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2018年12月31日 星期一

RCP Morning Note, 12/31/2018: Taking Charge; 'America First'; Sunshine and Shadows


12/31/2018
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Carl Cannon's Morning Note

Taking Charge; 'America First'; Sunshine and Shadows

By Carl M. Cannon on Dec 31, 2018 09:01 am

Good morning, it's Monday, December 31, 2018, the last day of an extremely contentious and eventful -- and sometimes tragic -- year in American civic life. Although its realization seems unlikely, I have the same wish every year on this date: Perhaps the new one will bring more sunshine on our shoulders, to borrow imagery from the late, great John Denver.

The famed performer, born Henry John Deutschendorf Jr., would have turned 75 years old today.

A singer and songwriter who starred in movies, made television specials, and embraced numerous humanitarian causes, John Denver cheered millions of people with his happy music.

As I wrote in this space five years ago, if you were around in the 1970s, it's easy to close your eyes and recall his boyish face, long blond locks, granny glasses, and phrases such as "Far out!" that John Denver tossed about without being the least bit self-conscious. He died too young, at 53, in an experimental airplane he was piloting over the Pacific Ocean. Two decades later, his tunes still hum around in our heads.

Those songs range from the lyrical "Poems, Prayers, and Promises," which he sang on screen with the Muppets, to the poignant "Annie's Song." His fame first took flight with "Take Me Home, Country Roads," the unofficial West Virginia state song, then migrated with him out West with "Rocky Mountain High," a song adopted by the Colorado legislature in 2007.

After the state Senate listened to a recording of "Rocky Mountain High," it voted in favor of endorsing the song. "If I had any hair," exclaimed state Sen. Steve Ward, a Republican from Littleton, "I'd part it in the middle and say, ‘Far out!'"

What kind of man could get GOP lawmakers to, well, let their hair down like that? I'll explain in a moment.

First, I'd direct you to our front page, which aggregates an array of columns and stories spanning the political spectrum. We also offer original material from our own reporters and contributors this morning, including the following:

* * *

Commander-in-Chief? It's the President, Stupid. In the aftermath of Jim Mattis' resignation, Frank Miele assails critics who say Trump is beholden to his generals and secretary of defense.

Trump Altered Foreign Policy Debate. It's Time to Catch Up. Bill Scher writes that Americans' must choose between the two main paths that have been made clearer by the president's statements and decisions.

Second Thoughts on "America First." In a column, I consider the history of the often-disparaged term, which wasn't always fraught with so much baggage.

Trump's Top 10 Achievements of 2018. Steve Cortes compiled this list.

Fed Must Repeal Its Disastrous Rate Increases. Stephen Moore and Alfredo Ortiz warn that the moves will undo the economy's historic gains.

Beware the Digital Currency Crypto-Thieves. In RealClearInvestigations, John F. Wasik reports on the perils of bitcoin and other crypto-currency transactions.

Cybersecurity Is Energy Security. In RealClearEnergy, Robin Rorick examines just how seriously the oil and gas industry takes cyberthreats.

Was Low-Dose Radiation From Atomic Bombs Beneficial? RealClearScience editor Ross Pomeroy spotlights the findings of a new study.

* * *

The existence a Henry John Deutschendorf Jr., implied the existence of a Henry John Deutschendorf Sr., and that man's difficult relationship with his sons helped produce the tension in John Denver's life that informed his art.

The Oklahoma-born oldest of 12 children, the senior Deutschendorf enlisted in the Army Air Corps at 20. He proved himself such a gifted pilot that he spent most of World War II as a flight instructor on B-17s and B-29s. When he retired as an Air Force colonel in 1966, "Dutch" Deutschendorf could boast an Air Medal, a Distinguished Flying Cross, and air speed records while test-flying the B-58 Hustler. But he could not claim to have a close relationship with his younger son.

In John Denver's biography, Col. Deutschendorf comes across like "The Great Santini." In his son's telling, the decorated flier was a hard-drinking and emotionally remote man. Junior was a sensitive boy whose preferred activity was strumming on the acoustic guitar given him by his maternal grandmother at age 11. Many of John Denver's most evocative songs were about going home, a concept he wrestled with all his life. The nomadic military life didn't suit him; and in his own family life Denver demanded an intensity he felt was missing in his childhood.

As his first wife, Anne Martell -- the woman of "Annie's Song" -- learned, John was acting out this friction from his childhood. He loved his adopted home state of Colorado and their house in Aspen, but in the 1970s he was rarely there. Instead, he was constantly touring, acting, and involving himself in humanitarian and environmental causes.

Being on the road so often, with its expected temptations, took its toll on his personal life, even as it fueled his art. "Leaving on a Jet Plane," a song he wrote and sang -- and let many others sing -- became an anthem to young American boys heading for Vietnam and the loved ones they left behind. His songs were often adapted in this way. In the 1970s, the Baltimore Orioles adopted Denver's version of "Thank God I'm a Country Boy" as their 7th-inning-stretch song; "Rocky Mountain High" beckoned a generation of quality-of-life pilgrims to the rapidly growing states straddling the Continental Divide. "Calypso" was a song he wrote for his friend Jacques Cousteau. John Denver had many such friends, ranging from Jim Henson, creator of the Muppets, to President Jimmy Carter.

When Denver died, Mary Travers of Peter, Paul, & Mary -- a group whose only No. 1 hit was their interpretation of "Leaving on a Jet Plane" -- called him "the Jimmy Stewart of folk music." Roger Ebert made the same comparison in his 1977 review of the unlikely Carl Reiner hit "Oh, God!"

In that superb film, Denver was cast as Jerry Landers, an unpretentious supermarket assistant manager whom God (played by George Burns) has decided to contact. "John Denver," wrote Ebert, "is well-cast: sincere, believable, with that face so open and goofy."

Yes, that was one side of him. The other side was that of an intensely serious man, a seeker. In 1976, when his career was at its peak, he had a rapprochement with his father, who -- fatefully, as it would turn out -- taught him to fly. In 1982, the year John Denver lost his father as well as his first marriage, he began devoting himself more earnestly to that hobby.

When he died, the talented musician left behind three children, a brother, two ex-wives, and a grieving mother. His mom wept at his funeral as she walked outside of Faith Presbyterian Church in Aurora, Colo., to the mournful wail of a bagpipe. The funeral was held on the kind of brilliantly blue-skied Colorado day that her son liked to sing about. That morning, his music filled the church, packed with 1,000 mourners, and was piped outside to another 1,000 who couldn't get in.

One of the songs played was an ode John Denver wrote to his father, "On the Wings of a Dream," with its haunting first line --"Yesterday I had a dream about dying" -- and it's even more haunting ending: "Why is it thus we are here and so soon we are gone?"

Carl M. Cannon
Washington Bureau chief, RealClearPolitics
@CarlCannon (Twitter)
ccannon@realclearpolitics.com

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