Mario Cuomo: His death reminds us of what we have lost…

Mario Cuomo died on 1.1.2015.  Upon hearing this, I posted to FB:

First sad news of 2015-Mario Cuomo has passed. Eloquent, passionate, yet never quite ready to take the leap and run for President. A man of substance, expression, and passion. He was perhaps the only person in the 1980’s political arena who could hold his own against Ronald Reagan at the lectern. As a young man he had enough baseball skills to get signed by the Pittsburgh Pirates, and smart enough to know he did not have what it took to make The Show and used his signing bonus to buy an engagement ring for his fiancé. Requiscat in Pacem, Mario. May Angels Wings lift you to your reward.

And…I thought that was that.

It seems I missed the mark.  Since then the running commentary on so many blogs has been what a “liberal” he was, and how his son (current NY Governor Andrew Cuomo) is just as bad, etc.

These responses to Cuomo’s passing are mostly disrespectful of a man who spent years in politics, was never tarred by scandal, and was consistent in his viewpoint from Day one.  You might not agree with the man, but you always knew exactly where he stood and why.

Sadly these comments point out two things that have been lost in the political arena since my youth.

The first is comity.  It seems no longer possible to be friendly or even polite to people on the other side of the aisle.  It is a world where words like “conservative” and “liberal” are delivered with the same intent to hurt and demean that words like “selfish”, “venal”, and “evil” were once used. It is another example of how the farther we get from the political leadership of the Greatest Generation the more nasty and uncollegial politics has become.

At the same time as we have diminished comity, we have also lost-and in some ways willingly jettisoned-any idea that our political leaders should be able to give us a complete view of governance.  You may not like Mario Cuomo, but Cuomo could tell you not only what he believed in but offer an intellectual and moral justification for it.  Too often candidates for office not only speak only in glittering generalities of what they are going to do if elected, but are completely unable to offer a comprehensive view of why they are going to do it.

Thirty years ago there were articulate spokesmen for both parties who could bring a house down arguing and promoting not just policies but also principle.  They could argue forcefully and eloquently, and not suggest that those in opposition to their points of view were evil.

We don’t really have that today.  If we did the GOP and the Democratic Party would bring more to the political discussion than “It’s the Right Thing to Do”.

That’s why Mario Cuomo’s death is more than a moment of sadness for a public servant.  It’s a moment to reflect on what we have lost, and how much we need to get it back.


The World Loses an Original, and I’m Going to Miss Him…

The World lost an original last night…

STEVE JOBS, 1955-2011

“Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently. They’re not fond of rules. And they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them. About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them. Because they change things. They push the human race forward. And while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.” — Steve Jobs

… and the only upside I can find is that Mr. Jobs no longer suffers from the pain of the pancreatic cancer that afflicted him.

But this AM, as I  wrote on my Ipad with my Ipod next to me while eating my Ibreakfast, so many Steve Jobs memories surfaced….typing the first draft of my masters thesis on my then roomies circa 1985 Macintosh, one with a HD so small I had to save my work to a floppy disk…. the “1984” commercial at halftime of the Super Bowl when the Redskins got pounded by the Raiders…the black and white  Time Magazine cover of Steve Jobs on a cell phone thanking Bill Gates for the loan that saved Apple in 1998…the numerous Pixar movies I have enjoyed with my family… I even considered the creative and technological marvel of the GUI and the mouse.

Steve Jobs wanted to ding the universe. In doing so, he also dinged our lives. .

Perhaps nothing sums up the man more than the moment he convinced John Sculley to leave the soft drink world and come be the CEO of Apple back in the 1980’s.  It reflects the drive, the ambition, and just the sheer chutzpah of the man:

“Do you want to sell sugar water for the rest of your life, or come with me and change the world?”

God Bless You, Steve, I am going to miss you

Edward Moore Kennedy, RIP

Edward Moore Kennedy, US Senator from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, died last night at the age of 77 after a long struggle with cancer.

A giant has passed from the American political landscape, and with his passing comes the end of a great political dynasty.  A private life riddled with tragedy, controversy, and heartache was the yin to the yang of a public life where he stood forth as the last great Liberal senator, a man who embraced the New Deal philosophy of FDR and marched by it all his life.

I cannot imagine American politics without a Kennedy playing a major role in it.  I was born in 1959, and so many memories of my childhood and youth revolve around the Kennedy family-either in moments I remember or heard my parents and neighbors talk about.  Every presidential election from 1956 to 1980 saw the Kennedy family playing a role, either as participants or as major influences.  I don’t know we shall see the like again, even from the Kennedy’s.  The next generation has enjoyed success, but nothing along the lines of that of Teddy, JFK, and RFK.  A recent Vanity Fair article purportedly revealed the infighting already taking place in the Kennedy family over his Senatorial successor and his efforts to get Caroline in line for the vacated NY Senate seat in 2008.

I pray that his family will be able to handle the extraordinary pressure his passing will likely bring up on them, both personally and politically.

Those that knew him or followed him are better able to offer full remembrances of Senator Kennedy. I never met him, but for one exceptional year I felt I knew him.

While I have always been interested in politics, the year of my real awakening and full involvement was 1980, the year of the Ayatollah and the hostages and contested nominations and the rise of Reagan conservatism. I was a hard working College Republican, and I followed politics that year with a fervency that worried my mother and amused my friends. Even when I wasn’t trying, politics followed me. While on tour with my college concert choir we stayed overnight with a family near York, Pennsylvania. Imagine the mutual surprise when my host discovered I was a politica junkie, and I discovered he was a Democratic precinct captain-this on the weekend before the critical Pennsylvania primary between President Carter and Senator Kennedy. We talked politics all night and along the way killed a couple of gallons of milk and at least one fresh shoofly pie.

But in that memorable year nothing beyond the Reagan win stood out like the speech Ted Kennedy delivered at the 1980 Democratic convention. It is called the “Defense of Liberalism” speech, and was a cri de couer of emotion and eloquence. It’s memorable closing:

May it be said of our Party in 1980 that we found our faith again.

And may it be said of us, both in dark passages and in bright days, in the words of Tennyson that my brothers quoted and loved, and that have special meaning for me now:

“I am a part of all that I have met
To [Tho] much is taken, much abides
That which we are, we are —
One equal temper of heroic hearts
Strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.”

For me, a few hours ago, this campaign came to an end.

For all those whose cares have been our concern, the work goes on, the cause endures, the hope still lives, and the dream shall never die.

That speech ended his campaign, which was mired in the mud of Chappaquiddick and stonewalled by the powers of incumbency. But it was this speech that stayed with me. The passion of his delivery, the evident sincerity of his belief, struck me then and now as the measure by which we should examine how devoted one must be and how willing one must be to fight for what you believe in.

Ted Kennedy left the stage as a presidential aspirant and took up the torch of US senator, emerging by his death as one of the most important members of that body in it’s long history. Never a king, but often a kingmaker. Never the chief executive, but always the author of the laws the chief executive must uphold. It might not have been the ride he wanted, but it was a helluva ride just the same.

The Kennedy clan had a much deserved reputation for eloquence. JFK’s inaugural, RFK in the wake of the murder of Martin Luther King, Teddy in 1980. But in this time of his passing a different type of quote from a different type of author comes to mind. As Edward Moore Kennedy leaves the public stage, true to the end to the liberal philosophy he fought for his entire life, I offer the words of 2 Timothy 4:7

I have fought the good fight,
I have finished the course,
I have kept the faith

Of all the things that have and will be written about Ted Kennedy, the above can be contested by no one.

Text and MP3 of “Defense of liberalism” here.