Remembering JFK

Monday, Nov. 22nd, 2010

Welcome back!

With all the work, it's a bit longer a delay than I would normally like since my last post. Although perhaps a welcome respite for some of you?  I try not to follow the political rule of Ottawa and Washington... " if you don't have anything nice to say.....stand closer to the microphone!"

Much is happening in our political and media worlds at home and abroad. First, some quick hit reactions on what's going on:

1. Although already awash in media over-kill, I am genuinely surprised and pleased to see how well Prince William and his 'commoner' fiancee, Kate Middleton handled the media swarming as they made their announcement. What really struck me was their seemingly effortless news conference with flashes exploding in a blinding assault. Their television interview afterwards was done with such ease and thoughtfulness that one can't help but wish this young couple well, and a happier time than William's parents had. The fact that it will be a great boost to Britain's economic fortunes at this impossibly difficult time is huge. [If they would honeymoon in Ireland, they could spread the wealth a little further....]

2. While on the British monarchy, but I was really impressed also by Prince Charles' documentary on NBC, Harmony. He is clearly passionate and knowledgeable about the need for a balanced approach to development and the environment, he did so in an intriguing and thoughtful way. The fact that NBC ran it in primetime on Friday nights was clearly the negotiated counter to agreeing to a one hour interview/profile the hour before with Brian Williams on NBC.

However, there was a Classic interview mistake he made which triggered media over-reaction in the British press. He was asked...get ready....a speculative question: Brian Williams: "Does the Duchess of Cornwall become the Queen of England if and when you assume the throne?" What did he do? Everybody altogether now....He answered it! Prince Charles: "That could be." Ready class, what should he have done in answer to that question? Absolutely right, he should have said, "I am not going to speculate on that." Or even better he could have borrowed a line from that brilliant British mini-series, House of Cards, Ian Richardson's character, Francis Urquhart says to a reporter (to whom he really wanted to get the message out there, but disown it cleverly): "You might very well think that. I couldn't possibly comment." Sometimes, life should imitate art!

By the way, if anyone still thinks that Camilla will remain 'The Princess Consort' once he becomes King, please check yourself in to one of those places where self-delusion is treated - you know where Charlie Sheen should go?

3. As a student who attended university in the 70s, and then again in the 80s, I am continually mystified at the ongoing erosion of freedom of speech on our campuses of higher education. How  did we get from the vision of university as the 'marketplace of ideas' to one of 'the marketplace of pre-approved ideas'? Who are at the forefront of these movements? Take a look at this latest outrage experienced by the Globe and Mail's Christie Blatchford

Why, it's the 'student unions'. By the way, I would love to see an exposé on what these student unions spend and how they spend it.  Carleton University, my alma mater is demanding that they turn over their books to the university before they get one more dollar of their 'entitlements'. Good for Carleton!

Speaking of Carleton, however, they have had a long-running battle with the 'student union' who has crafted a 'constitution' that it claims allows them to decertify a pro-life group as a university club, and will only let them back in if they back the student union's 'pro-choice' stance. This is the same student union, mind you, that a few years ago chose to cancel the cystic fibrosis Shinerama campaign because they alleged that it only benefits white males. After the predictable outrage, they reinstated it.

Regardless of one's views on the issue, students and alumni/ae should remind the little totalitarians of group think that the old Soviet Union had a constitution too, but it didn't stop the Kremlin from imprisoning millions in the Gulag for violating it. To quote Voltaire (who is credited with the quote even if he didn't say it), "I may not agree with what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it". Imagine if that came back into fashion on our campuses? Might it be a harbinger of a brighter future for our society?

4. Check out my latest article in the Ottawa Citizen - having a chuckle over the announcement by Ottawa's incoming Mayor-elect Jim Watson, that rather than having the taxpayer pay for the inauguration catering costs, he has asked Tim Horton's [Canada's number one donut chain] to cater the event. I couldn't help it but it does open up untold opportunities for public-private sector partnerships: It's Not a City, it's a Brand!

Remembering JFK 

Finally, today marks the (can you believe it?) 47th anniversary of John F. Kennedy's assassination. Can it really be that long ago? I remember like yesterday the principal of our Toronto school, Spenvalley Drive Public School, Mr. Kiesinger, coming into our classroom just at 2:40 p.m. [Eastern time] and asking us if we wanted to hear the news on the PA system? Well, this had never happened before - so of course we were all eager to hear! "This just in from Dallas Texas. John F. Kennedy, the 35th President of the United States is dead."

