Wonk’s Saturday Reads: The “smartest men” in DC vs. First Ladies

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, right, is greeted by a South Korean government official Ahn Young-jip upon her arrival at Seoul military airport in Seongnam, South Korea, Saturday, April 16, 2011. (Photo: AP)

Morning, news junkies. As you probably know, the April 15th tax deadline is pushed back to April 18th this year because of Emancipation Day. My roundups are usually jampacked with headlines–it’s out of control, I know–but since it’s tax season and nobody needs any more homework, I’m going to cover a few headlines and then switch to some lighter stuff.

Newsy Reads

So I guess you’ve heard about the Huntsman love letters that were leaked to the Daily Caller by now. Full text of Huntsman’s letters to Obama and Bill Clinton here. I haven’t checked out all the heads exploding on rightwinger blogs, and judging from the headlines piling up on memeorandum alone, I have no interest in doing so. As usual, the right wants to marginalize the one GOPer who I would consider voting for in 2012, which figures. What’s struck me more than anything else about these not-shocking-at-all letters is that Huntsman’s praise of Obama is exceedingly generic while his praise of Bill and Hillary Clinton is full of specifics and gives a sense of how completely engaged they both are in public service.

In other not-surprising news, Obama was caught on a mic at a fundraiser taking jabs at Paul Ryan and the GOP and now poor witto Republicans are complaining that their fee-fees have been hurt. Hard to feel sorry for them when they’re always so quick to criticize everyone else in the world for playing the victim. Anyhow, I caught a few seconds of Rove commenting on the Obama fundraiser comments as I was flipping through channels on Friday night–after he got done with his obligatory hagiography of Paul Ryan, Rove said Obama is probably just jealous of the attention Paul Ryan is getting. I had to laugh at that part.

What I want to know is after the Bittergate and Naftagate episodes from 2008, why is anyone surprised by anything Obama says to different audiences anyway? He’s a Nowhere Man trying to raise money from Democratic donors while chasing after right-leaning Independent voters. So publicly Obama hailed Ryan’s proposal as a serious one, and privately he told his donors that Ryan’s proposal is “not on the level.” All of it is just words to Obama.

In the midst of this, almost as if on cue, David Brooks bumbles away saying that Obama and Ryan are the smartest, most admirable and most genial men in Washington” and laments over what a pity it is that Obama won’t ask Ryan over for lunch.

If Obama and Ryan are the best DC has to offer (I don’t think they are, but if they are…), then perhaps the great American experiment is already over.

On that note, I’m going to switch over to the fun stuff.

First Lady Reads

Lately I’ve been coming across items about “first ladies,” various and sundry. I’ve rounded them up to share with you. I hope you enjoy.

The (first) First Lady of Flight: Harriet Quimby… On this day in history (April 16) in 1912, America’s first licensed woman pilot, Harriet Quimby, became the first woman to fly across the English Channel. Click here to read the NYT article that ran on Quimby on April 17, 1912. To quote Ed. Y. Hall, aviation historian: Harriet Quimby was flying 25 years before Amelia Earhart. She carried airmail as early as 1912.” Quimby’s achievement went largely unrecognized, but she continued to break ground in the few months she lived after, until July 1, 1912, when she became the first American woman to die in a plane crash in the US. (Julia Clark died two weeks earlier in a US crash, but she wasn’t American.) For more information, check out this fantastic post about Quimby: Pioneering Aviatrix Harriet Quimby flies into history from Michigan. There’s a nice youtube and neat pictures of Arcadia, Michigan, Quimby’s hometown.

First Lady of the World meets the First Lady of Television… See here. Eleanor and Lucy. My two favorites together. To quote from Carl Anthony’s post:

Within a decade of this meeting, both women would be accused of being Communists, the former for her social activism, the latter for once registering with the party to please her old grandpappy who did belong. In truth, neither of them was Red. Not one hair.

