August 3, 2019

This week in TV Guide: August 3, 1968

True story: it was Wednesday, August 7, 1968, and my mother and I were sitting on the couch in our apartment, watching the Republican Convention on television. She was a very savvy political junkie dating back to before I was born, working for the company that did the printing for Minnesota's Democratic party (even though she was a Republican), and she knew several of the state's most important politicians: Humphrey, Mondale, Frasier; and so that night, as we sat on the couch, my mother explained the art of politics to her precocious eight-year-old son.

The candidates were in Miami Beach (Jackie Gleason's favorite city), and as they arrived to rally their supporters, she gave me the 411. That's Ronald Reagan, she said as he appeared on the screen. (I don't remember for sure, but I imagine he was smiling and waving to the cameras.) He's the governor of California now, but he used to be in the movies. I always did like him; he's very handsome.

He was followed on-screen by Nelson Rockefeller, governor of New York. My mother did not like him; she thought he was arrogant, and besides, he was much too liberal for her. Finally, there was Richard Nixon. He used to be Vice President, my mother explained. He's the candidate I'm supporting. We watched late into the night, past midnight, as Richard Nixon won the nomination on the first ballot, on the way to the presidency.

Thus was my introduction to politics.

It's convention week again, and as was the case when we looked at the 1964 convention last month, the stars of this week's issue are the men bringing us the coverage (minus Edward P. Morgan). They talk about the challenges of covering a national convention; Walter Cronkite, back on top of CBS's coverage, prepares a pair of loose-leaf binders, though he won't refer to them during the convention because "I plan all these facts in my mind by the act of writing them out." He adds that it's important to make the correct identification of people on the floor; it's bad when something important happens and he doesn't recognize who's doing it. Howard K. Smith, anchoring ABC's new-look coverage (more on that in a minute), prepares "two or three hundred pages of notes" into 75 post-card-size cards, one on each state and special ones for the candidates. He doesn't rely on them on air, though; like Cronkite, he has it all memorized by convention time. Chet Huntley, part of NBC's anchor duo,  warns against planning too far in advance—"If you read for six months to prepare for a convention, you'd do all the wrong reading." David Brinkley, Huntley's partner, doesn't want to get trapped by rumors unless they sound reasonable; "I'd rather get beating on a story than be wrong." Being based in Washington, he knows most of the big players, but it's "very awkward" when a face appears at the podium and he doesn't know who it is.

You'll recall seeing John Chancellor hauled off the floor during the 1964 GOP convention, so naturally the question of floor coverage comes up. Brinkley thinks keeping reports off the floor is silly, and wouldn't help clear up the congestion; "The fat cats would still stand in the aisles, smoke their cigars and scratch their bellies." The important point, though, is why the media is at the convention in the first place. "Are we a conduit, or are we there to cover the story?. . .Our job is to dig and to analyze, not make free time available for the delegates to use as they see fit." Smith doesn't think it would hurt to get rid of them, though; "We could have camera setups just off the floor and invite any delegates we wanted to interview to come over there." Cronkite thinks the presence of television has changed conventions: "I regret that they've swept some procedures under the rug for television's benefit. They now make many more decisions in the back rooms to prevent acrimony in public." Huntley agrees: "The committees are always talking about streamlining the convention process itself, but it might be damned dangerous to do that," since it would just wind up concentrating more power in the hands of fewer people.

They all enjoy the convention process—Huntley calls it "fun," and Smith says it's untidy but that "it sure does work." Part of the excitement is that the convention is where news is made; Cronkite calls it "a news medium to inform the Nation about what's going on." Would that this were the case today, but you can see from the comments of Cronkite and Huntley that they're already concerned about political parties turning their conventions into staged events for television, which is exactly what they've become. (Had the term "infomercial" existed, they probably would have used it.) And nobody watches them now anyway, which means anchors might have to resort to what Huntley said when asked how anchors could improve ratings: "There's not much an anchor man can do to change them, unless maybe he stands up and takes off his pants."

The Republican Convention of 1968 is a typical convention of the time, with a dozen candidates having their names placed into nomination, with the concurrent demonstrations, balloon drops, marching bands, and dancing girls in the aisles. The roll call vote that nominated Richard Nixon ran fairly tame exercise in comparison to what happens in Chicago two weeks later at the Democratic Convention. My mother wouldn't let me watch that one, but it wasn't because she was a Republican—she just thought it was too violent for an eight-year-old.

