Friday, December 31, 2010
Thursday, December 30, 2010
Wednesday, December 29, 2010
Monday, December 27, 2010
Saturday, December 25, 2010
Thursday, December 23, 2010
Tuesday, December 21, 2010
Monday, December 20, 2010
Tuesday, December 14, 2010
McCarthy's career, despite regular efforts to rehabilitate the reputation of the bully from Appleton, is well documented. He was shameless as a self promoter, trampled on the very idea of civil liberties and was ultimately censured by the Senate in 1954. His death at 49 in 1957 was directly related to his years of heavy drinking.
After service in the Truman Administration, young Bob La Follette's life also came to a tragic end. He committed suicide in 1953.
Nelson - Kasten
In 1980, Wisconsin voters turned out another remarkable Senator, Gaylord Nelson. First elected to the Senate in 1963, Nelson, a former Wisconsin Governor, became one of the foremost champions in the Congress of conservation legislation. Nelson supported trails legislation, sponsored or co-sponsored the Wilderness Act and the Clean Air and Clean Water Acts. It was Gaylord Nelson's idea to have the very first Earth Day in 1970. The event was important because, as Nelson later said, the country needed "a nationwide demonstration of concern for the environment so large that it would shake the political establishment out of its lethargy and, finally, force this issue permanently onto the national political agenda."
President Clinton presented Nelson the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1995, fifteen years after his defeat by Robert Kasten in the Reagan landslide of 1980.
Kasten went on to, charitably, a less-than-distinguished two terms in the Senate. Kasten now has his own consulting business. Defeated for re-election in 1992, Kasten was a part of the Class of 1980 that included Idaho's Steve Symms, Indiana's Dan Quayle, New York's Al D'Amato and South Dakota's James Abdnor. None of whom, history would say, made much of a lasting mark in the United States Senate.
Feingold - Johnson
It remains to be seen if the most recent Senate election in Wisconsin, where Sen. Russ Feingold lost re-election, continues the McCarthy - Kasten pattern of replacing an accomplished, national figure with a senator who doesn't quite measure up.
Feingold, say what you will about his generally liberal politics, was widely seen as a serious legislator with one of the most independent records in the Senate. Republican John McCain got downright emotional in talking about Feingold's Senate career. "I don't think he is replaceable," McCain said during a floor speech.
History will judge, but Feingold's principled opposition to the U.S.A. Patriot Act and the Iraq War, not to mention his bipartisan work with McCain on campaign finance reform, mark him as someone who made a difference during three terms in the Senate.
Sen-elect Ron Johnson - he beat Feingold by 105,000 votes in November - came out of no where to do so. Johnson is a plastic manufacturer, a favorite of the Tea Party movement and has never held public office.
It has been said that we get the government we deserve. One wonders, with the perfect hindsight of history, if the great state of Wisconsin, proud of its cheese and Packers, might not like to replay at least a couple of its 20th Century U.S. Senate elections?
The judgment passing of history can be rather harsh on whether we voters always make the best choices. Put a different way, looking back on Wisconsin's Senate history, another term for a Bob La Follette and a Gaylord Nelson might look pretty good right now.
Monday, December 13, 2010
As good as he was as a ballplayer, Santo lived a long life battling diabetes. He originally didn't tell the Cubs of his disease fearing it would prevent him playing baseball. It didn't and considering the adversity he encountered, loosing both legs to the disease, Ron Santo turned out to be every bit as good and courageous a person as he was a ballplayer.
Everyone liked Ron Santo. Maybe that's why he was destined to be a Chicago Cub.
Friday, December 10, 2010
Thursday, December 9, 2010
Wednesday, December 8, 2010
Tuesday, December 7, 2010
Monday, December 6, 2010
Friday, November 26, 2010
Thursday, November 25, 2010
Wednesday, November 24, 2010
The long awaited final volume of Edmund Morris' three-volume life of Theodore Roosevelt - Colonel Roosevelt - is also in the bookstores. I haven't read it yet, but the NPR interview with Morris about the post-presidential life of the great TR was absolutely fascinating. The first two volumes of this trio were simply superb history and biography and, I'm betting, the final volume will be just as good.
The New York Times said of Morris' opus that it "deserves to stand as the definitive study of its restless, mutable, ever-boyish, erudite and tirelessly energetic subject. Mr. Morris has addressed the toughest and most frustrating part of Roosevelt’s life with the same care and precision that he brought to the two earlier installments. And if this story of a lifetime is his own life’s work, he has reason to be immensely proud."
Two new books on United States foreign policy in the post-war world deserve praise. Presidential historian Robert Dallek has produced an assessment of the post-World War II blunders of most of the world's major leaders - Truman, Stalin, de Gaulle, Churchill, among others. The book - The Lost Peace - argues that the Cold War wasn't inevitable and might well have been avoided.
Dallek reminds us, for example, that Vietnamese Communist leader Ho Chi Minh spent significant time during his younger days in the United States, Britain and France. Ho's guerrilla activities, aimed at the Japanese and Vichy France during the war, were all about Vietnamese nationalism. Dallek makes a compelling case that a lack of imagination on the part of American policy makers coupled with de Gaulle's desire to maintain French colonies after the war pushed Ho toward open confrontation with the West. Ho repeatedly petitioned President Truman for acknowledgement of Vietnamese aspirations for independence. Truman never responded.
Another book of note examines the Cold War from the perspective of two giants of American foreign policy from the 1940's to the end of the century. The Hawk and The Dove by Nicholas Thompson tells the story of the friendship and rivalry between "the hawk" Paul Nitze, a career Washington policy insider, and "the dove" George Kennan, a Soviet expert who spent most of his life trying to influence policy from the outside. Thompson is a deft storyteller and great researcher who is also Nitze's grandson, but he never plays favorites.
As the Washington Post said, "In this important and astute new study, Nitze emerges as a driven patriot and Kennan as a darkly conflicted and prophetic one."
Late in life the two brilliant men reconciled their political differences and Nitze, while never admitting it, came to embrace Kennan's view that nuclear weapons must be reduced and eventually eliminated. This is a great book if you want to better understand American foreign policy from Roosevelt to Reagan.
If you're not quite ready to tackle Sarah Palin's latest, any one of these four very good books will provide real insight into American politics and history and provide a great way to spend a winter evening or weekend.