Although we were only in Grade 7, the news was shocking and devastating in a way that I had never experienced before. I had trouble processing the thought. Images raced through my mind. We had just seen that picture of him in the Oval Office with John Jr. peeking out from the door in his desk! His triumphant tour of my homeland, Ireland in June! His riveting 'Ich bin ein Berliner' speech at the Brandenburg Gate. It was in this very classroom that we had ducked under our desks to protect us from a nuclear bomb when he faced down Kruschev over Cuba. I recalled that I had blurted out something about Kruschev to my classmates as if he could possibly have anything to do with it. [Although that was before the world had heard of Oliver Stone, but I digress.] He had stood up for civil rights. This just can't be true!

In many ways, JFK's legacy has only grown in the nearly five decades since his death, but it is as palpable as it was before our principal turned on the radio that crisp November day. We were sent home early and it was the first and only time I saw my mother watching television, crying, in the daytime. But I was a cool kid. I was 12 years old - too old to cry!  So I quietly picked up my Toronto Telegram canvas bag and slipped out to deliver the newspapers, along with my brother, Stephen. On the cover of every Tely we delivered was a picture of JFK in Fort Worth Texas the day before, looking for all the world like a leader with his whole life ahead of him.  The 'cool big boy' didn't get too far before he cried.
Here's how TV covered the shocking news

So here are a few quotes of John F. Kennedy, an imperfect man, but an inspiration to a generation:

"No one has been barred on account of his race from fighting or dying for America, there are no white or colored signs on the foxholes or graveyards of battle." John F. Kennedy

"We are not afraid to entrust the American people with unpleasant facts, foreign ideas, alien philosophies, and competitive values. For a nation that is afraid to let its people judge the truth and falsehood in an open market is a nation that is afraid of its people." John F. Kennedy

Until next time...


What we remember....

Welcome back!
We had a bit of fun in last week's posting, as I didn't feel like weighing in with instant analysis done by everyone else. There is no question that the tectonic plates in the political world are shifting to the right. In almost every demographic the Democrats fell back significantly and in nearly historic proportions. There is little question that the electorate is fed up with politicians who they feel don't listen to them; don't respond to their priorities - jobs and the economy right now trump everything. The economic meltdown shook the confidence of the American people. The bail-outs of the Wall Street firms and the bonuses of their executives enraged them.

Can Barack Obama recover in the next 18 months? Based on those numbers, you'd have to say 'no'. However, one of the most potent tools a politician has is the quality of his opponents. So, if the Republicans can show focus and discipline, and avoid doing and saying outlandish things, they have a real chance, with a strong candidate, to make the 2012 election a true revolution. Following his 1994 drubbing, Bill Clinton was blessed by the Newt Gingrich-led Republican's virtual shutting down of the U.S. government, throwing them offside with the American public. Clinton began to look, well, Presidential, and turned the tables on Gingrich. One Republican Congressman, however, has just mused about doing that very thing. Ah...the importance of remembering the past, right?

What we Remember

Remembering our Veterans
The 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month marks the most emotionally powerful two minutes of the year as Canadians in every community and in every school and place of business remember our fallen soldiers in the two World Wars, Korea and Afghanistan - as well as the peacekeeping troops.
As some may recall from last year's post, I have a soft spot for our Veterans (my dad was an R.A.F. veteran in the war) but as a parent one can't help but think about the reality that so many of them were as young as 18 or 19 with their whole lives ahead of them. Their sacrifices were almost always far from home in other people's countries.

A fabulous singer whom I'm proud to say I know- John McDermott - does such a phenomenal job with The Green Fields of France that I thought I'd post it again. If that doesn't bring a tear to your eye, and pause to consider what's really important in life, then what would?

Following through in Afghanistan
By the way, I'm pleased to see that Defence Minister Peter MacKay and the Government of Canada is reconsidering the complete withdrawal of all troops from Afghanistan in 2011 to leave 600 to 1000 troops in a strictly training role with the Afghan army in Kabul. That, I believe, is the appropriate way to ensure that the sacrifices made by the 152 soldiers and their families will not be for nothing and can help ensure meaningful peace and protection of the civil society rebuilding Afghanistan. It's clear they would get Opposition support for it.

