm not sure if there is a mortal among us who would have been in any way prepared for that day. We haven't had another day like it and I don't know if that is skill or luck, but thank goodness for that. International relations are, to me, one of the main things a voter should think about when considering presidential candidates. Congress makes just about all of the national decisions: although this, and many other White House occupants have come in with specific agendas, i.e. the New Deal, the Fair Deal, the Great Society, Obamacare. But when international issues come to the forefront, it is the Commander-in-Chief on whom we must depend.

Speaking of the Commander in Chief: on my recent trip to Washington D.C., the city was atwitter over President Obama's upcoming visit to India. First: that he was departing on the day after an election day which appeared to be an important one for him and his party. And second; the whole head wear issue. Head wear issue?

In India, President Obama wanted to visit the Golden Temple. But to visit the temple, the Sikhs require some sort of head covering. Obama's staff did not want him photographed wearing anything on his head that would look Islamic in nature. Sikhs are not Muslims, they are an Hindi. But they wear turbans. Obama's handlers reportedly asked if he could wear a baseball cap! No, that was not considered respectful. The latest thing I read, from an Indian newspaper on the Internet, is that the Golden Temple visit is off.

Does it sound like a tempest in a tea pot to you? Tea being the operative word here! Do you remember the photograph of Michael Dukakis (Democratic presidential candidate) wearing the headgear and driving the tank? There are people who believe this photo defeated him by making him look silly--especially in the days at the end of President Reagan's second term. Reagan: who wore those natty jodhpurs and snapped a handsome salute as he stepped off Marine One. Obama and his staff are thinking about 2012 and "that photo." There is always the second term for the Golden Temple. If there is a second term.

I'll be glued to the TV tonight, and I hope you will be too. This republic is often a messy thing: but look around you. It is still one of the best things going. And I'm not the only one who thinks so. Else why do we have such a problem with immigration, eh?

The Cat with the hat and the Cat without. The importance of symbolism: Reagan and Gorbachev at the 1985 summit in Geneva.

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Robin Chapman said...

Each to his own taste, said the man as he kissed the pig.

Don Meuler said...

"Would have went?" I love anonymous comments. Always more enlightening than intended.

Laura said...

I like the picture with Gorbachev too, and I'm sure the cold air made Reagan's cheeks all rosy! The picture of health!

Robin Chapman said...

I saw a documentary on Frontline on PBS in which they said that scene--Reagan without an overcoat or hat and Gorbachev looking all 1950s bundled up--was the beginning of the end for the Soviet Union. I think that is an exaggeration, but the photo does say a great deal. Reagan was aware of the power of the camera--and was canny in his use of it.