Tag Archives: Ronald Reagan

Mario Cuomo and the idea of “missed opportunities.” The Baseball Hall of Fame elects the best pitcher I ever saw. And I finally watch the “SNL” Serial parody, and it’s genius

Mario Cuomo’s funeral was here in New York City Tuesday, and it got me thinking about missed opportunities, and wasted talent.

Cuomo was an early political hero of mine; growing up in N.Y. as a political junkie-kid and discovering I was a liberal, there was no one bigger to look up to than Cuomo, then the towering governor of New York.

He spoke so eloquently, and so passionately, about equal rights, about income inequality, about the destructiveness of Ronald Reagan’s policies, that I completely fell in political love for the first time (sometimes it goes great when that happens; other times, when I fell hard for John Edwards, well, not so great.)

His speech at the 1984 Democratic Convention was, until Barack Obama came along, the best speech I ever heard while it was happening; it was on the radio and we were in the car on a family vacation and my Dad, a big Cuomo fan, wanted to hear it (I’ve pasted the clip above).

He was so thunderous, so eloquent, so … right that we wanted him to run for President right then and there.
Surely, in 1988 he would run, we figured. There was no one standing in his way in a weak Democratic field. Mario Cuomo was going to be President, a real, true-blue liberal in the White House.
Only, somehow, he didn’t run. We were crushed. Then, come 1992, again it seemed like he was destined to cruise into the job. The first George Bush was wildly unpopular, the Democratic field was jumbled and without a front-runner, and Cuomo’s name recognition towered over everyone.
And still, Cuomo demurred, and eventually decided not to run. The press called him “Hamlet on the Hudson.”

Again, it was crushing for me as a young liberal that he passed up going for the biggest job in the world. Why, why would this man choose to miss an opportunity he was so clearly qualified for? (His son, N.Y. governor Andrew Cuomo, a man I also think would make a good President, answered that question at the funeral Tuesday: “Beccause he didn’t want to, that’s all.)

There were always rumors as to why he didn’t run, rumors about his father-in-law’s alleged Mafia ties, rumors about financial improprieties in his past. But Cuomo himself never talked about any of that, and the theories continue (Steve Kornacki at MSNBC.com has a really good column with a theory why he didn’t run here.)

I was angry at Mario Cuomo for a while after ’92, angry we lost probably our last real chance at a liberal progressive in the White House. I saw it as a great missed opportunity.

But Cuomo? Maybe he just didn’t want to be President. And that’s hardly a sin.



**The Baseball Hall of Fame 2015 Class was announced Tuesday, and as usual, there was plenty of hand-wringing and criticism, as Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, Craig Biggio and John Smoltz were elected to be memorialized in Cooperstown forever
“How could Mike Piazza not get in, that’s a joke!” the NY media cried. (Answer: He used steroids, quite obviously, which has been verified by many, many former players.)
“Why don’t the writers put Bonds and Clemens in, everyone was using steroids back in the 1990s and early 2000s?” is another rant I saw everywhere. (My answer: So because everyone did it, we should put two major, unrepentant cheaters in? No.)

Anyway, the one legit complaint I have every year is the pompous, self-important members of the BBWAA refusing to let anyone be voted in unanimously. That there were three percent of voters who didn’t vote for Randy Johnson, and nine percent who didn’t vote for Pedro Martinez, is absolutely ridiculous; those voters should have their credentials stripped, and their voting privileges going to someone else.

Let me tell you something about Pedro Martinez: I’ve been watching baseball for 35 years, and he is the scariest pitcher I’ve ever seen. Watching him live, which I was lucky enough to do twice, was practically a religious experience, and I hated his guts because he was a Red Sox and then a Met.
His curveball? Unhittable. Changeup? No chance. Fastball? Dominating. He had an aura on the mound that I’m guessing Bob Gibson had, just a sense you had that when he was out there


**Finally today, I know I’m WAY late on seeing this, but it’s so good that I have to share it, in case some of my fellow “Serial” obessives haven’t seen it yet. Two weeks ago “Saturday Night Live” did a brilliant, hilarious spoof of Serial, investigating the story of one “Chris Kringle,” and they nail the voices and details of the real “Serial” so perfectly, I was amazed.


Great letters from Presidents past. The great Mariano Rivera begins his curtain call. And a Charles Dickens theme park, seriously?