Conan O'Brien Re-Emerges 
As with a lot of people I'm happy that Conan O'Brien is back on the air - well basic cable anyway. The key for him will be not to compare himself to David Letterman or Jay Leno. Rather his reference point is Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert. [Stewart has already been edging out both Letterman and Leno of late.] Starting at 11 p.m. on TBS will be an added bonus as he gets a jump-start on everyone else. [Although CTV is delaying his show until 1:00 as they are already committed to.....The Daily Show and the Colbert Report.] He has already proven that he knows how to use the twitter-verse to create a community around him - something that neither of the traditional show hosts have been able to accomplish.
However, it might serve TBS's PR people to sort out that confounded thing called Daylight Savings Time. Monday night they sent out his opening monologue a full hour before he ended up delivering it! 
Although Conan's Cold Opening was classic.

Until next time......


The Day After

Welcome back!

The President's "Shellacking"
Well all you political junkies (including myself) must be a little bleary-eyed today after staying up late watching the 'Rebuke to Obama' as a number of media headlines have framed it.
Everyone has their political views on the good, the bad and the ugly of the campaigns - note the 's' in that word - but I like to focus on the communications aspects.
And because politics and show biz began to merge years ago, I thought I would do it in the form of:

 'The Campaign 2010 Awards'
1. The John Connolly Award for "most money spent in the pursuit of a political office to no avail" goes to...Meg Whitman for spending upwards of $190 million of her own money to come up short in the California Governor's race against the victorious Jerry Brown [53% to 42%]. The lesson here being that even one thread that is successfully pulled can be your undoing and no amount of money can overcome it. Her hiring, dismissal and handling of an 'undocumented' housekeeper left her on the defense, alienating Latino voters and throwing her campaign off its game plan at a critical time.

2. The 'who says getting your name on the ballot is important?' Award goes to Alaska write-in candidate Lisa Murkowski who looks safe to win the Alaska Senate seat against the Sarah Palin Tea Party candidate Joe Miller once the write-in ballots are opened and read. However with a 41% to 34% lead it means that: a) people in Alaska paid attention b) knew how to spell her name and c) took the time to go to the polls and cast their vote. Am I wrong, or is Alaska a model for all of us to be engaged citizens? Just asking.

Paladino (R) Beats Himself
3. The 'Be careful what you email, joke about, and who you threaten' Award goes to Tea Party-backed New York Republican Gubernatorial candidate, Joe Paladino, the upstate businessman who could write a textbook on how not to comport oneself as a candidate, and who was wiped clean by Andrew Cuomo, son of the former three-term Governor, Mario Cuomo, whose famous dictum was "campaign in poetry, govern in prose". Wasn't much poetry in Andrew's campaign but at least he didn't make himself the issue - his opponent did all the damage that needed to be done.

4. The 'who says it's over for career politicians and resume enhancing?' Award goes to Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal who won a late round against WWE Owner Linda McMahon, the Tea-Party backed candidate whose (possibly too) hard-hitting commercials attacking Blumenthal for lying seemed to turn voters off.. [ He repeatedly claimed that he had served as a Marine in Vietnam when actually he was in the reserves stateside]  As well, exit polls indicated that they didn't like her, and they thought wrestling was too violent! Positioning herself as an outsider and Blumenthal as a career politician weren't enough to cover her own resume problems - laying off workers, dodging taxes, killing legislation on steroid use etc. that plagued her, thus preventing her from controlling the message in the campaign. [Note to Connecticut voters - wrestling is not real!]

I'm not a witch. I am you.
5. The 'don't use your opponent's 'bait' words to defend yourself on TV commercials' Award goes to...the one and only Christine O'Donnell in her Delaware Senate race. "I'm not a witch. I am you" will go down in the annals of political ads as the worst commercial ever in a campaign.

#h*! My Mayor Says...New CBC Pilot?

#h*! My Mayor Says 

Meanwhile, the election of Rodney Dangerfield look-alike Rob Ford as the next Mayor of Toronto rocked the pundits, media and the downtown Toronto urban sophisticates like nothing in recent history. I couldn't help poke some fun at it, in this satirical article, published in the Ottawa Citizen a few days ago.

Until next time!