April is gone after having once again borne out Eliot's characterization as "the cruelest month." Here are some political observations of how it mixed memory and desire and stirred dull roots with spring rain.
Presidential Campaigns Are Too Long.
John F. Kennedy announced his presidential candidacy on Jan. 2, 1960, the year of the election. Ted Cruz announced his on March 23, 2015, the year before the election.
U.S. presidential campaigns are way too long. The British parliamentary system is different from ours, but one envies their shorter campaigns.
The Brits began on March 30 and will end on May 7. Our much longer process does not produce demonstrably better results.
The Clintons popularized the expression "permanent campaign," but it threatens to become literal reality. This is not good for the country.
There must be a suitable middle ground between the British sprint and the American marathon. Given the proliferation of primaries and caucuses we cannot go back to how it was in JFK's day, but we should move in that direction.
Baltimore A Turning Point.
The recent events in Baltimore may mark a turning point American history. The direction of that turn is up to us.
What happened there is not new or unprecedented. Indeed, it has once again become distressingly common. But some images from Baltimore could be illustrations in future history textbooks and milestones of American cultural decline.
As with similar incidents elsewhere involving fatal interaction between an African-American young man and police, the first thing that happens after the tragedy is a rush to judgment without waiting for the facts. Obviously, if police are culpable, as they not infrequently are, the punishment should be severe.
Stage two is protest that degenerates into violence. Mobs use the tragedy as an excuse for looting, destruction, and damage to the community that may never be repaired.
Baltimore's mayor, Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, made an amazing statement, which she has since tried to walk back. "Because while we try to make sure that they were protected from the cars and the other things that were going on, we also gave those who wished to destroy space to do that as well."
Not exactly Calvin Coolidge during the Boston Police Strike! The way we are headed it won't be long until someone (probably on MSNBC) claims that "space to destroy" is a civil right.
Next came the unforgettable image of the lone mother berating and boxing the ears of her masked son for being involved in the mayhem. It simultaneously sent a mixed message around the world of both hope and despair for modern America.
Another memorable picture is that of a major league baseball game in an empty taxpayer-funded stadium. Outside, too many peers of these multi-millionaire athletes face lives of anonymous desperation or worse.
It is not correct to say Baltimore symbolizes a crisis. The situation has been with us too long for that.
The scenes from Baltimore are a fitting coda to Daniel Patrick Moynihan's 1965 report The Negro Family: The Case For National Action on its fiftieth anniversary. Perhaps the images from Baltimore will belatedly convince people to try some different approaches to the problems instead of mindlessly continuing the outdated and predominately Democratic Party ones that plainly have not worked.
Comer Allegations Finally Out.
The Republican gubernatorial primary is officially off the high road. It may be headed into the abyss.
Lexington Herald-Leader reporter Sam Youngman recently went public with a story that has been in the background ever since the campaign began. Here is his lead: "A Lexington blogger, who has repeatedly alleged but offered no proof that Commissioner of Agriculture James Comer once assaulted a woman, acknowledged this week that he communicated with people associated with Hal Heiner's gubernatorial campaign about his efforts to discredit Comer."
Comer emphatically denies the assault allegation. Youngman says, "The woman, who identifies as a supporter of Heiner on her Facebook page, has not responded to numerous requests for an interview."
"This is the most disgusting thing I've ever seen in Kentucky political history and the Heiner and Crosbie campaign should be ashamed," Comer told Youngman.
Heiner issued a statement apologizing to Comer "for any role his campaign might have had in spreading the allegations." Youngman also reports that "Comer said he planned to meet with his legal team to 'explore every option.'"
OK. What had been confined to e-mails, Internet innuendos, and whispers is now out there for all to evaluate.
Who does it help? Probably Matt Bevin, the third major contender who also recently received an endorsement from popular conservative radio talker Hugh Hewitt.
Let Us Now Praise Great Men.
Two great Kentucky men died within days of each other recently. Each was a giant in his own way.
Former Centre College dean of men and history professor Max Cavnes is one of the most beloved and influential figures in the Danville school's nearly two centuries. As the obituary in the Rutland Herald of Vermont, where Cavnes retired with his beloved wife Doris with whom he is now reunited, rightly said, "Beloved and revered by his family and generations of college students, for whom he was and will forever remain an inspiring, kind and guiding spirit."
Judge John G. Heyburn II was decent, hard-working, honest, public-spirited and smart. He loved life, lived it fully, and embodied everything a judge should be. His legacy is much bigger than any single decision he made on the bench.
Cavnes and Heyburn will be dearly missed, but they will live on through the great good they did.