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One of the new wrinkles in this year's political coverage is ABC's decision to abandon the traditional gavel-to-gavel coverage in favor of a 90-minute wrap-up at the end of each evening's session. Howard K. Smith hosts the report from just off the convention floor, where he can snag interviews. Bill Lawrence will then chair a roundtable discussion featuring the network's political correspondents sharing the latest information, and Frank Reynolds will follow with sidebar stories.

And then there's the most novel part of ABC's coverage, as Neil Hickey reports:

Conservative journalist William F. Buckley and liberal novelist/playwright Gore Vidal, who—the network hopes—will add a dash of spice to its coverage. "We want these guys to be irreverent," says ABC's convention boss, Wally Pfister. "They don't have to be objective. We're expecting humor, too."
Did ABC get what they wanted? I guess you'd have to say they did, since people still talk about it over 50 years later. This isn't where the infamous "crpyto-Nazi vs. queer" exchange that most of you probably know about happens; that's in Chicago at the Democratic convention. Buckley and Vidal face-off eight times; four at each convention, and this segment from the final night of the Republican Convention is pretty typical of the other episodes.*

*The documentary The Best of Enemies, which came out in 2015, purports to tell the story of these encounters, but Politico's Michael Lind says it doesn't even come close.

Now, was this all for real, or was it just a publicity stunt? Buckley, years later, would say that when he signed the contract with ABC, it was with the understanding that Vidal was the one person with whom he would not appear; when ABC proceeded to sign Vidal anyway, Buckley chose to appear rather than break the contract. After that Nazi-queer bit, when the two men had left the set, Vidal supposedly said something to Buckley along the lines of, "Well, we really gave them their money's worth tonight, didn't we?" Buckley, disgusted, turned away.

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And now a word from the editor in "As We See It," which all the news organizations could stand to follow:

In this political year it is especially important that broadcasters avoid any indication of bias in news reports. And in the case of newscasters whose political leanings are well known, it is especially important that they clearly label editorial opinion as such.

Yeah, I know. Fat chance.

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Is there anything non-political on TV this week? On Saturday, The Prisoner (5:30 p.m. MT, CBS) offers one of the most existential episodes of a decidedly existential series, "Do Not Forsake Me Oh My Darling." The premise: "Put yourself in the Prisoner's shoes: You wake up, look in the mirror, and discover that the face and body you see are not your own. You learn that you have bee missing for a year—and have no idea where you've been. Which identity would you believe in? The person your mind remembers—or the stranger you see in the mirror? Even if you could be sure of who you were, how would you convince anybody else?" Simply brilliant.

No Hollywood Palace this week due to ABC's pre-convention report on Saturday, but Ed's around on Sunday (6:00 p.m., CBS), with a pretty good lineup: Gordon MacRae and Carol Lawrence, performing scenes from their current musical, I Do! I Do!; Ray Charles, with Billy Preston and his orchestra; Bill Dana, as "track star" Jose Jiminez; the Grand Music Hall of Israel; comic Jackie Kahane; singer Frankie Fanelli; the Blue Comets, a Japanese rock group; and the Mecners, a pole-balancing act.

Also on Sunday, ABC's Sunday Night Movie presents the TV premiere of Tokyo Olympiad (7:00 p.m.), the acclaimed story of the 1964 Tokyo Summer Olympics, and one of the great sports documentaries ever made. It's directed by the young Japanese moviemaker Kon Ichikawa, and was perhaps a bit too artistic for the International Olympic Committee, as no Olympic film since has so stylishly portrayed what Ichikawa calls "the glory of man as a living creature." It's been edited from it's runtime of over two hours to fit the 90-minute timeslot; even so, Judith Crist says that "what remains is filled with moments of great excitement and sequences of beauty." Were it not for the fact that the Mexico City Olympics are scheduled for ABC later in the summer, I can't imagine an art-house film like this playing in a network primetime slot.

Speaking of Judith Crist, one movie she can't recommend is Around the World Under the Sea (7:00 p.m., CBS), with TV stars Brian Kelly (Flipper), Lloyd Bridges (Sea Hunt), David McCallum (The Man from U.N.C.L.E.), and Marshall Thompson (Daktari). They appear with Shirley Eaton, who, according to Crist, "had it much better in Goldfinger when she was covered with gold rather than television personalities."