You want to make history come alive for today’s kids? This is one great way to do it.
This is one of the coolest things I’ve seen in a while. The fabulous website Mentalfloss.com has highlighted 10 of the best letters from U.S. Presidents in history, as compiled by the organization Letters of Note. This compilation, which has the original letters as well as an easier-to-read transcription, has some beauties in here.
John F. Kennedy’s childhood letter to his father, asking for a bigger allowance so he can buy “cholcalote marshmellow sunday with vanilla ice cream. (OK, so young JFK wasn’t the best speller.) Bill Clinton’s letter to Chris Webber after the ex-Michigan star made a huge mistake in the 1993 NCAA championship game. A brilliantly scathing, short note from Harry Truman to a critic who ripped Truman ‘s daughter’s performance on stage. An Abraham Lincoln letter to some schoolchildren who wanted all slaves to be freed.

And in what may be the first time I ever say anything nice about Ronald Reagan, a touching and warm love letter he wrote to Nancy on their 20th anniversary (above. The transcription is wonderful if you can’t read Ronnie’s handwriting).

These are living, breathing documents that give us insight into how some of these great minds work. It’s truly a wonderful way to spend a few minutes.

**Well, we Yankees fans knew this day would come at some point. But it’s still going to be rough.
The great Mariano Rivera, the finest relief pitcher of all time and a man whose ticket to Cooperstown has already been bought and paid for, hinted when he got to spring training this week that the 2012 season may be his last.

Rivera, who has been throwing the same pitch for 16 years and still getting batters out with it, is the epitome of class and grace. Even Yankees haters can’t find anything bad to say about him. Baseball, and Yankee Stadium, will be a poorer place when No. 42 hangs it up. Jason Gay of the Wall Street Journal has a nice column up about Rivera here.

**And finally today, an idea I can’t believe made it all the way through to fruition. Some geniuses in England decided that the best way to keep the memory of Charles Dickens and his books alive was to create Dickens World, a theme park dedicated to the author of books mostly about bleakness, and despair.

There are actual rides like the Great Expectations Flume Ride, which drops you off into a sewer, and the operators of the park have even created authentic smells, like the ones found at the lovely orphanage in “Oliver’s Twist.”

I would love to know exactly who the demographic is for this place. And I also want to know how bored you have to be before saying on a European vacation “Mom, Dad, let’s go splash into a sewer!”

The fall of Newsweek makes me sad. A stoner calls police on himself. And Fallon + Springsteen=hilarity

When I was a sophomore in college, I made The Switch.
All my life I had been a Time magazine reader. Then in college I met Heather Moore, a good friend who was a fellow news junkie. She scoffed at my Time loyalty.
“Dude, Newsweek is WAY better, you should read that instead,” Heather opined.
She was totally right. I switched to Newsweek and was much better-informed. Newsweek had fantastic writers like Jonathan Alter, Jerry Adler, Evan Thomas, and many others.
Newsweek was smart, it was funny, and it absolutely was a must-read for me for more than a decade.
Now, it’s sad to even look at it when it arrives in my mailbox every week. Thanks to major staff cuts and the fact they’ve been between owners for months now, Newsweek has lost most of its soul (and its talented writers.)
Fareed Zakaria? Gone. Howard Fineman? Adios. They’ve completely cut out most of the arts coverage, and the humor and wit is all but gone.
The last few issues contained barely 50 pages, and one issue spent six pages fawning over Ronald Reagan (ah, the revisionist history. Suddenly the whole world is convinced Regan was a fantastic president. That’s not what I remember. But that’s another blog post entirely.)
Maybe Tina Brown and her magic touch will come in and make Newsweek awesome again. But I’m afraid she’ll make it into something totally unrecognizable.
I’m afraid Newsweek is like an old car spitting exhaust at this point, wheezing toward the end of its life.
I hope I’m wrong.

Stupid people rarely cease to be funny when they call the police. Meet 21-year-old Robert Michelson, of Connecticut.
He thought it would be a terrific idea, while stoned, to call 911 and ask a marijuana plant question. It’s a perfectly legitimate question, sure, but maybe the police aren’t the people you should be asking. Just sayin’.

**And finally, something I missed when it first came out, but absolutely cracked me up when I heard it for the first time Saturday. It’s Jimmy Fallon (as Neil Young) and Bruce Springsteen singing a Willow Smith bubble-gum pop hit, “Whip My Hair.”  Fallon’s Neil Young is perfect, and Springsteen does this with such mock-seriousness it’s fabulous: