In his book The Greatest Generation, Tom Brokaw paid homage to the generation that emerged from the Great Depression to fight Hitler and other forms of tyranny. Their efforts were all about sacrifice so that their children could enjoy a better life.
One Monday morning in November, according to the admittedly rough transcript provided by the Federal News Service, “Morning Joe,” anchor Joe Scarborough spoke 3,213 words; his co-anchor Mika Brzezinski spoke just 644. Most of her words seemed merely to remind the audience that she was still awake: Yeah. Okay. Yes. No. Maybe. Right. Terrific. Scarborough dominated the meaty segments; Brzezinski piped up mainly during the transitions.
So this month’s flap over someone “using a word” is between Meg Whitman and Jerry Brown in their battle for the California governorship. The word this time, given the personnel, is not the N-word, of course--although wouldn’t you know, exactly that word has been brought in as a comparison. This time it’s whore, on a tape from last month that turned up of a conversation between Brown and an aide.
The debate last night between California gubernatorial candidates Meg Whitman and Jerry Brown was pretty awful, but it could have been worse. Yes, the discussion was often superficial and disingenuous, but at least the word “whore” made several appearances. Tom Brokaw was there, too, and it was sort of nice to see him, even if no one had really missed him. The main challenge for viewers was to avoid getting too dispirited by the condition of California (that stubborn socioeconomic death spiral, for example) and instead try to focus on what matters.
That New York Times piece on Roger Ailes I mentioned before also featured this quote from the Fox News executive waxing populist: “I built this channel from my life experience,” Mr. Ailes, 69, said. “My first qualification is I didn’t go to Columbia Journalism School. There are no parties in this town that I want to go to.” No parties he wants to go to? Comments like that might get Ailes disinvited from socialite Georgette Mosbacher's next Christmas party: RAY Kelly keeps one eye on crime and the other on fashion.
A society that is notorious for its inability to remember is about to do nothing else. America eats the past, which is why people eaten by the past run to it; but even the American creed of newness will pause on September 11, and learn its limitations. The yahrzeit is here, and the least lachrymose country on earth is devising its rituals of commemoration. The interesting question is whether the memory will have life outside the media. September 11 will be a test of the American sense of reality, for it marks the anniversary of a day on which reality bested every representation of it.
Despite his pee-pants performance in the Omaha debate against Lloyd Bentsen, it looks as if Dan Quayle, 41, will be president one of these days. Consider the politico-actuarial probabilities. Assuming the Republican lead endures, the junior senator from Indiana will be elected vice president. This alone will give him an even chance of becoming president. Three out of the last five presidents were vice president first. Seven out of the last ten vice presidents have ended up heading a national ticket, and four (five if you presumptively count George Bush) got all the way to the Oval Office.