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And amid all the political articles, a couple of profiles that stand out. First is Robert Musel's interview with Diana Rigg, who talks about why she left The Avengers. It was fun, "but I had no idea when I followed Honor [Blackman] that it would make me a name like this. I began to feel claustrophobic. I began to feel The Avengers was taking over. The degree of success it was getting made it more and more difficult to leave as the weeks went by." Better to leave on a high note, she says, than to become "stale."

She is a night person, touring dinner parties, the theater, and discos; her only hobby is reading; she takes an avid interest in the current political climate in the United States, sharing the general European skepticism about Vietnam. She thinks that the American racial situation is a harbinger of the growing color conflict in Britain. As far as her career goes, she hasn't ruled out a return to television if a play attracts her, but hopes for something more emotionally demanding; for now she's concentrating on her new movie career—and On Her Majesty's Secret Service hasn't even come along yet.

Meanwhile, Edith Efron visits Bob Crane, in the midst of his stardom in Hogan's Heroes. Efron recognizes the difficulties in using the Nazis as a source of comedy, even though the concerns of those who thought it would trivialize their atrocities has been shown to be unfounded. The fact that it works at all is because of "lively scripts, brilliant comedic acting—and Crane." Bob credits producer Eddie Feldman, who "made it clear to me that I absolutely must not play Hogan as a buffoon. I play him seriously, as a hero, as a leader who can inspire other men to keep fighting, even when behind bars."

Efron talks about his very successful radio career (film director George Cukor says, "You honestly became addicted to him"), his struggle to be taken seriously as an actor ("They had me typed. I'd beg for jobs, and they'd give me bits, a few lines"), and his success on The Donna Reed Show. He's well aware of his faults: thin-skinned, an inferiority complex around those he sees as intellectuals, a tendency to come on strong. He also has guts; he's determined to succeed in movies, and he knows his character. "You have to be a hero," Feldman told him. Think John Wayne; as Crane says, "He'll rescue you every time!"

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By the way—it occurs to me that many of you may never have seen a political convention with a role call vote for president, or at least one where there was some suspense involved. Thankfully, we have a radio recording of that 1968 Republican role call vote, thanks to our home radio station, WCCO. Take a listen to it when you've got a chance; it'll give you an idea of the excitement that the conventions used to be. TV  


  1. Excellent take on this well-remembered Guide, Mitchell. This from (at the time) an almost 16 year old county Teen Age Republican president, son of a Rockefeller Republican family from NY who was also dedicated to NBC News and Huntley-Brinkley. This was Rockefeller's last chance at the nomination who swallowed his pride when reality hit and released his delegates to go to Nixon in order to stop Reagan. At the GOP Convention in 1976, Nelson sat on the floor with the NY delegation and worked to stop Reagan again on behalf of Ford. If Nelson hadn't died in 1979 (under somewhat questionable circumstances), he most likely would have tried to stop Reagan again in 1980.

    1. Glad you liked it (I thought you would)! I remember Rocky ripping out a phone on the convention floor in '76. The conventions were so much fun back in those days; not just the coverage, but the larger-than-life characters. Politics was never meant to be for dilettantes - it's tough stuff, and it's meant for those willing to fight for it. Obviously there ought to be limits, but your PR reps and your focus groups should not be your field generals.

  2. Here & There, featuring This 'n' That:

    - As I might have mentioned elsewhere, 1968 would have been my first Presidential election - if my late September birthday (number 18) hadn't made me uncertain of my eligibility.
    So it was that I was unable to vote for Hubert Humphrey, the best President we never had (but that's another story).
    My Dad, a union man, and my Mom were going to vote straight Democratic anyway.
    My one-year-older brother Sean, who was "Clean For Gene (McCarthy)", was making noises about not voting at all; I was pointing out, as calmly as I knew how, that if HHH didn't win, Nixon would. Maybe I got through to him, maybe not …
    … anyway Nixon carried Illinois (barely), so there was that.

