Monday, June 03, 2013

An Arifact From the Nineties

I could go on and on about Roger Federer, but doing so might get me close to the boredom line with a few readers, so I'll be very quick.
Mr. Federer just won his 900th match as a pro. In more than a few of these wins, to say nothing of the losses, he has used his athleticism to produce some amazing shots. During the 900th win, which took place in Paris at the French Open, he went far to his right to get to a ball hit at a very sharp angle. Completely off the court, Mr. F. gave the ball a little flick which caused it to bend around the net post at a height about a foot under the net, pass to the other side and land safely out of reach of his flabbergasted opponent. This shot inspired Yahoo to search their archives for similar Federer shots. They found enough to run several minutes' worth of "around the post" shots performed from both sides. I, in decades of tennis play, have never hit one of these. Hats off to Roger Federer, the GOAT (Greatest Of All Time).

I don't know why they decided to interview Bob Dole last week. Perhaps someone realized he wouldn't always be available, since he's now around 90 years old. But there he was, mentally sharp, though confined to a wheelchair.
In his days in Congress, no one could have rightfully called Dole anything but a conservative. But today, his former involvement in things like the Food Stamp Program and the Americans With Disabilities Act point up the differences between what conservatives used to support in contrast to today's take-no-prisoners GOP hard noses.
It seems to boil down to this: conservatives from the mid-to-late 20th century were tough, but they also recognized that their constituents were regular working folks, and that they all were part of a society trying improve things for everyone. Plenty of them helped pass civil rights legislation, measures to help local schools, aid poor countries and a hundred other things.
Now, you could be out of the tiny GOP tent for backing gun sale background checks or opposing a pipeline through the country's middle. Say something nice about the President, and you find yourself in a primary fight with some fire-breathing, right-wing tea bagger. The Party has lost the popular vote in five of the last six presidential elections, but instead of searching themselves and their message, they revert to searching for conspiracies and blaming the media, doubling down, it seems, on their anger.
Dole recognizes all this, and admits that the party is now so far right that it would exclude candidates such as Reagan, Nixon and himself because it has no use for anyone "with ideas". When asked what his party should do, Dole quipped that it should lock the doors and hang out a sign saying "Closed for Repairs".
I learned last week that there is a relic out there that proves Dole's assertion. For some reason, you can still access the Dole/Kemp campaign website from 1996 on the internet. There they are, proud of their involvement in at least modest progressive legislation and not referring to the incumbent (Clinton) as anything more diabolical than a "liberal", a term that is now 100% pejorative.
Dole and Kemp lost that election, but came away with some dignity. They didn't have to apologize for lying, misappropriating campaign funds or operating "push" polls that hinted at some dark secrets on the other side. Dole was by then resigned from the Senate, but went back to being on friendly terms with Clinton. Neither Dole nor running mate Jack Kemp ran for office again. Kemp passed away a few years ago, the best-known former Buffalo Bills quarterback ever. Dole tried to help his wife's political career, but she failed to get the Party's nomination for president.   


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