July 2008: Nobody asked me, but…

Veeps and Swing States, Che’s dark legacy, the Big Dig and the Big Lift, and other observations

With a tip of the straw boater to legendary New York columnist Jimmy Cannon, nobody asked me, but…

WHO WOULD JOHN McCAIN AND BARACK OBAMA SELECT FOR THEIR RESPECTIVE RUNNING MATES if they put aside all considerations except winning key swing states? For McCain, former Pennsylvania governor Tom Ridge represents the best choice for the GOP ticket to contest Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, and perhaps even New Jersey (more so than McCain-Romney). For Obama, Hillary Clinton as VP would provide the most lift in Ohio, Michigan, and Florida by appealing to ethnic working class Democrats and older women.

Yet it’s unlikely Ridge and Clinton will be the vice presidential choices. Ridge’s pro-choice stance makes him a difficult sell to Republican evangelicals. Obama doesn’t want to share the stage, or spotlight, with the more experienced Clinton. So, it can be argued, the candidates will not let Electoral College math drive their VP-picks and that’s where political decision-making veers from the rational.

IT WAS TELLING THAT COLOMBIAN COMMANDOS DISGUISED THEMSELVES IN Ernesto “Che” Guevara t-shirts to trick Marxist guerrillas into freeing 15 kidnap victims. That the brutal Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, idolized Guevara—the Argentine revolutionary icon—is yet another part of Che’s dark legacy, albeit a predictable one. That an American director, Steven Soderbergh, should seek to glorify this ruthless proponent of a failed Marxist ideology (as he does in his new movie) is less understandable.

THE LAND OF THE BEAN AND THE COD can now proudly lay claim to the world’s greatest public works boondoggle—the mismanaged Big Dig. The Boston Globe reports that the error-plagued project (grandly entitled the Central Artery/Third Harbor Tunnel) “will cost an additional $7 billion in interest, bringing the total to a staggering $22 billion…” The debt will not be paid off until 2038, according to the Globe, and the state government’s solution to the crushing debt? Borrowing more! It was Albert Einstein who defined insanity as “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”

JEFF JACOBY OF THE BOSTON GLOBE quarreled with Sen. Obama’s oratorical treatment of the Berlin Airlift (in Obama’s July 24th speech), with the often-fiery conservative columnist zinging the Democratic presidential hopeful for failing to mention President Harry Truman’s pivotal role and the courage of the U.S. pilots involved. Jacoby added:

…Obama seemed to go out of his way not to say plainly that what saved Berlin in that dark time was America’s military might. Save for a solitary reference to “the first American plane,” he never described one of the greatest American operations of the postwar period as an American operation at all. He spoke only of “the airlift,” “the planes,” “those pilots.” Perhaps their American identity wasn’t something he cared to stress amid all his “people of the world” salutations and talk of “global citizenship.”

Jacoby’s criticism is partially valid, but the Berlin Airlift was a combined Anglo-American operation, with more British pilots (39) dying than American (31) during the course of the nearly year-long resupply effort. (The 1950 movie “The Big Lift” offers an in-depth look at the harrowing conditions faced by pilots flying into Berlin.)

SPEAKING OF ANGLO INFLUENCES, LOOK NO FURTHER THAN THE NEW BATMAN MOVIE “THE DARK KNIGHT.” The two stars, Christian Bale (England) and Heath Ledger (Australia), the director (Christopher Nolan, a Brit), and two key supporting actors, Michael Caine and Gary Oldman (both Londoners) prove that Batman isn’t as American a franchise as you might think.

THE LATE DALE DAVIS, PUBLISHER OF THE SANTA BARBARA NEWS-PRESS USED TO JOKE THAT every American man believed he could do three things well: drive a car, make love, and run a newspaper. Of course whether that proverbial guy actually could perform adequately was a completely different question, Davis would add. Sam Zell, the Chicago “turnaround maven” who engineered the takeover of the Tribune Company for $8.5 billion in 2007 has discovered that running newspapers these days isn’t as easy as it looked from the outside, and BusinessWeek calls it “a transaction that’s shaping up to be one of the most disastrous the media world has ever seen.”

As Zell slashes newsroom payrolls, sells many of Tribune’s papers, and belatedly admits he misjudged the financial situation, the question now becomes whether this self-described “grave dancer” will run the company into the ground. Zell’s hand-picked former Clear Channel executives clearly don’t know what they are doing. It adds up to hard times for some of the country’s major metros (like the Los Angeles Times and Chicago Tribune.)

IT’S A TOSS UP AS TO WHETHER RAPPER LUDACRIS OR ACTOR JON VOIGHT demonstrate better the absurdity of entertainers pontificating about politics. Ludacris embarrassed the Obama campaign by releasing a rap video insulting both Hillary Clinton and John McCain, while Voight contributed a pro-McCain op-ed to the Washington Times warning about Obama’s plans to introduce socialism to the United States. With celebrity friends like these, who needs enemies?

THIS MONTH’S WORDS OF WISDOM FROM JOURNALIST THEODORE “TEDDY” WHITE: “To go against the dominant thinking of your friends, of most of the people you see every day, is perhaps the most difficult act of heroism you can perform.”

Copyright © 2008 Jefferson Flanders
All rights reserved

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