    - While all this was going on, the Pennsylvania Democratic Party enlisted James A. Michener to serve as a Presidential Elector, should Humphrey carry Pennsylvania - which he did.
    Michener recorded the experience, which in its turn led him to research the entire history of the Electoral College from its beginnings.
    The following year, Michener released a non-fiction book, Presidential Lottery, about his experience and the above-mentioned research.
    There's a quote from a former President:
    The Electoral College is "The most dangerous blot on our Constitution, and one which some unlucky chance will someday hit."
    The former President was Thomas Jefferson, writing in 1823.
    I'd never heard of Michener's book until last year; my copy is a trade paperback reissue from 2016 (Michener died in 1997).
    It's a brief book - 126 pages, plus another 32 of appendices - but after reading it, I truly wish I'd known about it when it first came out - and that the rest of the USA had as well.
    Who knows what we'd have been spared …

    - Since I don't have this issue, you'll be spared much else here.
    That said, I think I'll repair to the DVD Wall, and look at The Bletchley Circle, which is about some female detectives in WWII Britain who unite to solve mysteries.
    One of the stars here is a talented young actress named Rachael Stirling, who (as it happens) is the daughter of Dame Diana Rigg, op cit.
    Just thought I'd mention that …

    - Coming up:
    Dan just put up Eventually Supertrain: #74 on Soundcloud.
    I've something about Bourbon Street Beat, but I have to watch the show again to be certain.
    'Til Then …

    1. Though Hubert was on the other side of the aisle, I retain an affection for him, as do so many here in Minnesota. He was genuine, and he was a gentleman, and there was nobody like him.

      I disagree with Jefferson on the Electoral College, in that if we habitually have elections where candidates can win 35 states and still lose the popular vote, we're essentially disenfranchising voters from those states. Or maybe we're not, but many of them are going to feel that way, and that's the first step to disunion. The emphasis on the popular vote is part of the dangerous transition from republic to democracy, and the tyranny of the majority. (Ah, too small a space to get into it.) It's well worth a robust discussion, though, and I wouldn't consider anyone who disagrees with me to be an "enemy."

      Puckishly, I wonder what would happen to the liberals who favor abolishing the EC, if they were to find out that one of their arch--villains, Thomas Jefferson, was also against it. They'd probably have some kind of nervous breakdown due to cognitive dissonance. :)

    2. Let me try to explain this in terms so simple that even I can understand them:

      The individual people who live in the states vote.
      When you take the time to look at the vote totals in the different states, you'll notice that with a handful of exceptions, those totals are mainly close to an even split.
      This is where we get "battleground states" (or as they were called in saner times, "swing states').
      This is why I think you ought to find and read James Michener's book, op cit.
      In a brief space, Michener gives a compact history of how and why the Electoral College came into being, and the minor havocs it created over the years - something that somehow never gets taught in schools.
      In particular, the 1968 story, about an election which, but for a couple of swing states with dead-heat votes, might have resulted in nobody winning - and the election getting thrown into the House of Representatives (and what merry hob that would have caused).
      And as things seem to be shaping up (at least to me), there's a fair possibility that something very similar might happen in 2020 (details available on request).
      Enough. The book is Presidential Lottery: The Reckless Gamble In Our Electoral System, by James A. Michener, published in 1969, reissued by The Dial Press in 2016.
      Get it and read it.
      And try to put your set-in-stone ideologies aside while doing so.
      End of rant.
      Still friends?

    3. Of course we are, but the Electoral College is still one of the fundamental blocks of federalism, that is, "a system of dividing up power between a central national government and local state governments that are connected to one another by the national government."

      When we go to the polls to vote, we don’t actually vote for the candidate; instead, we vote for a slate of electors pledged to in turn vote for that candidate in the Electoral College. In Federalist 68, Alexander Hamilton writes at some length about the purpose of the Electoral College and the role of the elector. Consistent with men founding a republic (as opposed to a democracy), Hamilton writes that electors are "most likely to have the information and discernment" necessary to cast a knowledgeable vote for president. Nonetheless, Hamilton also says that the "sense of the people should operate in the choice" that the elector makes.

      Practically speaking, however, when we refer to the Electoral College, we talk about “votes” rather than “electors,” eliminating the human factor, and the ability of an elector to go “rogue” and vote for a candidate other than the one winning the majority. (If I recall correctly, the last time we had such a rogue elector was in 1976, when one Republican elector voted for Ronald Reagan.) People who propose the reforms of the Electoral College generally make this equation; therefore, for the purposes of this discussion, we will as well. One of the perversions of the Electoral College is the way some states, such as Maine, have changed the way their electoral votes are allocated (instructing electors to vote for the candidate winning the popular vote in a given congressional district rather than statewide, for example), which, in my opinion, changes the fundamental relationship between the state and federal government. As one political scientist put it after the 2016 election, "the electoral college is at the core of our system of federalism," and the Founders were quite clear as to how they felt that relationship should work.

