The Morning Call (Sunday)
From JFK to Joe Biden, politics tough business
The first president I remember was John F. Kennedy. My mom, as well as the entire Irish side of the family, loved that we finally had a Catholic president. And to top things off, an Irish Catholic at that.
Up until 1960, we never had a Catholic president and back then, many people had concerns that we were just not ready for a Patrician Irish Catholic from Massachusetts. But he and the elegant, well-educated first lady captured the nation in quick order. Don’t get me wrong, they were far from embraced by the opposition’s party, but you had to give them credit — the Kennedy clan got your attention.
I can still see the TV shots of the masses lining the streets in Dallas the day he was assassinated, and then days later in Washington, D.C. Good, kind, respectful people wept for the loss of their president. There was so much admiration. Unfortunately, perhaps a thing that has gone by. It was that civility and adoration that let me know as a kid that love would conquer hate and that we’d get through that.
After Kennedy’s passing, there was Johnson, who made great domestic strides — only to be dogged by what seemed like the never-ending, hugely divisive Vietnam War. Nixon was lauded for his foreign policy as the first president to visit then-reclusive China. He began to serve his second term only to resign due to his self-inflicted Watergate scandal. Reagan accomplished great things including the demolition of the Berlin Wall and took a bullet in the process from a deranged John Hinkley. And Clinton adjusted his style to build coalitions to produce ani ncredible economy— only to be rocked by the Lewinsky scandal.
Regarding women’s roles in the presidency, candidate Geraldine Ferraro almost made that happen back in 1984. That’s right, almost 40 years ago. That made my dad smile. She was the first-ever Italian American on a national ticket and my dad noted that often. Well, she never made it, as she and her running mate Walter Mondale lost. The fact that the press found her Italian husband’s business dealings shady, even going so far as hinting at mob ties, was too much to overcome. I witnessed her going from an idolized glass ceiling breaker to an imperfect figure.
So here’s my point. Politics is tough. It’s always been tough. And today it is tougher than ever. I’m not sure why anyone would want to endure this assured path toward close scrutiny and unending criticism. But I’m glad they do.
Hats off to the brave souls who put themselves out there. We’ve been made aware of every one of President Donald Trump’s faults and maybe some yet to discover. And now President-elect Joe Biden has been examined and his perceived shortcomings have been targeted. But I’m thankful they run. They have the fortitude to lead and I accept them, flaws and all. Because when I look in the mirror, I see a far from a perfect person. I also know that those who came before them were also flawed, like all of us.
So here’s to all you flawed, not-so-perfect, dedicated politicians — both local and national. In this hyper-informed, internet-obsessed world we live in you’re going to have your life laid out for all to see and criticize. But yet you run while far too many critics stand on the sidelines throwing stones. But that’s the way this politics game has been played and you knew the rules going in.
Although I may have preferred another candidate at times or didn’t particularly care for one already in office, I’m gonna show my support. I’m all for strong political debate, but as for this self-righteous hate crap, count meout.
Given the amount of news out there today, it’ll give you just the narrative you want or need. Adoration is hard to come by. But love isn’t, and I choose to love this country and the bold people who pick themselves up and brush their battered selves off and keep pushing forward.
There’s an often-stated line, “politics is a blood sport” and it is today more than ever. Pumping that blood within our bodies is the incredible machine God created called the heart. And it’s from the strong pounding heart that great things happen.
Like generations before, let’s not lose the incredible heart that made us and will beat onward to an imperfect but great future.