Category Politics/Culture

Revisiting the Kennedy-Nixon Debates of 1960

As a means of preparing for the first presidential debate of 2020 this Tuesday night, I entered a You Tube time machine this past week and traveled back to late September, 1960, almost exactly 60 years ago. That’s when Vice President Richard Milhous Nixon of California squared off against Senator John Fitzgerald Kennedy of Massachusetts in the first of a series of four debates that stretched into mid-October, each of them lasting just under an hour.

Yes, I took one for the Traversing team by watching all four over a few days, feeling mostly, I am glad to report, riveted. Just underneath that feeling, though, I noted a mixture of lamentation over how much has changed—mostly not for the better—in presidential debates over the subsequent decades.

Let’s get to the one glaring improvement right out of the blocks here. In the four 1960 debates, there were four panelists and one moderator for each debate...

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R.I.P. Ruth Bader Ginsburg…Now What?

It had already felt like this country was fraying like a worn and long unwashed jacket. And now this.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg is dead.

The very words rocked me back on my heels last night as I climbed the few stairs to the utility room after depositing some recyclables in the blue bin and my phone lit up and those words presented themselves from a “Washington Post” alert and my mind groped for a few seconds to make sure I was reading and comprehending correctly and to my horror I realized that I was and I knew, with sudden and absolute certitude, that I would always remember this moment, just as I do the President Kennedy and Bobby and MLK and my parents’ and my brother’s moments of passing.

I also knew, with equal certitude and immediacy, that as bad as things appear to be now, they are about to get very, very much worse.

That’s because I had zero doubt that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell would wa...

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1968 Redux? The Moral and Political Case for Non-Violence

In my fever dreams about November 3, 2020, I see the summer of 1968 having unfolded all over again. Donald Trump, like Richard Nixon then, will have been elected to the presidency (Nixon on his second try, Trump re-elected) by parlaying a summer of urban riots, racial discord and the fear they engendered among threatened white voters to eke out an election victory despite attracting less than a majority of voters, and in Trump’s case, by once again losing the popular vote to his Democratic rival.

This is every Democrat’s and disaffected moderate Republican’s worst nightmare, and it could unfold exactly that way unless Democrats get very strategic, very measured, and very sober—very fast.

Central to that effort will be making their peace with the few hundred thousand swing voters in a few purple states who decided the 2016 election and will very likely do so once again.

And what will making that peace ent...

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Rhyming Hope and History With Seamus Heaney’s “Doubletake”

The late Irish poet Seamus Heaney (1939-2013) sounds like the Buddha himself in the first line of his poem, “Doubletake,” published in 1991. “Human beings suffer,” it begins, and we suspect we are in for it now, another journey through melancholia borne of downtroddenness as only the Irish can express it. The second line elaborates on one form that suffering takes: “they torture one another…”

And so they do.

The poem’s 39 lines go on for a couple more stanzas in that vein, which you can read in full below. But fear not: Heaney doesn’t stay submerged in the dark depths for long.

This is a “Doubletake,” after all, which will involve a reconsideration, a reframing, an elaboration that takes an “On the other hand…” approach to chronicling the vicissitudes of the human heart.

The poem is from the volume, “The Cure at Troy,”  in which Heaney adapted Sophocles’ play “Philo...

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The Dems Get Some Religion

So at the conclusion of the Democratic National Convention, we are reminded that Joe Biden will allow “No religion. No anything.” Not only that, but he will “Hurt the Bible. Hurt God. He’s against God.”

Against God—dear me!

Whom he will “hurt.”

Poor God! We had better buck that boy up, send him a condolence or “I’ve been thinking of you” card to restore whatever confidence has been shaken by the Biden campaign’s assault against his very person.

Cheesh, for a “Sleepy Joe” whose doddering, demented, cognitively declining ways have become the butt of Republican Party campaign ads, it’s a rather remarkable feat to be able to “hurt” the omnipotent, omnipresent Creator of the Universe. Were it true, that kind of power would be something of a resume builder.

Maybe he could restore the luster of IBM!

Resurrect the Lehman Brothers!

Exhume the “Excite” search engine!

Get ...

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