      The disenfranchisement of the states refers to the idea that a candidate can win the popular vote in the majority of states, yet still lose the election. Considering the importance which the Founders placed on the rights of individual states, it strikes a Federalist as unjust that the popular vote can subsume the votes of the member states, who are in fact the voting units that comprise the union as a whole. After all, the ratification of the Constitution depended on the approval of a majority of states, as does the amending of the Constitution.

      (To be continued)

    4. (Continued)

      Throughout the Constitution there is an emphasis on the collective unity of the states as forming the legitimacy of the Federal Government. Quoting from a Washington Post article in 2016 which discussed yet another proposal for reform, "Abolishing the electoral college now might satisfy an irritated yearning for direct democracy, but it would also mean dismantling federalism. After that, there would be no sense in having a Senate (which, after all, represents the interests of the states), and further along, no sense even in having states, except as administrative departments of the central government. Those who wish to abolish the electoral college ought to go the distance, and do away with the entire federal system and perhaps even retire the Constitution, since the federalism it was designed to embody would have disappeared." Electing the president via direct popular vote could result in a ghettoizing of the nation, with some states being relegated to living as a perpetual minority. Why should Kansas, for example, feel that it is in their interests to remain in a country where, because of the numerical dominance of large cities, their vote doesn’t matter? Why should a candidate spend any time courting voters in Alaska or Hawaii, unless their electoral votes matter in the election of the president? This nation is already bitterly divided; abolishing the Electoral College will only make things worse, and lead to an inevitable dissolution of the United States as currently comprised.

      Parliamentary forms of government generally do not use the popular vote to determine their heads of government (except, for example, Israel, which has never had a majority government in its history due to proportionate representative in the Knesset), and yet they remain democracies in which it is important for candidates to consider regional, as opposed to exclusively national, issues. The Electoral College was built on the need for compromise, the winner determined not strictly by winning a majority of states, nor by winning the national popular vote; one could argue, and I would be in agreement, that the Electoral College blends the needs of the individual and those of the states. The most logical reform might well be to abolish the role of “elector” and automatically allocate the electoral vote based on the candidate who carries the state, but I’d be wary of even that kind of reform without looking thoroughly into it.

      In conclusion, Michener may or may not have been a good writer, but he was not a political scientist. He was, instead, a spinner of yarns, and his idea of abolishing the Electoral College is just that, another yarn—a well-meaning one, to be sure, and not uneducated, but ultimately: wrong.

  3. As promised/threatened, the Bourbon Street Beat report:
    I rewatched "Neon Nightmare" last night, making much use of DVD reversing to be sure of the sequence of events and dialog.

    Where to start: with the (to me) astonishing fact that neither you nor Dan seemed to recognize the Warner Character Actor Caravan that populated this episode.
    OK, maybe Dan gets a half-credit for "spotting" Percy Helton as the crooked mayor, but neither of you spotted crooked sheriff Myron Healey or 'Billy Bob' Jacques Aubuchon or hothead GI Gary Conway or Richard Deacon as the NOLA art dealer who nearly blows Cal's cover (twice) or Randy Stuart and Clark Howat from Jack Webb Repertory …
    … honestly, I thought that was what you'd have noticed right out front; I hadn't counted on both of you overthinking everything - wrong again, Mike.
    What both of you seemed to forget was that in 1960, Warner TV was churning out about a third of ABC's prime-time lineup, on a high-speed schedule and a lower-than-you-might-expect budget.
    Once in an interview, Efrem Zimbalist spoke, rather fondly, of what he called "the lovely cheats" that WB employed to save bucks here and there on the many weeklies they were putting out.
    Among those cheats: scriptwriting by implication.
    We know from the first scene that Melody isn't there when Cal and Rex have the duke-out at the start of the show. (Go back and watch again if you doubt me.)
    When Billy Bob tells the bad Sheriff to check out Cal's agency status, and the Sheriff reports back the off-camera answer from Melody, Billy Bob responds thus (exact transcribed quote from the show):
    That don't have to mean anything - She might just have said that anyway.
    A perfectly logical answer; Melody might have been away on a beauty contest thing, and would have been told by Rex to say as little as possible to outside callers.
    Or something like that; after 20-odd episodes, we in the audience would be expected to figure this out on our own.
    Anyway, the Sheriff "deduces" - incorrectly - that the whole thing might be an agency op, especially since the "accident" that befell the other undercover guy (whose name was George, by the way), which was done off-camera for the same budgetary considerations mentioned above.
    Besides, in the scene immediately following, we see Richard Deacon back in NOLA, expressing surprise at the Rex-Cal split, and Rex apparently none the wiser about it all.
    So the Sheriff turns out to be right, for the wrong reason - but that's what makes horse races.

