Tag Archives: Richard Nixon

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?


The Further Adventures of Ben

Yesterday, I related to you an occurrence in my day…

“I just got a call from ‘Ben’ at ‘Appall sek-yoor-rah-tee’. Ben says my computer is ‘sending a vi-russ ah-lert to the main serrrverrr’. He seemed concerned.
I asked Ben ‘What server – where?’
‘Is that where you are, Ben?’

As Jules Feiffer says in his clever play ‘Little Murders’; ‘If they’re that easy to destroy, you have to ask yerself if yer gonna miss’em when they’re gone.’

What if Ben’s tellin’ the truth? Maybe my Dell elected Trump!
……I anticipate a sleepless night……”


Well, it was.

So, I got up this morning, blearily called one of geeky friends, and we investigated the Dell. Yes, before you ask, we notified James Comey of the impending investigation.

On the hard drive we discovered;

  • 331 emails from Hilary Clinton – mostly recipes and ambiguous limericks
  • Snatches of Noel Coward lyrics from unpublished songs – not so ambiguous, but quaint
  • A video of Citizen Trump in a Russian hotel room (sign on the door in the background stating room rates and check-out times in Cyrillic) – not even in the same area code as ambiguous
  • An offer to forgive my student loan in exchange for a small deposit – who says this is not a kind world?
  • An interactive map of coffee houses in Raqqa.
  • George Martin’s next installment in The Game of Thrones.
  • The football playbook of Davidson University.
  • The rest of Coleridge’s “Xanadu”
  • Lesson plans from the University of North Carolina (these were blank pages).

I felt pretty good when we had finished. Our discoveries were bizarre and vaguely unsettling but that seems “de rigeur” in today’s world. I couldn’t see anything that suggested my computer moccasins had scuffed the planet any more than others I could name.

Thus encouraged, we explored further; actually opening the box of the pc.

Oh my…

We found;

  • Al Capone’s whiskey bottle
  • A floppy drive (no, my younger friends, this is not something Viagra can fix)
  • Nixon’s missing eighteen-and-a-half minutes
  • 14 pounds of cat and dog hair
  • The Maltese Falcon
  • A chord, previously mislaid
  • Pluto (the former planet, not the pup)

Though it seemed we could go on quite a bit further, we stopped there. As intriguing as our discoveries were, they seemed benign compared to what I could see 24/7/365 on CNN under the heading of “Breaking News”.

Also, I was feeling a bit antsy proceeding in this wonderland without Carl Sagan or Joseph Campbell as a guide…or maybe Robert Langdon.

I did want to call Ben at “Appall sek-yoor-rah-tee” and thank him for opening a hidden world to me.

Is this how the archaeologists of the future will spend their time? If so, perhaps the City of Lexington’s computer dump facility on Versailles Road will be the Egyptian pyramids of the 22nd century.


Please file this under “alternative facts”.

A Pragmatic Proposal for Peace (Mine)

“Pragmatism! Is that all you have to offer?” – Tom Stoppard (Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead).

I have always enjoyed presidential campaigns. The first I remember paying attention to was the 1964 race in which Lyndon Johnson, riding a tide of popularity as he succeeded the recently assassinated John Kennedy, resoundingly defeated the radical (by 1964 standards) conservative Barry Goldwater.

Then in 1968, at the Democratic Convention in Chicago, I died in Grant Park along with Phil Ochs, Jerry Rubin, the yippies, and Pigasus. Oh, I was home watching convention and the demonstrations on the tube in Lexington, but I died. I was crushed. It was the last time I failed to vote. Nixon was elected. Lesson learned.

I was avid in following subsequent campaigns. I lived for every daily detail. Of course this was before the cable TV 24/7/365 news cycle (glut) and well before the internet. Daily details had to be gleaned from the evening network news half-hour or the morning newspaper. Smoke signals and tea leaves were a poor plan B.

It was the ultimate reality show before reality shows became a reality. I thrilled to it.

This year…not so much.

I’m looking ahead at the next four-plus months at a campaign between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. TV, newspapers, Twitter, and my Facebook feed will be flooded with pictures, information, pseudo-information, out-and-out lies, pundits, and idiots. Stupefying amounts of money will be spent. Friends and acquaintances will share their opinions and their memes. Too often that sharing will not reflect well on the mental acuity of the sharers. I will be dismayed by that.

To what end?

Do we really think anyone’s mind will be changed?

All that money, all that noise, and all that vituperation…what an ordeal.

May I posit an alternative?

Let’s don’t.

Let’s simply stipulate to the logical outcome of the presidential race, save that campaign money (or use it in races for other important elective offices), and give ourselves a peaceful autumn to enjoy the changing leaves and the resurgence of University of Kentucky football (hey, we can dream).

There are clear realities in this year’s race that I believe make this a pragmatic choice.

  • Trump will be the Republican nominee. I know 20% of the population will disagree, envisioning a convention miracle. I also know if you ask the population which coin is worth more; a quarter or a dime – 20% will choose the dime. This is willful contrariness – we can move on – nothing to see here.
  • Clinton will be the Democratic nominee. I know 20% of the population will disagree, envisioning a mathemagical Sanders miracle. See above.
  • Clinton will win the general election. I know 20% of…you know the rest.

I’m not commenting on the rightness, fairness, or wisdom of these realities. They are what they are.

Let’s stipulate the results and spare ourselves…and maybe heal ourselves.