First Lady of the United States meets First Lady of American Cinema… Part 1 and Part 2. There are three pictures of Jackie O and Liz meeting (the only known photos), as well as a wonderful essay by Carl Anthony which reads like the True Hollywood Story of First Ladies, only better. Here’s an excerpt from Part 2:

The death of Onassis on March 15, 1975 and the divorce from Burton in June 26, 1974 (although Liz gave it a second try from October 10, 1975 to July and separated on February 23, 1976, finally divorcing five months later) began a process that helped the real Jackie and Liz to begin defining their lives on their own terms, regardless of the public narrative defined by what the former once called “the little cartoon that runs beneath one’s real life.” Treating them as proprietary commodities, the tabloids felt free to print the most outrageous claims to make their Liz-Jackie storylines sell, but strangely refrained from treading into sensitive areas of the real women’s lives which they themselves had used to craft the public images they wished to convey – and didn’t want contradicted.

First Lady Betty Ford turned 93 this month… One more link to Carl Anthony because he wrote a refreshing “Beyond Rehab” retrospective on Betty Ford’s legacy. Teaser:

The imagination correctly conjures 1974 with maternal pleasantness and welcoming comfort, tied up in a daisy yellow ribbon of straight talk as “The Year of Bettys.”

On February 18, 1974, spiffy Betty Furness began looking out for housewives as not just theToday Show’s consumer advocate but for NBC’s evening news as well, her smoky voice ratting out manufacturers of household goods for high costs and poor quality. On September 14, 1974, after five guest appearances a year before, veteran actress Betty White joined the television sitcom cast of The Mary Tyler Moore Show, appearing as the character Sue Ann Nivens, who hosted a show called “The Happy Homemaker,” dishing out frank-and-beans-on-a-budget as easily as sex advice.

And on August 9, 1974 Betty Ford became a White House wife, at ease before the press whether dispensing chicken hash recipes as evidence of her inflation-fighting meals, making the case for women’s reproductive rights, or pondering whether her kids might have tried pot or how they’d handle pre-marital sex like the nation’s Den Mother chatting over a backyard fence. On the face of it, she was traditional, her Episcopal faith a rock in times of difficulty, her love of husband unabashed and demonstrated in public. The first sign this was a First Lady like no other has been attributed to a reporter asking the startling question of how often she slept with the President and Mrs. Ford shrugging, “As often as possible.”

First Ladies of Rhythm and Jazz Appreciation Month (April)… The Smithsonian has an excellent theme for Jazz appreciation month this year– Women & Jazz: Transforming a Nation. Excerpt from the Smithsonian website:

Jazz Appreciation Month 2011 – the 10th Anniversary – examines the legacies of jazz women, and their advocates, who helped transform race, gender and social relations in the U.S. in the quest to build a more just and equitable nation. The International Sweethearts of Rhythm, founded in 1937 at the Piney Woods School in Mississippi, will be the focus of the JAM Launch, a museum display and special online and public programming offered by the National Museum of American History to highlight the unique legacy of the school that music built and their dynamic, women’s jazz band.

The International Sweethearts of Rhythm gained global recognition as the nation’s first, integrated, female big band. Founded in 1937 at the Piney Woods School, band members were students, 14-years old and older, who paid for their education by performing as a jazz band to help promote and sustain the financially struggling school. Traveling nationwide in a customized, tour bus named Big Bertha, the Sweethearts performed at churches, state fairs, dance and civic halls and later entertainment venues such as the Howard Theater and the Apollo, setting box office records.

The Sweethearts confronted dual biases of gender and race and excelled during a period in history when many Southern blacks lived in slavery without chains and women were second class citizens. The band performed in Battle of the Band competitions against bands led by Fletcher Henderson and Earl Fatha Hines, played the Jim Crow South with white band members who disguised themselves as minorities, and toured overseas for the USO during World War II, when integrated performances were taboo. Original band members had come from a school with a legacy of excellence and overcoming difficulties.

And, of course who can forget the First Lady of Song herself. Some fun Ella quotes from the end of this blog tribute:

“It isn’t where you came from, its where you’re going that counts.”- Ella Fitzgerald

“Ella’s amazing! My daughter says that every time she makes a mistake, it becomes a hit record.”
– Lucille Ball

“The best way to start any musical evening is with this girl. It don’t get better than this.”
– Frank Sinatra

That’s it for me. What’s on your blogging list this Saturday?

[originally posted at Let Them Listen; crossposted at Sky Dancing and Taylor Marsh]

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: