Tag Archives: John F. Kennedy

What THE POST is Not – Spoiler Alert

My friends continue their assault. They are determined I should watch some films from this millennium. But you’ll notice the films are set in the 1960’s. They’re trying to ease me into it.

Tonight it’s THE POST. It’s real good. I liked it!

BUT, it’s not ALL THE PRESIDENT’S MEN…and that’s OK.

It certainly looks like ALL THE PRESIDENT’S MEN…happily so. Ben Bradlee was there, in his same office, with his feet up on the same desk…happily so. The news room looked and sounded the same…yes, happily so. Nixon is foiled…so very happily so.

But the stakes are different in the events depicted.

In THE POST, the object of intrepid journalism is “The Ellsberg Papers”, a collection of reports about the history and motivations of a war in Southeast Asia assembled by a team in the Secretary of State’s office mostly by simply asking the Pentagon for the information. It was devastating information confirming the worst fears of a movement of young people opposed to a conflict that killed one to three-and-a-half million people (depending on whether you consider Cambodia, Laos, and political assassinations as part of the casualties – I tend to do so).

In THE POST, this devastating information was not that hard to obtain. The drama…the courage…the journalism was deciding to publish in the face of threats of court action by the White House.

The lesson to be learned was in the question of why it took so long to assemble the information that had been gathering since the early fifties. The answer was in the cozy relationship that had developed (festered?) between the press and the people in government. Hard questions, awkward questions got delayed and forgotten in the warmth of golf with Ike and touch football on the White House lawn with Jack and Bobby.

THE POST makes this point. My hippie sensitivities might wish the point had hammered longer and harder but that’s not fair. It’s a movie, a work of art, and a damn fine one, and the point was made within that reality.

The events depicted in ALL THE PRESIDENT’S MEN are about the clumsy burglary of the political office of an already defeated candidate. What’s the big deal?

– Only that the burglary was authorized in the office of the Attorney General of the United States.
– Only that the money paid to the burglars to buy their silence was raised by fundraisers of the President of the United States at his behest.
– Only that the President’s suggestion to the newly appointed head of the FBI was to drop his evidence in the Potomac.

I repeat; what’s the big deal?

I mean…no one died.

But two young nobody reporters sifted through files, pounded on doors, waited on recalcitrant elected witnesses, cornered reluctant participants, lingered in parking garages, and endured the public berating of the most powerful office on Earth to deliver a truthful report.

A report that a few years before might not have been published had not the Washington Post had the guts to publish “The Ellsberg Papers”.

ALL THE PRESIDENT’S MEN is the better film.

How could it not be?

I might be the world’s biggest Meryl Streep fan and I can’t be far behind on Tom Hanks. But ALL THE PRESIDENT’S MEN has complete performances by Dustin Hoffman, Robert Redford, Jack Warden, Jason Robards, Jane Alexander, Penny Fuller, Hal Holbrook, Ned Beatty, and Martin Balsam.


I have confessed to being both an old hippie and a true geezer. I have lived through these events.

If you are interested in moving towards a relevant-to-today understanding of these happenings, may I offer a triptych?

– See THE POST, it’s real good.
– Read ALL THE PRESIDENT’S MEN (Woodward/Bernstein).
– See ALL THE PRESIDENT’S MEN it’s even better.
– Read THE FINAL DAYS (Woodward/Bernstein).
– Read BLIND AMBITION (John Dean).

I have a writer friend who talks about the mystic power of three.

It seems much of my art-consuming life, I have encountered trilogies regularly (…and happily so); THE LORD OF THE RINGS, STAR WARS, Kieslowski’s THREE COLOURS, Clint Eastwood’s DOLLARS westerns, THE GODFATHER, and INDIANA JONES.

Might this be another?


A Tale of Two Conventions

After watching two weeks of political conventions. My head is not spinning. I have a plethora of thoughts but they seem pretty clear.

  • It was the best of conventions: it was the worst of conventions. I confess I plagiarized and paraphrased that.
  • I enjoyed seeing Paul Simon and Carole King while flinching at hearing them. Gettin’ old sucks.
  • The Trump family is lovely to look at – sans pere.
  • One of the things I enjoy about traveling is hearing languages and accents I rarely hear in Lexington. It humbles me a bit (always useful in my case) and reminds me I’m part of something bigger than the blissful bubble Janie and I live in and cherish.
  • In his late eighties, my grandfather was taken hunting by one of my cousins. When they emerged from their hunting ground, they were confronted by a game warden waiting by their car. He asked for my grandfather’s hunting license and in the ensuing confusion about the existence of such a document (not to mention any relevant emails, birth certificates, or tax returns), the warden said he would need to have my grandfather’s gun/rifle/bazooka/whatever. My grandfather responded by cocking his gun/rifle/bazooka/whatever and saying “I don’t think so.” I think my mom had to bail him out on that caper.

I relate this to point out that I, like many of us, come from a culture of personal weaponry that is not even in the same area code as rational thought. I, like most of us, would like to see some improvement in the number of weapons of mass destruction currently in the hands of dangerous people (toddlers and terrorists alike). But I also think this is one of the two “third-rail” issues in US politics today. This issue will be tough for Democrats.

  • By the way, the other “third-rail” issue is Social Security. Republicans might want to tread warily here. This geezer would respectfully suggest/bellow they get offa my lawn.
  • A wall. Really? A wall? Didn’t Russia try that in Berlin? If we’re gonna build something, let’s RE-build our infrastructure. Bridges, roads, and airports – yes! Wall – not so much.
  • I’ve witnessed history-making things in my lifetime.
    • Humans bounding on the moon.
    • Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream” speech.
    • John F. Kennedy’s assassination.
    • Barack Obama’s election to the presidency.
    • Hillary Clinton’s nomination for the presidency.
  • I’ve also seen a good many balloon drops in my lifetime and I always like’em. Yesterday’s Democratic Convention balloon drop was the best.

Finally, I’m watching a couple of films by Danish director Carl Theodore Dreyer. In his film GERTRUD, one of the characters advises;

“Two things have been and still are more important to me than anything else. These two things are love and thought. You’ve spoken about love. As far as thoughts go, we should have courage to think good thoughts for the good thoughts bring us to the summit of truth, and truth is the only thing worthwhile.”

Michelle Obama might have said that more succinctly; “When they go low, we go high.”

No, my head’s not spinning…I’m goin’ high.