2019年2月6日 星期三

RCP Morning Note, 02/06/2019: Trump's Speech; AIDS 'Moonshot'; Stogie Stories


Carl Cannon's Morning Note

Trump's Speech; AIDS 'Moonshot'; Stogie Stories

By Carl M. Cannon on Feb 06, 2019 09:01 am

Good morning, it's Wednesday, February 6, 2019. President Trump called for his own "medical moonshot" in last night's State of the Union address -- two, actually. The first to defeat AIDS in the coming decade. The other to step up the fight against childhood cancer. No matter what you thought of the rest of the speech, bravo to him for that.

Babe Ruth was born on this date. Despite his other faults, Babe was always wonderful around sick kids. "For every picture you see of the Babe in a hospital," New York sportswriter Bill Slocum wrote at the time, "he visits 50 without publicity.

In 1946, Ruth visited a cancer ward for his own reasons: a tumor in his neck. The treatment was aggressive, but the Babe was gone in two years, at age 53. He was brave and upbeat until the end. The day before he died, Connie Mack came to see Ruth. "The termites," he told Mack, "have got me."

Today is Ronald Reagan's birthday, too. On this date in 1985, he used his State of the Union address to outline the foreign policy principles that would become known as "the Reagan Doctrine." A less weighty event that occurred on this date took place over a century ago when a small Wisconsin newspaper called the Oshkosh Daily Northwestern carried an item that would become a staple of political humor in this country.

There are two interesting aspects to this anecdote, which I'll mention in a moment -- after pointing you to our front page, where we aggregate stories and columns spanning the political spectrum. We also offer a complement of original material from RCP's staff and contributors.

* * *

Amid Notes of Unity, Trump Stands His Ground. RCP White House Correspondent Susan Crabtree assesses the president's speech.

Trump's AIDS "Moonshot": Will It Fly? Philip Wegmann reports on the chilly reception the president's health initiative received ahead of his speech last night.

Five Tips for New Members of Congress. Former Rep. Tim Roemer offers this advice.

The Wall Won't Work. Josh T. Smith and Hannah Sheets cite their reasons in RealClearPolicy.

70 Percent Tax Rate Would Favor the Rich in Some Ways. In RealClearMarkets, David M. Simon spotlights tax code provisions that inadvertently benefit the wealthiest Americans.

Who Will Lead the U.S. Navy in War? In RealClearDefense, Kevin Eyer considers the qualities needed in a chief of naval operations given increased tensions with China.

* * *

So the humorous item in the Oshkosh Daily Northwestern, which I wrote about once before, went like this: It seems that in Washington, an unnamed U.S. senator had just given an animated speech "telling exactly what this country needs." After it was over, the paper reported, the senator ran into Vice President Thomas R. Marshall in the senator's private lobby, lighting a cigar.

"You overlooked the chief need of the country," Marshall told the senator.

"What's that?" he replied.

"The thing that seems to be needed most of all," declared Marshall as he puffed on his stogie, "is a really good 5-cent cigar."

Thomas Riley Marshall was a popular Indiana governor, elected in 1908. In 1912, Democratic Party bosses put him on the 1912 presidential ticket with Woodrow Wilson. Wilson seems to have had little regard for his vice president, but Marshall's personality won over most of his colleagues. His biographer, Charles M. Thomas, surmised that one of the secrets to this success was not being overly rigid in his personal habits or political views.

"He was, prior to 1898, a most pronounced drinker and at the same time a leader in the church and a temperance lecturer," Thomas wrote. "He was inconsistent, yet he was trusted. He was a fundamentalist in religion, yet not [intolerant]. He was enjoyed as the biggest wit in town, yet his judgment was respected by those who knew him, and his leadership was accepted. His later political career proves that, despite his conflicting traits, there was something in his character which made men like him."

I wonder, as an aside, whether women were as tolerant of Marshall's foibles. But to continue with my story: Marshall was known for an ever-present cigar or a pipe in his mouth. No less prominent a Democrat than Franklin D. Roosevelt told a hilarious story dating to when FDR was assistant secretary of the U.S. Navy and Marshall boarded a naval vessel in San Francisco harbor. The vice president was carrying a cane, wearing a silk hat, and smoking a cigar. When "The Star-Spangled Banner" was struck up by the onboard band, Marshall instantly "realized his predicament," Roosevelt recalled. Shifting the cane from right hand to left, he took the cigar out of his mouth, doffed the hat, and managed a salute. But when a cannon went off to punctuate the end of the national anthem, "the whole works went two feet into the air."

As for that 5-cent cigar quote invariably attributed to Marshall, he did say it, and often, he just didn't say it first. Historian John E. Brown has traced the quotation back to early 20th century Indiana newspaper cartoonist Kin Hubbard, who put the words in the mouth of a fictional character named Abe Martin.

"As a fan of the cartoon strip," noted Senate historian Mark O. Hatfield, "Marshall simply picked up the phrase, repeated it, and became its surrogate father."

The incomparable Fred R. Shapiro, editor of the Yale Book of Quotations, has traced the cigar quote back much earlier. Some four decades before Midwestern newspapers began attributing the cigar quip to Marshall, a Connecticut daily, the Hartford Courant, printed this item in an unsigned "News and Notions" column: "What this country really needs is a good five cent cigar." That was on September 22, 1875, and even then, it wasn't original -- the gem was attributed to another paper, the New York Mail.

"Indiana homespun humor," writes Shapiro with a trace of regional pride, "was preceded by the more sophisticated wit of the Big Apple."

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

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