    I had no trouble following any of this; Cal had a tendency to Lone-Wolf it when he saw fit - he thought he'd be protecting Rex and the agency, but once Rex figured things out (all shown), he came through, didn't he?
    As to the Undercover Ladies, the Nashville PI laid it all out for Cal (Randy Stuart handled the pipe-laying - and you didn't recognize Mrs. Incredible Shrinking Man?).
    I think I can attribute most of the above to the simple fact that I'm ten years older than both of you, and just a bit better read about how Warner TV operated back then.
    In a few weeks we're going to start getting scripts from "W. Hermanos", and we can get into that aspect then.

    So as someone once said:
    Until that time, Eustis … until that time …

  4. Bob Crane had a "tendency to come on too strong"? Huh. Go figure.

    1. He's talking about Bob Crane's acting. Nothing more. Bob took acting seriously, but he was an amateur actor who had a lot to learn. For instance, he took a course taught by Stella Adler in 1964, at Donna Reed's encouragement. He was also just starting to hone his acting skills when Hogan's Heroes started, and so yes, he was coming on too strong as an actor. He had not had enough time behind him to fine-tune the craft. By the time he gets to his episode of The Love Boat in early 1978, he is just starting to really dig in and tap into those method acting skills. Unfortunately, he was murdered just a short time later, so what should have been a moment of acting excellence turned into, "Oh, look. He's crying! So depressing to watch." But when we talked with Ted Lange about that scene, he said off camera, Bob was funny and gracious, and he was even assisting Lange with advancing in his own career and giving him advice. But when the cameras rolled for that scene, he ACTED. His daughter Karen said that when he filmed that scene in The Love Boat, he was thinking of his impending divorce, and it made him sad, and that's how he was able to cry real tears in that scene. That's called acting.

      Bob Crane was a human being, with virtues as well as vices, no different than the rest of us. Not one of us is perfect. There was so much more to Bob's life than what has been presented in mainline media and in the film Auto Focus. It is astonishing to me that Bob continues to be the butt of all jokes, and will only ever be remembered for three things: Hogan, murder, and scandal. That is terribly unfair because there indeed was so much more, and most of it not just good, but exceptionally good. When you discover who Bob Crane REALLY was as a whole, complete person, then it's plain to see how badly he's been misrepresented since his death.

  5. I can't let this one go by …

    I know from past painful experience that trying to argue with an ideologue is like King Canute verbally commanding an incoming tide to stop coming.

    That said, I must address your blithe dismissal of James Michener's book - which you have not read, and clearly have no intention of reading.

    It's true enough that most of Michener's work is fiction.
    But he also had a considerable record in non-fiction, in many subjects, such as sports in the USA and the space program, to name only two.
    That didn't stop you from going all Richard Gehman on him, dismissing him as a "spinner of yarns" - implying that he just made stuff up.
    Michener was famed for his epic historical novels - which came from extensive research of the times and places and people about which he wrote.
    Michener approached his non-fiction in the same fashion; he often spent years learning as much as possible about subjects as our space program and how sports are operated here in the USA.
    In the case of Presidential Lottery, when Michener was asked to be an Elector in Pennsylvania in 1968, he took it seriously; he not only researched the EC rules in his own state, but in every other state as well, in order to fully understand what he was getting into - and his discovery that each state has a different way of running things was his first indication that this is not the system it should be.
    In its turn, this led Michener to study the whole history of the Electoral College, which is rife with corruptions big, small, and everywhere in-between - most of which seemed to escape the notice of the Founders when they were putting the thing together (although some of them did oppose the advent of political parties, who have been the major sources of the corruptions (all political parties; I'm not playing favorites here) - and Michener documents most of them in the book).
    My point here (at long last) is that James Michener was not "spinning a yarn"; he was recounting a personal experience, and backing it up with major factual research.
    I would say that all this effort on his part deserves to be heard out - and those who oppose his views ought to do the most intent reading, listening - and thinking.

    This is all way heavier than I like to get, here or anywhere.
    I've mentioned here and elsewhere that I am not a "political junkie" - and I believe that those who use this term about themselves ought at least to consider the origin of "junkie", which denotes a physically debilitating chemical addiction.

    PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE - could we get back to Bourbon Street Beat?


    1. Surely you jest! As do I, of course, but we are discussing something that I love talking about; my friends and I used to discuss topics like this for hours back in the day. Even now, though I turn my attentions elsewhere, it comes back to me. (And you did, of course, start it!) I do, however, have to resist being called an ideologue, because it's inaccurate. If anything, I'd probably describe myself as a Catholic-Populist with a strict constitutionalism reading of the law. Not an ideologue, though. Doubtless both the left and the right would be appalled by some of the beliefs that I have, which I don't discuss here. (Hopefully my troll out there won't come back and haunt me for this!)

      I'm not an ideologue. I am, though, a degreed political scientist. It's what I studied and what I trained for, and if I'd gone for an advanced degree, a Masters or PhD, it probably would have been in PoliSci. (My minor in Pre-Law was simply to compliment my BA in Political Science; I had never planned to practice law even if I’d gone to law school.) I consulted with campaigns, managed campaigns, and once ran for elective office myself. I was, in every sense of the word, a political insider, and likely far more of an ideologue than I am today. I'm blessed that I was spared from that existence, because I think the life I live now is far more stress-free than it would have been otherwise. But, again, you tangle about politics with a political scientist at your peril.

      And of course I know the origins of the word "junkie." It's interesting, you know - I think oftentimes the "junkie" terminology is more appropriate to politics that some might imagine. Look at the number of politicians who can't seem to stay away: elected officials who've never held a "real" job; office holders who go up the traditional career ladder from House to Governor to Senate and then go back to the lower levels because they've either lost or been term-limited; washed-up old war horses who can't seem to take the message that their time has passed, their day has moved on, and they should too.

      That kind of behavior can only seem to be understood if one considers it an addiction. Addicted to fame, to power, to control, to fawning sycophants come to pay tribute - we can't really know what percolates their being, why they feel they have to stay involved. The idea that they "still have more to contribute" seems a laughable one in this cynical age, although doubtless there are some who actually mean it; but when you look at candidates who've been involved in scandal, who've committed crimes, who've done things that would pretty much finish us off in terms of being taken seriously, and yet insist on reentering the political arena, it's an astounding level of hubris. And so many of them are even elected! No, I think that the term "political junkie" might just be the appropriate thing to say.

    2. (Continued)

      I think there was, once upon a time, something noble about the man who entered politics, who put his own life and his own interests aside to serve the public good, risking even his own life to do so. I think the Founders were some of the most admirable men this nation has ever produced, and George Washington the greatest American that ever was or ever will be. Now, I don't agree with them on everything, and I think the fact that these men were republicans and men of the Enlightenment, and that therefore this nation was founded on the principles of the Enlightenment, makes the crisis we live in today somewhat inevitable. (OK, you can probably add "Catholic Monarchist" to the list of things I might be.) They were, nonetheless, men whom I admire greatly, and the Tragedy of America is what we have done with this gift that has been bequeathed by them to us. Washington, who lived and died childless, looked at future generations as his heirs, who would inherit the blessings of liberty. Indeed, have we not squandered the pearl of great price? I think people of all ideologies, or of no ideology, can agree on that.

      (Yes, I know there's some irony in that someone like me who admires the Founders also has severe doubt about the country they created, and in fact could even favor a Catholic Monarchy; it's one of the contradictions that comes of not being an ideologue.)

      Finally, I trust that you will forgive me that I don't share your enthusiasm for Michener, either as writer or thinker; I've never been a fan of his writing, nor of his thinking, and the times that I’d seen him on TV or read about him, I haven’t particularly liked him. My loss, no doubt. I will grant him the point that the states should not have different regulations regarding the Electoral College; that seems counter to the spirit, if not the letter, of federalism, especially since we're voting for a federal office. But as a populist who nonetheless remains suspicious of democracy, I think that even if his findings were valid, his conclusions were not.

      Ah, for the days when people could discuss things like this rationally. It is that, I think, that I miss the most about what politics was like when I first got involved. You know how they say that you never forget your first love; for me, that was politics, and though it has far been surpassed in ardor by my studies of religion, theology, and pop culture (and of course my wife, of whom no earthly mortal ranks higher), it’s something I’ll never forget.

    3. And now, for my next act, a reading from my forthcoming book, The Holistic Nature of Politics. . .


Thanks for writing! Drive safely!